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Select a Right-Sized Contact Center Solution

Exploring the vendor landscape for contact center solutions is complicated, with a variety of metrics to consider within a service level agreement (SLA). This note helps narrow down what key requirements your organization needs from a contact center solution and which key metrics you should be clear about to measure the performance of your vendor.

1. What capabilities do you need?

Before researching vendors, think about the capabilities you want out of a contact center solution. To answer this effectively, consider what key requirements need to be met by your organization and how a contact center solution will meet those requirements.

Key capabilities offered by market leaders in the contact center space include:

  • Voice and chat function
  • Contact and skill-based routing
  • Queuing
  • Analytics
  • Sentiment analysis

2. Should you choose a solution that is on-premises or as a service?

There are benefits to maintaining an on-premises contact center. With all required software and hardware to operate a contact center located on your property, you will have no ongoing payments, all data stored in-house, and maximum control over functions. However, these centers take around 7 to 24 months to deploy, and the infrastructure cannot scale easily or adapt well to the fast-changing digital environment.

As such, if you need to deploy and scale quickly, consider Contact-Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS). Updates and maintenance are outsourced, with the option of flexibility when deciding how many agents you will need.

To help with the upfront discussions about agent numbers and utilization, use the Erlang calculator to get a rough estimate. This will paint an initial picture to work with.

3. Which CCaaS payment model suits your context?

If you decide that you need fast deployment and scalability, CCaaS will likely be your best bet. You will then be faced with two payment models when researching vendors. Most vendors will offer a pay-per-agent model that allows you to pay for only the number of agents you need, with the option to increase where necessary. The price is stable and reliable. However, if you anticipate scaling and increasing agent numbers, consider whether this increase is for a short burst or a long-term plan. If the increase is for a short burst, be sure to talk to your vendor about descaling before signing the contract. Unless it’s explicitly specified in the contract, you may end up paying for this increase all the way up to contract renewal, even if you no longer needed those extra agents.

The pay-per-use model is less used in the CCaaS marketspace, but it overcomes the pay-per-agent problem: you only pay per call time. If you need to increase agents over a short burst, you can scale up and down according to demand. However, make sure your budget is prepared for these increases. If you have a sudden surge, check whether your budget can meet these increased costs; while pay-per-agent is a stable price that can be accounted for in full, pay per use will fluctuate over the year. With proper agent forecasting, pay per use can be a beneficial payment model.

4. What SLA metrics should you think about?

The International Finance Corporation provides an overview of key metrics to consider when judging the performance of a contact center vendor. These metrics are split into three benchmark categories: telephone, efficiency, and service.

  1. Telephone benchmarks
    1. Service level: The global metric is commonly referred to as 80/20, or 80% of calls answered within 20 seconds. However, this metric does not tell the full story about performance and is a fuzzy reference at best. Make sure your vendor does not stop here.
    2. Average speed to answer: This metric takes into account all calls taken, not just 80%. The global average is 28 seconds – ask whether this speed is quick enough for your industry when negotiating with vendors.
    3. Abandoned rate: The percentage of calls abandoned by callers. The global metric is 5-8%.
  2. Efficiency benchmarks
    1. Accuracy of call forecasting: This is a number to be worked out between you and the vendor. It will be an important measurement to determine whether your agents are being fully utilized – do you have too few or too many? The global metric for variance of agent utilization is 5%.
    2. Adherence to schedule: This metric holds the vendor accountable for whether its agents are on time for shifts. The global metric is 95% adherence.
    3. Occupancy: Determines the agent’s average percentage time that they are occupied on a call. The global metric is 60-80%.
    4. Call duration: Think about how long you want agents on the phone with callers. For certain industries, calls need to be resolved as quickly as possible. The global metric is four minutes per call.
  3. Service benchmarks
    1. Caller satisfaction: To judge a vendor’s proficiency with answering calls, you will want to set a caller satisfaction metric. Importantly, ask the vendor how this will be measured. Will the measurement be impartial enough to meet your industry’s standards? The global metric of caller satisfaction is 90%.
    2. First-call resolution rate: Some industries will require most of their calls to be resolved after the first call. Think about how important this metric is to your organization. The global metric is 70-75%.

5. What other important factors should be used to judge a vendor?

  1. If your industry must be compliant with a number of regulations, laws, and security practices you will need to ensure that the vendor you choose can clearly demonstrate it would meet those requirements. If the vendor cannot satisfactorily show that it can, consider another vendor. When signing a contract, all requirements ought to be demonstrably laid out.
  2. Does the vendor have experience working within your particular industry? Is it able to adapt to your particular geographic constraints? If you cannot build a confident working relationship with the vendor, then consider another one. SoftwareReviews finds that most contract renewals are based on the trust and relationship the client has with the vendor.
  3. Ask what the vendor’s business continuity plan looks like. If a crisis occurs, what plans are in place so that the vendor can continue to meet its SLAs? If a certain crisis would impact the vendor’s ability to meet its SLAs, what contingency plan could be put in place to account for this – one that is satisfactory to both vendor and client?

6. Ready to pick a vendor?

Explore SoftwareReviews’ Data Quadrant for CCaaS vendors.

Source: SoftwareReviews' Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) Data Quadrant. Accessed April 13, 2020.

Want to know more?

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