You're only as good as the tools in your toolbox.
Your strategy, internal processes, and team are all in tip-top shape. But something still gets in the way.
The fact is this — your contact center software directly impacts the customer experience. A great piece of software will give your team the support it needs to build strong relationships with your customers; a subpar one will just get in your agents' way. Without a great contact center software, there's no way you'll be able to realize your company's full potential. It's a huge decision to make and requires time and attention.
With over 400 customer service software providers on the market, finding the right fit for your team will feel like a Sisyphean task.
Here's our eight-step checklist to get the ball rolling and help you find the best contact center software for your business.
1. Assemble your decision-making team
Selecting the best customer service software for your business requires collaboration. You'll need to build out a team of people who are in a position to evaluate different services based on their value to the team.
Research by the Wharton School says the ideal size for a decision-making team is six people. It should include:
- Head of Customer Support: The key decision-maker, they are best suited to speak at a high level about the larger business context.
- Project Manager: Because selecting software is a multifaceted process, you need someone to take the lead to keep the project on track. A good project manager can streamline the process for the whole team.
- Financial Representative: Software costs money. While the head of customer support will have the budget information available, a representative who handles the books will know how these new costs fit into the bigger picture.
- Technical Representative: Technical cost is as important as the monetary cost of the software. You should have an expert on hand who understands the current layout of your infrastructure as well as how a new piece of software would fit into it.
- Team Leaders of Customer Support: As one of the most experienced and knowledgeable support members in your company, they understand the current process and problems better than anyone.
Having more than one team leader from the customer support team will help round out the group to a full six members. That will help your team get the right perspective. You may not be able to select the exact same setup, but the important thing is to define a dedicated team and assign them the task. This way, responsibilities are clear and each member of the team can follow through on their respective tasks.
2. Gain clarity with targeted research
To choose the right customer service software for your business, you'll need absolute clarity on the requirements set out by the decision team. It will be important to understand where your company is currently as well as where you want to be in the future.
Here are some tactics that can help dig deeper into the requirements set out by your decision team:
- Interview your frontline agents: Sitting down with your team will help uncover any pain points in the current support workflows. It can also help highlight what kind of software features you need.
- Interview your customers: You need to understand how customers view their support experiences with you. Reach out to 5-10 customers and ask them to rate how well your team was able to handle their most recent interaction with your company.
- Understand the customer journey: Being able to anticipate where a customer is in their journey will give your team a better understanding of the kind of support they need to provide. It will also inform how your customer service software needs to function at each stage.
When your decision-making process is grounded in evidence, you can confidently move forward towards the right solution.
3. Refine your requirements
The research stage will have surfaced valuable insight into how well your proposed requirements align with the current state of the company. Now it's time for your team to sit down and refine their assumptions.
To do this, you need to visualize what you've learned. This can make it easier to spot important themes and narrow down the principal points. This can be done with affinity mapping, which involves three steps.
- Write down thoughts on sticky notes: Each team member writes down all their observations and ideas — one point per note.
- Organize sticky notes on a board: Collaboratively, the team clusters notes into categories based on similar ideas.
- Prioritize the sticky notes: Each team member has three to five votes (in the form of stickers) to label the categories or notes they feel are most important.
Once everyone has ranked the sticky notes on the wall, you'll be able to see which categories or ideas are most important. Your decision-making team will be able to take the prioritized notes in this exercise and move forward with vetting contact center software that fits. This kind of prioritization is helpful in framing each different team member's needs in a wider context.
4. Familiarize yourself with the market
There are a number of different call center software providers in the market. It's important to get familiar with what is available. While good old-fashioned research is always a great place to start, here are a few ways to get more qualitative information on what's available:
- Networking: Lean on your business contacts and colleagues to help suss out information on different services. You can also join groups such as Support Driven, which have a dedicated Slack channel for people with similar roles and responsibilities.
- Conferences: At a conference, it's easy to seek out demos of the providers that attend and talk to other participants who are in the same boat.
- Comparison Sites: Comparison websites like G2 Crowd provide a comprehensive overview of the market and include customer reviews and ratings.
These steps can help you get a better sense of what kind of services meet your specific requirements. It can also help reduce the pool of solutions and supplement the direct research your team is doing online. By talking to the current customers of a platform you'd like to use, you can get a better sense of the overall experience.
5. Cross-reference features to find your top choices
Once you get a better sense of the market landscape, the decision-making team should regroup and cross-reference the different features that each software provider offers.
You need to select a provider that can deliver all of your key features and that offers up additional services that align with your future goals. A great way to manage this analysis is with a rainbow analysis.
Rainbow Analysis Spreadsheet
To conduct your own rainbow analysis spreadsheet, follow these steps:
- In the first column, list and highlight your key requirements. We can call them “must-haves.”
- Under these, list the features that would be great to have but weren't identified as the most important. This example calls them “nice-to-haves.” You can leave room for additional features each provider offers that your team did not identify.
- Each column represents a provider, which is allocated their own color.
- Color in the requirements each provider offers below their column name.
Each member of your team can take three to five providers and fill in the spreadsheet individually. The result is a visual representation of the providers that meet all of your key requirements and what else they have to offer.
Select four to five of the most promising tools from your spreadsheet to take forward to the next step.
6. Reach out and learn more about each platform
Working from your rainbow analysis, your decision-making team can systematically reach out to each provider that tops the list of requirements.
Consider developing a Request for Proposal that lists each provider as well as their positive and negative attributes gleaned from the past few steps of your review. This will help your team gather the same level of information for a balanced comparison. Seek out:
- Demos: Many providers will offer a demo of their services. This may be a guided walk-through online or a specific call time you set up with their sales team; either way it's a great tool for learning more about each contact center software provider you're thinking of using.
- Case Studies: You can find these on the website or reach out to each provider directly and ask for case studies of other companies that are successfully using their service. If you have any questions, you can also reach out to the company in the case study directly.
- Implementation Specs: Request the technical specifications and an implementation guide so your technical team can dig into how each provider integrates with your current workflows.
It's important that you don't rush this step. Your decision-making team needs to thoroughly and objectively know what each provider is offering to ensure the security and reliability you need to run your business.
7. Run through a final evaluation
Now that your team has reviewed the top contact center software providers that meet your requirements, walked through a demo, and connected with the technical team to ensure an easy integration, it's time to make a decision. To be objective, you need to evaluate each of them on the same rating scale.
A Decision Matrix Analysis (DMA) can help you rank providers effectively when multiple factors like cost, technology, service, and your requirements need to be taken into account.
This is how it works:
- List your top four to five software providers as rows in the table.
- List your key feature and add-on requirements as columns.
- Weigh the importance of each requirement as a group, assign a numerical value, and add this as the second row.
- As a team, score every provider on the requirements (0 poor, 5 very good) and multiply it by the weight.
- Sum the scores to get an overall score for each provider.
This lets you make important decisions confidently and rationally when there are many variables involved.
8. Make your decision
Once you've found the right software, it's time to nail down what happens next and how you define success for implementing the new solution. A clear and concise roadmap will ensure a smooth transition.
Your decision-making team should discuss:
- Implementation: Set a realistic timeline and hold each stakeholder to it. What are their responsibilities, and how do they affect the rest of the team.
- Training: Establish when and how your team will be trained on the new software.
- Ongoing support: Work with the provider to ensure a level of communication and support that you are comfortable with.
- Goals, KPIs and performance reviews: You need to make sure your provider delivers the value they promised. Set success metrics and review them with the provider regularly to make sure you are getting the return on investment you expect.
Getting started on the right foot is easier when expectations, deadlines, and goals are made clear from the start.
The right solution will help your team excel
Selecting the best contact center software for your business is by no means an easy task. You need to find something that not only fits your business requirements but your technical requirements as well. Each will contribute to how well you can get buy-in from your team.
By following these steps, your decision-making team will be able to systematically review the needs of your company, find a solution that fits, and implement it for the team. Each step will bring you closer to a contact center software that helps elevate your team and ensures a better customer experience.