My primary objective of this article, is to warn and guide call centers through the shark infested “call center technology” waters. This article may not make me popular among technology providers however, I would hope that technology provides will take note and consider what I am sharing in this article in regard to call center operations to improve their ways. My career working with call centers spans 30 years and during that time, I have seen call center specific technology explode, develop and permeate the call center scene all over the world. Technology has had a strong influence over call centers since the advent of the telephone, when that was the only technology used in a call center. Today there is technology that touches every process, and every aspect of activity in a call center. Call Centers are a very significant function of most companies. The growth of call centers has been exponential for several decades and that makes it a very attractive market for technology providers. I believe my exposure and involvement consulting, negotiating and implementing a wide variety of call center technologies gives me insight that most call center executives do not have. For the sake of keeping a very complex aspect of call center operations a little more simple, I speak of necessity technology and support technology. Technology can be a propriety enterprise system, meaning designed, developed and used only by your firm. There is technology that is premised-based, meaning the hardware and software are located on your company’s site; and there is technology that is hosted in “the cloud”, meaning the technology accessed via internet connectivity at a hosted data center maintained by a technology vendor or provider. Deciding what technology your call center requires is a matter of serious research. Deciding what platform and who to “partner” with, is where most mistakes are made. Again, this is a brief blog article that cannot provide all the instruction to make an appropriate decision for your call center. I do want to make a few critical points you should consider if you are shopping for technology:
1. Get as much “intel” from all those who will touch the systems you will implement. I see many problems arise that are very difficult to reverse when IT makes the decision, or executives are the only people involved in making the decision.
2. DO NOT TRUST that the Technology “Sales Rep” has your best interest in mind or even knows anything about call center operations. Just about every technology company I have been exposed to are heavily focused on generating revenue – end of story! Speaking of story, they all have a compelling story to tell you, but so often the tactics used are designed to drive sales.
3. Avoid entering into a long term contract or a contract at all. My work with call centers has taught me one certain thing and that is, call centers are ever-changing. Technology can suffocate the flexibility of a call center – I have seen it many times throughout my career. Technology providers seem unreasonable and more that willing to hold your operation hostage. You will need the ability to have technology be flexibly and scalible with you operation.
4. Negotiate with leverage. You have many, many options and any technology provider that claims they are the “be-all end-all” of your problems and no one else can deliver like they can are simply lying to you. Learn what the ‘sweet-spots” are. technology vendors deliver better in specific situations; size of call center, call volume, call type, etc..
5. Before committing to a technology provider, you must get references. You will want to see or get a testimony from someone who knows how the system works first hand. Do not make your decision on the demo alone. And by the way, if the rep has problems with the demo – take that as a red flag.
These are a few points to consider before committing massive funds on technology that has promised to be the difference for your call center. I am disappointed, concerned and down-right cautious of technology providers. if there is one “take-away” from this article, don’t be so quick to buy into a smooth talking technology sales rep. That being said, technology can greatly enhance your call center and not all technology providers are bad. Just know when you are shopping for technology for your call center you are swimming with sharks. Be prepared!