"When your vendor is interacting directly with your customers on behalf of your company, questions you ask before hiring them need to be deeper, more pointed and increasingly challenging."
From 35,000 feet, contact center vendors look very similar. The baseline questions used to sort out the duds from the potential stars are pretty much the same ones you’d ask any one of your supply chain vendors. But when your vendor is interacting directly with your customers on behalf of your company, those questions should get deeper, more pointed and increasingly challenging. Any contact center challenger worth your time should see this as a very good thing.
Once you get satisfactory answers to your first pass questions, you’re ready to narrow the field to the final few. Your inquiries should get progressively harder. But be careful, there will be respondents who artificially inflate RFP answers to get your business. The answers they do give, along with the details they omit, will help you determine how many of their capabilities are solid and where they may be trying to oversell.
Once you have whittled down your RFP responses to a select pool of potential vendors, you’re getting close to finding your best-fit partner. You’ve entered what business experts call the “courtship phase” of your relationship. By this point you have given your top candidates enough relevant information to understand your business objectives. This is where your evaluation questions should be the toughest.
Here are five hardcore questions to ask your contact center vendor before signing on the dotted line.
Stability as an Ability. You already know how long the candidate’s company has been operating, but now it’s time to look ahead. You need to know if your vendor will be able to adapt to, and support, your company’s growth plans. Do they have the core staff and experience to support growth? Can the management team demonstrate how they have helped other clients grow and adapted to their needs?
The big question: Will they be there for you and your customers as things change?
Agility and Preparation. At GCS we preach Disaster Preparedness prevents Disaster Recovery. What you need is continuity through the disaster. Make sure your vendor has managed a down-turn and been able to deliver through the experience? Can they provide adequate and meaningful back-up or redundancy in an emergency? Not all plans go as hoped. If things begin to turn, can they assist you in staying on track, or at least minimizing any pain. The answer to this question gives your prospect the chance to show how they respond to market and environmental conditions.
The big question: How will they contribute to your opportunities for growth and what is their response plan for anticipated threats.
Capital Connection. Contact center management firms should be financially healthy and willing to invest in the success of your center. Checking a company’s credit reports will only give you a look at past creditworthiness; it won’t help you determine future risk. A thorough look at a vendor candidate’s profit and loss statement (P&L) will alert you to possible problems. You will be able to see their debt load, any issues they have with payables, and how they are using their cash. If your potential partner pushes back or refuses to share their P&L outright, you may want to move along without them.
The big question: May we see your current financials?
Correct Alignment. Popularized by management guru Peter Drucker over 50 years ago, management by objective (MBO) is a theory that encourages buy-in to company strategy at all levels of an organization. The vendor you choose should be able to align their goals in the contact center with your company’s business objectives. Before becoming your partner, they must be able to show they understand the goals you are trying to reach as a organization. A vendor candidate’s answer to this question should be clear, specific, and forthcoming.
The big question: What are our organizational goals and what do you bring to the table to help us reach them?
Dedication to Education. At GCS, we believe in the power of education and training to improve lives, and make connections with customers stronger and more profitable. Our results prove our focus on education. We even provide training and consulting to other centers to help their employees get better. If a candidate claims to be an expert in training, they need to demonstrate it effectively before you partner with them.
The big question: What is your per-employee spend on training and coaching, and what does it yield?
A great contact center vendor should welcome your scrutiny.
When we say we are all about people, process and technology, we mean it. Why not let our CEO, Greg Alcorn explain the GCS difference? Watch him here.
About Toni Currie
Toni is responsible for all the organizational development and human resources activities of GCS. A licensed Attorney, she brings more than 10 years of experience in human resources to the company.