Trusting an outsourcing partner to interact firsthand with your customers goes beyond the typical transactional nature of most client-vendor relationships. The RFP process for contact center services is a lot like dating. The company asks questions to find out who they want to ‘dance’ with and what each potential partner is all about.
In the contact center world, success comes from building a relationship where your contact center team is truly an extension of your operations team. So, in the absence of the contact center equivalent of match.com – the process of finding that contact center vendor who is the perfect fit for your needs usually begins with writing the RFP.
Starting the RFP process for contact center services from scratch presents its own particular set of challenges. Responsibility for managing that process often falls to Operations or Customer Service teams who already stretched thin so it’s understandable to want a head start on this highly visible, often tedious endeavor. To ensure you are getting started on the right path, follow these six guidelines to begin a successful contact center RFP process:
1. Format the RFP with Specific, Direct Questions
If there’s a particular detail like custom reporting or KPIs unique to your business that you are looking for from the contact center vendor, be as specific and detailed as possible. Include examples where possible. Vague questions will receive vague answers making it difficult to ensure you are comparing apples to apples.
2. Gauge Creativity
Yes, this is a process-driven, metric-focused business we are in. The KPIs definitely matter. But don’t underestimate the power of creativity in your call center outsourcer. What happens when the unexpected happens? Put the vendor in those types of scenarios to understand their ability to think on the fly or come up with creative solutions to a problem. Make sure it’s the same scenario for each vendor. Don’t leave things open-ended.
3. Set Limits
Let’s face it, the less time you have to invest in wading through RFP responses the better. Many procurement people strive to combat “data dump” syndrome by requiring respondents to format responses within a table. In our experience, this can result in a nice concise table of answers and a multitude of appendixes thicker than an old school encyclopedia. We know… we’re guilty of doing it ourselves. Think instead about setting a maximum number of pages per response. This is common practice in ad agency procurement processes. In addition to keeping your required reading time under control, how a respondent allocates those precious pages can give you a clear picture of a center’s priorities and strengths. Two pages on scheduling and one paragraph on quality assurance makes its own statement. Try to make the evaluation of the responses as simple as possible. Remember that this is one step in a selection process; set things up to get more interactive at a presentation phase (at later stages you will definitely want to visit sites and meet the delivery team, not just the RFP response team).
4. Be Honest Building Your Vendor List
If you know the vendor has no chance of surviving the cut, eliminate them from the process altogether. Submitting a response represents an investment on the vendor-side – honor that investment (and your own valuable time) by keeping the list to viable contenders you would want to do business with. Pressure to meet procurement bidder minimums can be a good thing. It can force you to be realistic and be open-minded.
5. Provide Well-Defined RFP Timeline
The RFP process takes time. The ideal timeline is one that gives both sides of the equation sufficient time to do a good job. If you want a strong set of proposals, give vendors time to put together a truly customized proposal instead of being forced by time constraints to cut and paste stock answers from previous RFPs. Remember that for most vendors, the real work begins once your answers to vendor questions have been received. Here is a sample timeline for a three-week long process:
- Day 1: RFP issued
- Day 4: Intent to reply deadline
- Day 5: Vendor questions deadline
- Day 9: Answers distributed
- Day 21: Submissions due
6. Specify What Should be Included in the Executive Summary
Make it easy for the people tangential to the RFP process to gain quick, valuable insight from the executive summary, and make it consistent across all of the responses. Additionally, executives will likely want to see the ‘high level’ response from the shortlist of vendors seriously being considered.
The format for your contact center RFP depends exactly on your business and your needs. A template sourced from Google probably won’t capture that. The whole point of the RFP process is to (help you) systematically arrive at the right decision on who to select as your outsourcing partner.
Want a detailed guide on the contact center RFP process? Reach out to our team and we’ll be happy to help you through the process.