Just a few short years ago (say, 2014 or 2015) when it came to technology, outsourcers were happily touting the cost benefits of their telephony platforms and on-prem systems, showing prospective clients how, instead of having to invest in and maintain their own IT infrastructure, it was a real value add to the client to be hosted on their partner’s telephony platform. When it came to the contact center RFP, companies consistently required bidders to “Describe your telephony platform” and those with best-in-class products had a definite edge. Fast-forward a couple of years and the whole premise of on-prem is disappearing. (See what we did there? 😉)
The cloud, with its bolt-on and go, plug-and-play, pay-as-you-go, telephony-in-a-box options has changed everything – everything except the RFP, that is – because we’re still seeing RFPs come through asking “What’s your telephony platform?” or requiring the bidder to “Describe your core technical infrastructure.” And, when you get right down to it, these are simply the wrong questions for today’s world.
So, what should you ask when you’re addressing contact center technology in your RFP? Read on to unpack our recommendations as an outsourcer supporting some of the world’s best brands in verticals from SaaS to travel and tourism.
RFP Question: Describe your technical infrastructure relative to the remote work model. How do you ensure resiliency and business continuity?
In the wake of the pandemic, business continuity is still top of mind for many companies. The technical infrastructure of your contact center plays a foundational role in your BCP. As such, when inviting potential partners into the RFP process, it’s critical to ask about the resiliency they can provide through their approach to IT.
Core to this is a conversation around remote and on-premise solutions. The concept of on-prem technology is slowly diminishing. The pandemic only accelerated the growing trend of remote work. It’s a model that supports business resiliency and continuity because it doesn’t require everything to be funneled through one location. (The simplest expression of this is: a power out at one location only impacts one user, not hundreds of users in a centralized location.) That said, the remote model is also more technically complex, and the right contact center partner must have a thoughtful IT strategy in place to coordinate it successfully.
RFP Question: What is your approach to security?
Cybersecurity is a growing concern, made weightier by the pandemic as well as other global crises, such as the Russia-Ukraine war. That’s not to mention the growing rigor around PCI DSS compliance and legislated protections like GDPR. It’s a topic of central importance when your contact center program includes digital payments or sensitive information.
Every contact center approaches security in different ways. Make sure to ask about these key components: secure networks, encryption (in flight, and at rest), security software, restricted access, networking monitoring, and document security policies. Plus, once again, the remote work model is a key consideration in a partner’s approach to security. How do they navigate the challenges of home networks and environments? How does their approach align with what you’re looking for? The network edge in a remote world is not as ‘black and white’ as when everyone works from a centralized location.
RFP Question: How do you plan to continue adding value through your technology strategy over the next 5-10 years?
One of the biggest reasons tech-related RFP questions are often outdated and irrelevant is simply that technology evolves at break-neck speeds. Contact center technology is no exception. A vendor may have exceptional solutions for today’s customer experience and support, but will they continue to deliver five years from now? The right partner will take you by the hand and show you how to evolve alongside technology—but you need to be asking the right questions in order to find that partner in the first place. We will do what we can to guide you through the technology jungle to get you thinking in the right way.
Ask about what comes next. It will be interesting to see how sentiment analysis, machine-learning, AI-driven self-serve and other technologies drive further change. Understanding how a partner’s strategy aligns with your own current and projected requirements is critical in landing on a long-term solution.
RFP Question: What custom technology solutions do you recommend in alignment with our unique requirements?
The more information you can provide about your current customer support model and requirements, the greater customization a vendor can provide in their RFP answers. Be transparent about your existing technologies and your vision for customer experience. If you’re looking to migrate from an existing tech stack to something new, ask how a partner can help you in that process and what they recommend. It’s also worth asking about the tech stacks of clients with similar requirements. Finally, stay future-focused—how can a partner help you scale your technology as your business grows and evolves? You want to assess which partner is strategically positioned to help you evolve. Ask yourself, in an ideal world, what would your contact center solution look like? The sky is obviously the limit – so ask questions in your RFP that get your potential partners thinking about how they would go on that journey with you. These are theoretical questions, but the answers you get should illuminate the approach and the expertise in IT strategy leadership that your bidders bring to the table.
Structuring your contact center RFP in a way that provides you the big picture in tight alignment with your requirements is essential, especially when it comes to technology. It’s no longer enough to simply ask about a vendor’s telephony platform. Digging deeper and wider into a vendor’s tech strategy will enable you to ask the right questions and find the best long-term partner who can leverage technology to deliver exceptional customer service.