I’ve been consulting in the telecommunications space for 25 years but have never seen so much activity as seen today. Clients have felt the pain and stress of COVID-19 on their contact centers and are now ready to reinvest in their technology to improve operations significantly. Whether it be enhancing remote worker features and functionalities utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots to reduce call volume, or obtaining the most up-to-date capabilities, incorporating these technologies should help improve their contact center overall.
If you work for an organization that’s thinking about purchasing automatic call distribution (ACD), unified communications as a service (UCaaS), or contact center as a service (CCaaS) in the near future, you must first complete a needs assessment. Here are 10 pointers to help guide you through the process.
1. Business Driver(s)
Be clear on what’s driving this project. Are you simply trying to replace a phone system? Is your current vendor’s support killing you? Is your remote worker experience painful? Are your customers suffering? Is your contact center swamped and needs relief? These are critical questions to answer. The more in touch you are about why things are happening, the better you can communicate this strategy to your team members and prospective vendors. Also, the more they understand where you’re coming from, the better they can help you reach your objectives.
2. Project Objective
Define your objective, preferably in writing. Once you understand why you require new solutions, be clear on what you’ll set out to accomplish. Put phrasing in a statement and repeat it throughout the process: “We are here to do X by X and achieve X,” for example.
3. Determine the Scope
Will scope include the purchasing of solutions for ACD, unified communications (UC), interactive voice response, web chat, texting solutions, AI/chatbot, etc.?
Are there any time dependencies or deadlines? When do you need to have a budgetary number? Is there a deadline for selecting a vendor? When does the contract have to be signed? When will you start (or finish) the implementation? Will you be implementing the solution in phases possibly? Be sure to answer these questions.
5. Evaluation Team
Are you planning on doing this yourself or in-concert with an evaluation team made up of technical and operational personnel? It’s highly advisable to include the contact center, IT, executive sponsor, and sometimes related departments.
6. Decision-Making Criteria
This tip goes back to the business drivers and why you’re doing this project in the first place. What factors are most important to you and your team? Is it reliability, vendor experience, vendor support, vendor responsiveness, vendor knowledge, system features and functionalities, cost, etc.? Most likely, it’s more than one. When you come up with a list, weigh these options. That way everyone’s on the same page with the priorities of this decision.
7. Define Your Requirements
Meet with all stakeholders (contact center, IT, and related departments), discuss the issues, and determine each stakeholder's true needs.
8. Key Feature and Functionality Specifications
Make a list of all key feature and functionality requirements. Be sure to a.) outline the operational requirements—i.e., what you need, how it should work, etc., and b.) what specific feature functionality you need now, as well as in the future. Examples include real-time management, reporting, workforce management, call recording screen, screen recording, omnichannel, in addition to number of users who need these functionalities.
9. Emerging Technologies
If your company scope includes emerging technologies like voice biometrics for authentication, AI for chatbot, etc., do your homework in these areas to understand all that’s possible to support your organization.
10. Establish Your Approach
Will you potentially keep solutions you already have replace the contact center portion, or restore the entire UC solution for your enterprise? Is it possible you might keep what you have and upgrade just a tweak, and/or add some new functionality? Will you only replace the ACD or contact center portion and integrate this with your existing UC or telephony solution? Or do you plan on replacing the entire UC (telephony) and contact center (ACD)? If you aren’t sure and want to consider all options, it helps to list the pros and cons, and estimate a cost for each direction. You might consider the internal labor, savings, and benefits of each approach and come up with a return on investment to determine your direction.