Whatever solution your organisation needs right now, finding the tool to support it is a challenge. Often, a need is identified, an outline budget assigned to it (based more on available funds than actual *investment*), and a hurried RFP process put together. Some vendors are shown in, a few trials done, and a solution picked because either it’s the cheapest, or had the most charismatic or pushy sales team. Maybe, it’s even chosen because it just seems to “do more”.
This is all the purchase order equivalent of putting the cart before the horse.
Unless you understand what you are trying to achieve, and what your needs are, then making a smart choice about tools is nigh on impossible. If budget is the first defining factor in your selection, please, tip that list upside down.
Nowhere is this more important than in your Customer Service provision. Get this wrong, and your relationships and customer satisfaction will plummet. Get it right, and you will create opportunities for maximising customer engagement, improved employee loyalty and increased opportunities for revenue generation.
First, define your goals
For Customer Service and Support tools, this means solidifying your Customer Experience Philosophy. Your business, and its customers are unique. Define what that relationship should look like. How proactive do you expect your team to be? How do they best build relationships with your customers? Are you aiming for high-touch interactions, or a more self-service driven approach? Or a hybrid, agent-empowered mix of all these things?
This is a time to consider what you do well, and what you might want to change. Look at your Customer Experience holistically. What does the team need more, or less of? What are your plans down the road? This is, after all, a significant investment, and you should choose a solution that can grow with your business, both in terms of licenses and functionality.
Second, map your philosophy to features
You can quickly draw broad strokes around what your philosophy might look like in real terms. Does increased proactivity mean you need greater options for cross-team collaboration? Does high-touch mean you need a sophisticated system that maps all your customer engagement activities? Does self-service mean more emphasis should be on building a knowledge base? Does agent flexibility mean you have less need for canned responses and more need for flexible workflows?
Next, identify your main stakeholders
It’s not just your support agents and customers who stand to gain or lose on the basis of this decision. Your stakeholders could well include business analysts, marketers, sales people, and, of course, leadership. Who needs access to what information, and in what form? Who will be impacted by the choice, and what value should you place on that impact? Is reporting more important than integrations? Is ease of implementation more important than customisability?
Then, make your selection
Make your vendor shortlist based on the above, and only now start to factor in budgetary considerations. That should shorten your list considerably. Take proposals. Invest significant time in demos. Don’t be tempted to buy into features that you haven’t prioritised (though, have an eye on the *possibility* of their use in the future). Stretch the system every way you can to ensure it fits your philosophy. Perhaps, most importantly, be sure this is a vendor who ‘gets’ you, and that you can work with long term.
Be sure to know what you need, before you try and identify the solution. With the right amount of preparation and appropriate focus on your philosophy and process needs, you can be sure you’ve made a choice that will grow with, and help grow, your business. A worthy ROI if ever there was one.
This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications in June 2019