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Call Center Vendor RFPs: Strategic Tool or Checklist?

The request for proposal (RFP) for call center support services must evolve to provide strategic value toward vendor selection rather than serve as a check list that gathers general information. Because a call center vendor selection is not made frequently the RFP you’re using may be outdated, leaving a lot of potential value out of the evaluation process. The industry changes fast, along with technology products. These changes play a role in driving the shifts to your customers’ perceptions, needs, and preferences. To keep pace, the support and service provided by your call center today is likely to be vastly different than it was just a few years ago. At least it should be.

When the RFP used is too general, the result is a “just check the box” approach from vendors interested in winning the business. If the vendor can do just enough to check the box “yes,” they will do so to avoid missing out on an opportunity. In the end, procurement is left with canned responses which lead them to draw the natural conclusion that the only difference to use for selection is price. The problem with this approach is that technology companies may be settling for static support services, instead of value-added, dynamic support that will go the extra mile to satisfy their customers.

When selecting a call center vendor, it’s important to consider not just the services you need today, but a progression plan that will address future growth and development—for your product offerings, as well as your customers. A vendor that can assess your business processes, analyze customer interactions, and proactively propose changes that bring market advantages is the partner a leading technology company needs.

To use the RFP process as a strategic tool for vendor procurement, consider the following opportunities to evolve your selection criteria:

Propensity for Risk: Is the vendor comfortable with taking a risk or sharing one with you to improve customer support interactions?

To assess a vendor’s propensity for risk, include questions on your RFP about incorporating new channels, such as social media and video conferencing for interactive support. Ask the questions in a manner to generate thoughtful response, not just as yes or no, to prevent them from simply checking the box. Challenge the vendor to provide an example of how they’ve successfully accomplished incorporating new channels for other clients.

Level of Ambition: Does the vendor have an ambitious outlook toward helping your company evolve, or do they just want to do the job you specify?

If the vendor is looking only to check the boxes, they are unlikely to bring any added value to your organization beyond the basic delivery of service and support. That’s just not good enough to meet today’s customers’ problem resolution needs. Ask them about their continuous training methodology and the processes they have in place to analyze customer interactions for new opportunities to delight the customer—as well as to help create new revenue streams and motivate customers to become advocates for your brand and products.

Business Impacts: Is the vendor concerned primarily with meeting basic service metrics, or with generating a positive impact on company objectives?

Meeting call center metrics, such as average handle time, first contact resolution, and customer satisfaction scores goes without saying. But technology support and services can be more complex than general call center services, making them much more difficult to optimize for best value. A call center vendor that is a strategic partner will be concerned with how the customer support experience can be improved to facilitate lower costs, increase demand, and create sales opportunities.

The vendor you select should also be proactive in assessing the services offered today and suggesting new service options to help the company exceed their goals and objectives as the market shifts and customers’ needs change along with new product offerings. Ask them how they intend to impact each of these opportunities to add value.

Making the Transition from Checklist to Strategic RFP

Before issuing an RFP, it may be prudent to have exploratory conversations with the vendors under consideration for your short list. Ask them some of these questions during the conversation to gauge their level of thought leadership and the methodologies they bring to the table that your company may not have. This input can help you refine the questions you ask on your RFP to help you truly evaluate not only the capabilities the vendor brings to the table, but also the potential for adding value to your support services that may not exist today. These preliminary conversations will help you save loads of time by focusing your RFP process on a select handful of core support providers with the highest potential.

By using your RFP as a strategic tool, you’ll be much more likely to select a vendor that delivers greater efficiency, an agile operation, consumer insights, leading-edge support, and lower support costs. And you’ll achieve this outcome with less work than your traditional RFP process would have allowed.