Overcoming the Challenges of Midmarket Contact Centers
Midmarket organizations are in a unique position. When we talk to businesses with midmarket contact center needs—between 50 and 200 seats—the same things come up time and time again. Essentially, they have four major priorities. They want to be assured of the ease of installation of the new contact center. They want to be assured that the new contact center will be reliable. They want better reporting than they currently have. And perhaps their biggest challenge is that they want more than they can afford. So with that in mind, how can midmarket contact centers get what they need?
Let's take a closer look at those needs. The first, ease of installation, is reasonable and not surprising. IT departments in almost every enterprise have been burned in the past by overly drawn-out installations, which stretch their limited resources and put them in the firing line of frustrated business units. They want to be assured that this will not happen again. Nonetheless, IT departments are not unrealistic. They are typically sophisticated groups with the expertise and experience to appreciate that enterprise software is rarely as simple as "plug and play"—even in an increasingly cloud-focused world.
The second need, reliability, is not too surprising either. Businesses demand reliability to ensure that mission-critical operations run efficiently and without interruption and that customers remain satisfied. The entire business wants reliability, so that fixing and managing the contact center does not become a day-to-day burden. This need implies that the IT department has been burned here, too—that they have been sucked into a "fixing and managing" role that they did not want or anticipate in the past.
The third need, better reporting, is more revealing. Many companies recognize that they may not have the right measurement tools in place. Bear in mind that midmarket sales are usually replacements of older technologies, rather than greenfield opportunities. That means that they usually have some analytics and reporting in place, but in the years since they were installed, the analytics have grown to be antiquated, inflexible, or simply not fit for purpose. When the right things are measured, contact centers can be run far more efficiently, resulting in marked cost efficiencies, not to mention improved customer responsiveness. Interestingly enough, many midmarket companies do not know the exact measurements they want, but virtually all know that what they currently have is not helping them very much.
The fourth need, wanting more than they can afford, is the tricky one. Just because a business falls into the midmarket contact center range does not mean it has midmarket expectations. Often the levels of IT sophistication in these businesses are on par with companies that want a much larger contact center. They read the same publications, hear similar gripes from their customer service department, and often listen to the same industry analysts. They face the same pressures that a much larger customer service operation faces, just not the same budget.
So what can be done to close the gap between desire and budget? The first—and most important—piece of advice is to actually seek solutions that genuinely address the midmarket. It sounds simple, but many businesses do not do this. The reality is that most contact center technology is aimed at either the large or small contact center operations, meaning the midmarket is largely ignored. Unless you specifically seek out midmarket solutions, you are doomed to end up with something ill-fitting. It's like a teenager choosing between children's clothes, which are too small, or adults' clothes, which are too big. You need to choose something designed to fit your specific situation.
The next most important piece of advice is to seek out the bundle. Particularly if you are used to seeing solutions designed for much larger contact centers, you might become somewhat despondent about what you can get for your budget. But do not despair. For the midmarket, bundled solutions will typically be the best route. One-off installations of different customer interaction technologies often result in awkward integrations and squandered budgets. But the pre-integrated bundle could meet your needs, and even deliver some extra elements that were on your "nice-to-have" list. For example, is there a bundle that could give you a workforce management solution and an IVR system, as well as the core contact center software?
To carry the previous analogy to clothing a bit further, think "Elastic!" Practically speaking, be sure to look ahead to ensure you choose a solution that can grow with your business from both a features and scalability perspective. A bundled solution may have additional components that can be licensed and/or added at a future date when appropriate. Also, don't buy a solution that tops out at 150 agents if you're at 100 agents now and project growth beyond 150 within three to five years.
The final piece of advice is simply not to compromise. The reality is that the "just right" solution does exist. Reasonable installations, reliability, and better reporting, all within budget, are possible for the midmarket. With due diligence, you can find the right fit and push aside the easy-to-find large or small contact center options that can pull you away from a well-fitting tailored option that will allow you flexibility in the longer term.
JR Sloan is product director at Enghouse Interactive, where he is responsible for specifying product and solution requirements across the customer interaction portfolio. He has more than 20 years of experience in software and contact center technology.
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