So, you’ve completed the process of determining you need a new contact center, and have the buy-in from upper management to proceed with the project. Now it is time to select a vendor to help you get there, but selecting the right one is an important decision not to be taken lightly since they are an extension of your brand. How do you find a capable partner who will keep your long-term goals in mind? After you do your initial vendor research, one of the first steps in the selection process is typically to issue a request for proposal or Contact Center RFP.
In a nutshell, the RFP is your chance to provide potential suitors with a common, structured overview of your company, what you are looking for, detailed requirements and selection criteria. Whether or not you’ve ever created an RFP for contact center services, we’ve put together some simple guidelines to help you with the process.
Before you write your RFP, take the necessary time to document the following:
- Outline your current contact center situation including what you like and dislike about it.
- Envision your future contact center. How would it differ from what you have now and what must you have to get where you need to be?
- Define the scope of the RFP. How much will need to be covered?
- Now prioritize and organize the output as a foundation for the rest of the process. Make sure to check if each item is within the scope of the project.
An RFP typically has two main parts, each with labeled sub-sections.
The first part provides an overview and sets the stage for the potential future relationship. It is where you describe things like:
- your company and industry
- your management structure and competitive positioning
- who and where your customers are
- your customer contact history and philosophy
- any contact center experience, including what is and isn’t working (see the exercise above)
- the rationale for the RFP
This is also where you lay out the process, timeline and deadlines, selection criteria and clear instructions for formatting and submission.
The second part of the RFP is where you detail your objectives and specific technical and performance requirements. Be direct and as clear as possible. Include as many questions as it takes to get an understanding of your future contact center vendor’s capabilities, experience, operations and service levels, but avoid irrelevant kitchen sink questions or you’ll create unnecessary work for you and your bidders.
Ask a mix of yes or no and open-ended questions to elicit the vendor’s approach to fulfilling specific requirements. You can tell a lot about their potential fit with your organization by their responses, including how creative they are in different situations.
Some other areas you may want to include:
- approach to staffing, training and supporting personnel
- management/supervision structure
- agent recruitment and retention
- monitoring and quality assurance
- compliance to all laws, regulations and best practices
- data flow, reporting and measurement
- details about facilities or the use of at home agents
- technology infrastructure (hardware, software, network, etc.)
- disaster preparedness, security, data protection and redundancy
- start-up and wind-down process
- improvement process and benchmarks
- business continuity
Ask specific questions about their experience relevant to the scope and complexity of your needs. Be sure to inquire about current contracts to understand their capacity to service your organization.
Detail the type and quantity of references you require, and don’t forget pointed questions about support and service levels.
Make sure you address financial matters including costs and billing, vendor performance measurement and potential terms for engagement.
Finally, ask for a clear executive summary for the benefit of others in the decision process that may not be as intimate with the details of the Contact Center RFP as you are.
Remember, these are meant as guidelines and not an exhaustive list. What you ask depends on whether you are outsourcing the management, the function or the entire business process of your contact center(s). Make sure you really need what you ask for so you don’t overpay for the services. But, if you use this as a starting point to build upon for your specific needs, it should help you uncover the vendor with the right mix of expertise, capacity, cost and quality to represent your company and brand.
If it is your first time through the outsourcing process, consider using a contact center consultant to help with the process. Or feel free to reach out to us, we’d be happy to help get your Contact Center RFP off the ground. A good consultant will make sure you don’t miss key items, can help assess the respondents and even set-up the proper process to managing the on-going new relationship.