Evaluation Criteria

Messaging is the next disruptive technology for the contact center. Consumers are demanding the ability to communicate via messaging with brands and businesses. The interest, preference, usage, and demand for consumer-to-business messaging is evident, with the majority of U.S. consumers preferring texting over the current methods of reaching customer support.

Messaging is already pervasive in our daily lives and for the first time, consumers are the ones driving companies to implement a new support channel. Consumers now expect to be able to initiate a two-way, one-to-one conversation with the companies and brands they use. The research shows that companies which don’t offer messaging to their consumers will be passed up by their competition. The good news is that it’s not hard to give consumers what they want.

While it is fairly straightforward to decide to proceed with messaging in your contact center, it is worth taking a little time to assess your organization’s specific requirements as you evaluate messaging vendors.

What Are You Trying To Accomplish: Define Your Objectives

This is a pretty obvious first step, but it is not uncommon that companies come to us without knowing exactly what to expect from adding Messaging as a new channel. Because messaging is new, we understand the lack of clear objectives. However, it is still a good idea to establish a couple goals upfront, even if you modify them later.

Here are a few possible points for consideration:

  • Review the demographics of the customers you currently serve and their likelihood to message you from their mobile device.
  • Is the messaging technology you want primarily for inbound (customers coming to you for help) or outbound (your company promoting or communicating to customers) communications? Or, do you want to be able to handle both? Messaging vendors typically specialize in either inbound or outbound.The holy grail is a solution that handles inbound, customer-initiated inquiries, as well as company-to-consumer communications where the consumer can respond.
  • Do you have a focus on increasing overall customer satisfaction? Are there particular call drivers for which CSAT is low today? Messaging could help, as it has been found to have the highest satisfaction levels of all channels.
  • Is identifying cost savings opportunities a company mandate this year? Offloading 20% or more phone calls to messaging would be a good alternative.
  • Are you an innovator striving to set your contact center or customer service organization apart from the competition? Be the first to lead the pack and acquire new customers.
  • Is connecting with consumers a priority? Messaging makes your brand more accessible to consumers.
  • Will your company be announcing a new product targeted at a highly mobile demographic? Messaging is their number one preferred way to communicate with brands.
  • Are you pursuing an omni-channel support strategy and messaging is an integral part of that?

A general understanding of the purpose and reasoning for adding a new channel will help ensure that you are selecting a vendor best suited to your particular needs.

Which Vendor Fits Best: Evaluating Vendor Capabilities

Once you have assessed what you are trying to achieve, you are ready to evaluate messaging providers. There are 6 criteria against which to compare vendors.

  1. Vendor Expertise & Experience

Since the majority of messaging vendors have recently entered the marketplace, it would be wise to review the backgrounds of the executive team. Is this their first company? Where have they worked previously? Do they have the experience to successfully build and grow a technology solution and company? How familiar are they with customer service and support, and the contact center?

Look for a vendor that has a proven history of success developing solutions for customer service teams. Without this experience, there will be a lack of knowledge and understanding around the key challenges faced by customer service teams. How can the vendor build out new channel, like messaging, if they don’t understand the technologies already in use, the workflow, or the key metrics?

Whether you have a large or small team helping your customers, you want to be sure the technology is only making their job easier.

  1. Customer-Obsessed Culture

When adding a new channel to the contact center, most managers will be concerned about implementation and go-live going smoothly. It is important to select a vendor who becomes your messaging partner. They should have a culture of service themselves and be focused on ensuring your success. How can you gauge that? Think about how responsive and helpful they were during the sales cycle. Do they ask questions and try to understand your business as well as you do? Have they made recommendations on what will help the implementation go smoothly?

It will be important to make sure you feel comfortable that this vendor is going to be a partner in your success.

  1. Product Capabilities

Messaging vendors can all start to sound the same when reading their websites or marketing materials, so a more definitive way to narrow down the pack is to drill into the core, out-of-the-box functionality. This can be quite a long list, so we will suggest a short list of critical capabilities relevant for every industry and size of support team:

  • How is the incoming customer request treated in the technology? Is a ticket or case created and put into the queue for attention or is it considered a real-time conversation that remains with the same agent for seamless resolution with the customer?
  • Does the product support multiple messaging apps within the same interface? For example, can an agent receive text, Kik, and Facebook Messenger messages within the same interface? Which additional messaging apps will be added and supported in the single interface?
  • Can the product handle multiple, simultaneous conversations that the agent can move between easily?
  • Does the system automatically prioritize which customer conversation needs to be responded to next? Does it do so based solely on configurable SLAs or can the conversations also be prioritized based on the customer’s level of engagement?
  • Are conversations able to be routed to the most appropriate queue?
  • Can an agent transfer a messaging conversation to another agent or to a manager?
  • Can an agent collaborate with another agent or manager when they need help with a customer issue?
  • Do the managers have single screen visibility to monitor all their messaging agents and the active conversations? Can a manager open up an active conversation? Can they take over a conversation if necessary?
  • Is it easy for supervisors and managers to see and use real-time and historical reports to track how productive their agents are?
  • Is the messaging product available stand-alone if you don’t already have a customer service solution? Does the messaging product easily integrate into other applications like Oracle Service Cloud and Zendesk?
  • Does the messaging product allow for integrations inside its interface, such as an order management system or knowledge base, to make agents even more efficient answering customer inquiries.
  1. Scalability & Security

Nearly every customer service organization faces peaks and valleys of customer inquiries, whether tied to a holiday, a season, or a product release. For that reason, you need a messaging solution that can expand and contract with the flow of your business. The biggest concern tends to be making sure vendors can scale to meet peak demands. Be sure to understand your volumes and to ensure the vendor or partner you select can easily handle the potential demand.

Security is getting more important than ever. Dig into what the messaging vendors have in place for security protocols – not just for the technology – but also for the servers they run on. Everything is “in the cloud” these days, so making sure your data is secure, doesn’t mingle with others, isn’t accessible, and is never lost is vitally important. Ask the vendor about their security audit and documentation to ensure you can rest easy.

  1. Continuous Innovation

Technology doesn’t stand still and neither should your technology. You want to select technology providers that not only grow with you, but also push you to grow. Understand the vendor’s product roadmap. Do they have a plan to automate, improve, and accelerate agent productivity and the consumer experience? Are they dedicated to constantly improving their solution and open to feature requests that help not only grow their business, but also yours?

We all agree Messaging is the next channel to enter the contact center. As you determine when and how to add this new channel to your portfolio, we hope our tips to understand your business objectives and our list of vendor evaluation criteria are helpful.