Buying Agent Assist
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So you’ve decided to move forward with implementing agent assist solutions – now – where do you start? Organizations routinely tell us that one of the biggest impediments to getting started is analysis-paralysis when it comes to selecting tools and vendors. The sheer number of options available makes the evaluation process daunting. In this section we provide some guidelines to assist you in this journey.
Begin with the Business Case
One of the leading success indicators for any project is whether the project is driven by a business case or by a technology decision. Those projects built on a solid business case are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed. A good business case will also demonstrate a clear ROI and, more importantly, address the success metrics. While this business case is of course important for internal funding, it is a good practice to share your business case and success metrics with your vendor. A good vendor/customer partnership is one with a mutual understanding of the business case.
Interestingly, it is this internal business case that often presents the bigger barriers to implementing agent assistance initiatives. Gartner’s research note “7 Agent-Oriented Technologies That Optimize Customer Service Costs” states that “Budgetary pressure and a risk-averse mindset often stifle investment in new, “non core” customer service, agent-oriented technologies”. Given that Agent Assist is one of the few solutions that present a demonstrable business case, the effort you invest in building the business case and building consensus amongst stakeholders will go a long way to strengthen the foundation of your modern contact center operation.
Top Agent Assist Use Cases for Your Contact Center
It is important that you map out the capabilities you need. First, you can prioritize and roll out the most needed capabilities first. Second, knowing the full set of capabilities you need will help with vendor selection. Ideally, most of your capabilities will be provided by one or two vendors, instead of relying on a patchwork of various technologies, and trying to integrate them all.
How to Get Started with Agent Assist?
Deliver the real-time assistance your agents need. Get up and running in weeks.
Call Center Scripting Edition
Guide agents especially on the most dynamic conversations with customers
Call Center RPA Edition
Guide agents and automate mundane tasks to help agents focus on the customer experience
Call Center AI Edition
Guide agents and automate tasks based on real-time alerts from conversational AI and RPA
Don’t Buy Capability. Buy Outcomes. Ask for Usage Based Pricing Models
Every technology vendor will gladly sell you functionality. However, your primary concern should be about delivering outcomes and ultimately this is what you want to buy. For example, don’t buy a knowledge base. Buy a knowledge base that specifically offers actionable data to your agent that drives down call times by n%.
A vendor that is closely aligned with your business case will reflect this outcome based approach in their proposal. This is another reason why choosing a patchwork of various vendors is problematic – each will “pass the blame” and no single party is responsible for achieving the overall outcomes. Limit the number of technology vendors in your stack.
Assess Skills Required to Own & Enhance
Implementing agent assistance isn’t a “set and forget” implementation. In fact, a comprehensive roll-out may involve a number of components, including items such as a knowledge base, robotic process automation, agent guidance and an agent chatbot. Each of these systems require a specific role or set of skills in your organization.
Who will be responsible for entering new data into the knowledge base? Who will be responsible for building agent guidance flows? Who will monitor the performance of the solution?
We caution customers to identify the roles and skills required before embarking on a project like this. Anything else is disingenuous – it would be a terrible and costly realization if this is only addressed after the project goes live. Further, you would ideally have these roles work side-by-side with the vendor during the implementation process to ensure adequate knowledge transfer takes place.
Prove the Value. Then Scale.
Earlier in this guide we discussed the importance of continuous improvement. This goes for the business case too: Prove out the value incrementally. This may be a subset of the initial solution, or a rollout to only a subset of agents. Collect feedback early and often. Drive demonstrable outcomes and ROI. And then you can scale with confidence and start to reap the rewards.
By starting small and proving out the value, you also substantially mitigate the risk. Risk may manifest itself in various forms. There is an inherent risk that a vendor’s claims are, to put it bluntly, fabricated or “wishful thinking”. Starting with incremental rollouts let you quickly put the vendor’s claims to the test. There is also a technology risk, and these should be discovered as soon as possible, so deploying early and often is a good way of catching any issues. Finally, agent adoption is an inherent risk so being able to incrementally provide new features, collect feedback and implement their suggestions is a great way of improving agent adoption and buy-in.
Many organizations polled state that vendor selection is often the biggest impediment to getting started with projects. Confronted with an overwhelming array of choices, a barrage of potentially misleading messaging and dubious claims, companies often face analysis-paralysis. As we’ve outlined in this guide, the technology choice should be the last item to consider and vendor evaluation should only happen after you’ve identified your use cases and business cases.
When the time comes to look for a vendor, it is helpful to stack-rank the various vendors so that you can obtain a quantifiable score for each to create a shortlist. Use this guide below as a starting point:
Score (10=best, 1=worst)
Vendor experience and expertise in delivering solutions used by both customers as well as contact center agents.
You cannot embark on a CX strategy without considering BOTH sides of the equation. Self-service and assisted service are intertwined like never before. You should favor vendors who have demonstrable experience in both.
Because of the interconnectedness of self and assisted service and the requirements for today’s omnichannel customer, a vendor should have a platform that seamlessly connects these two service types. Be wary with vendors who have simply acquired various technologies with little to no integration. Without a single platform, TCO will be higher and complexity will be increased (as will risk). Moreover, it is very difficult to provide omnichannel customer service across an array of disjointed and disparate technology.
Comprehensive Agent Assist Solutions
Agent Assist solutions can encompass a broad array of technologies, including scripting, process guidance, process automation, unified desktops, employee virtual assistants and more. The vendor should be able to apply all these technologies to deliver the most flexible and powerful agent assist solution.
Broad agent assist deployments can be challenging and complicated if not done right and with a sound methodology. Evaluate the vendors ability to be an implementation partner and trusted advisor. You need to be comfortable working with them for the long term.
Outcome based pricing
Ultimately you don’t want to buy technology or features, you want to buy outcomes for your organization. Your vendor should be able to work with you to develop an outcome based strategy and pricing model.
Ensure the vendor has specific experience in your vertical or industry. You don’t want to be the vendor’s “guinea-pig”. They should come to you with best practices for your organization.
Maturity and Stability
Agent Assist projects can be complicated, are high visibility and have high expectations. They also become fundamental to the workflow in your contact center. As a result, you need to make sure your vendor has been in the CX space for a long time and offers your company the necessary maturity and stability in order to form a long-term partnership.
Calculate your total score taking into account the weighting of each category by multiplying the score in each row by the weighting for that row, and coming up with your total score for that vendor. Repeat this exercise for each of the vendors you are considering.