The RFP process can be a stressful one - especially if it’s your first time sourcing a vendor. The risk of getting it wrong can have a big impact on your bottom line, and getting it right can be a moving target. For many leaders, balancing budget concerns against program needs (and a plethora of vendor options) can create an initial roadblock to progress. This guide is here to help get you started.
What should you look out for in an ideal vendor? What questions should you ask to ensure their capabilities match your needs? How do you even make sure the vendors you’re including in the RFP process are the right ones?
Choosing the right partner is no easy feat, but it is vital for your CX success. Here are a few key best practices to help simplify your search for the right outsourcer — and take the headache out of the RFP process.
Understand the Timeline for Contact Center RFPs
When readying to submit an RFP, it’s essential to understand the timeline so you can manage your own expectations and those of your time-strapped, in-house CX teams. You don’t want them thinking help is on the way at the snap of their fingers, only for them to learn it will be a couple of months before backup comes. Understanding the timeline can also help CX teams plan ahead for how they’ll fill those gaps in the meantime. Finally, having a timeline in mind will help keep you on track.
A sample timeline might look like this:
- RFP Creation (Timeline: 1-3 weeks). During this time, you’ll work with key stakeholders to identify CX needs, draft an RFP, and have it approved internally, including running it by the legal or procurement departments.
- RFP Administration (Timeline: 3-5 weeks). You’ll identify third-party vendors that meet your qualifications for contact center management and reach out to them. These vendors can submit questions to the procurement manager, who will answer them. From there, CX leaders will wait for contact center responses. The procurement manager will receive them on the deadline and forward them to the CX executive.
- RFP Evaluation (Timeline: 1-4 weeks). CX leaders and other stakeholders will score the RFP and select a winner or list of vendors to reach out to for additional information or a presentation. Once this process is complete, a winner will be chosen, and contract negotiations will ensue. Finally, the contract is awarded, other vendors learn they were not selected, and CX teams ready to onboard the new contact center vendor.
Draft an Airtight RFP
First impressions are everything, and a thorough RFP signals to vendors that your brand means business when it comes to finding the best company to service its customer support needs. It will also ensure the responses are catered to your businesses’ CX needs and that vendors who don’t qualify decline to submit a response.
You will want to ensure to address:
- How long have you been in business?
- Where are you located, and where would your agents work from (brick-and-mortar, remotely, offshore, nearshore, etc.)?
- What industries have you worked in?
- The vendor’s five largest clients and how they worked with them.
- How are you different from other vendors?
- Why do you think you are the best candidate to fill our contact center needs?
- Please include your last two years of revenues.
Services and Operations
- What type of services do you provide (outbound, inbound, etc.)?
- What call volumes can you manage, and how fast can you scale up or down depending on surges or declines?
- Can you staff our contact center 24/7/365 to support our always-on customer base?
- What languages do agents speak?
- What is your manager-to-agent ratio?
- How are security issues managed?
- What technologies do your agents use? Are you experienced with the ones we use?
- What types of training will they require? How do they measure success? How do they pivot if agreed-upon KPIs, such as CSAT scores, aren’t up to snuff?
- How do you communicate with clients?
- How do you identify and recruit agents?
- How long is your hiring process?
- How do you work with brands to properly onboard agents?
- What is agent turnover?
- How many hours per week do you typically schedule agents?
- How do you work with remote agents to ensure accountability?
- What risk management safeguards do you have in place?
- How are data breaches handled?
Be Selective In Outreach To Prospective Vendors
The RFP process can take two or more months, which can feel like an eternity for CX teams experiencing hypergrowth. Don’t make the process harder by casting a wide net. Instead, only reach out to vendors you already know are qualified. Doing so will save you time sifting through unqualified candidates and set up an efficient but competitive process. You can find top prospects through:
- Google searches
- Colleague referrals
- A contact center advisor, who can evaluate your brands’ needs, develop a target list, and help with the narrowing down and selection process
How To Select Your Contact Center Winner
If you’ve gone through the process efficiently and effectively, at least one of the candidates should meet—or better yet, exceed—your expectations for a contact center. They’re experienced, have stellar references, and can manage your contact volume and support needs.
Of course, every candidate will have its drawbacks, too. The evaluation process is rarely straightforward. When scoring and trying to break ties, consider:
- Experience. Who has the most direct experience in your industry? Do any of the vendors not have any direct experience? You may not want your customers to bear the brunt of their inexperience.
- Impressions. During the process, you should have gotten to meet with the people who will be managing your account. Did you feel you had chemistry with them? Did you trust them and feel they had the chops to take care of your customers?
- Facility. If they have a brick-and-mortar, how did it look? Where are their locations? Have you considered if onshore, nearshore, or offshore best fits your needs? If you can’t go in person, ask to see it virtually.
- Services. Can they meet your call volume, work with your technology and be available during the hours your customers need?
- Technology. What digital tools and services do they offer? Are they up to date on the latest innovations in CX technology? Do they utilize Business Intelligence and AI? These services are quickly becoming critical to a CX competitive edge.
- @Home Delivery. Increasingly, workers are expecting flexibility and work-from-home options from employers. It's no longer an exception, but a key element in business strategy for resiliency. Research shows work-at-home agents are often happier and more productive at work, with the added benefit of reducing overhead costs and offering a greatly expanded talent pool for your program. Which providers are able to give you this option, and who is set up for proven success with @Home agents? How are they supported, if so?
- Security. What security measures are in place to protect your customer and business data? What is the difference in security measures from in-center to @Home agents? What is the protocol if there is a breach?
- Training. How are agents trained and onboarded with each outsourcer? How quickly are agents trained to proficiency? Do they have training technologies or gamification in place to assist in this process? Which outsourcers view training as an ongoing part of agent development and continuous improvement, rather than just an onboarding exercise? Are agents motivated, incentivized, or rewarded? These are considerations to have the best trained and focused agents on your team.
Outsourcing has its share of benefits, but the process can take time. But it doesn’t have to be a headache. Having a clear vision for your contact center and outlining that in your RFP will set the stage for an efficient, productive, and competitive process. Only reach out to candidates you know are qualified to staff your contact center, and ask tough and thorough questions to confirm your faith in them. From there, evaluate the pros and cons of each response, and ask to meet the team and see the facility before making your final decision.
If this is your first time outsourcing, be sure to also check out our First Time CX Outsourcing Guide for more considerations to help guide you to the best-fit partner for your needs.