Handling increased demand icons.

How to Choose a Customer Communication Tool

Finding a new software to pin the hopes and dreams of your customer care team on is no easy task. With a highly competitive market, deliberately blurred lines and ‘grey areas’, and information gated behind a demo, it can be difficult to see the wood for the trees.

At FM Outsource we’ve seen our fair share of platforms, from using the software we inherit from new clients to helping them source something new to solve a specific problem.

So, which platform do you choose, and how? We’d recommend using something as simple as a checklist to shortlist your options and narrow it down to an overall winner. To save you some time setting up yet another spreadsheet, our free template is available to download with the button below.

Requirements framework

The Stages of Buying

To keep things succinct, procuring software usually looks something like this, no matter what you’re looking for:

  1. Establish requirements and technology gap
  2. Longlist providers (and book demos)
  3. Shortlist providers by evaluating pros and cons
  4. Final selection and trial period

1: Establishing Requirements

This is about understanding what you currently have (whether that’s an existing system, or managing everything in independent channels) and comparing that to what you could have.

This part of the process should be the most exciting – where you get to explore the realm of the possible. Ask all of the ‘what if’ questions of your campaign managers, supervisors, operators. Run a survey, have team meetings, get a great big whiteboard out and collect it all.

These are some key when you’re padding out your Requirements Framework template:

  • Which channels do you want to cover?
  • Which other systems do you need to integrate with?
  • What are your strategic goals?
  • Do you need access to automation and workflows?
  • Do you need a lot of customisation, or will something ‘out of the box’ work?
  • Is price or billing period a key consideration?

Check out our template here, with the above already factored in:

2: Book Demos

Before you enter demos, you should prioritise and tag your requirements as ‘must have’, ‘could have’, ‘should have’, and ‘won’t have’ (also known as the MOSCOW method). Exploring and identifying those things should help you enter demos and commercial discussions with decisiveness about what you need.

The salespeople delivering demos deliberately focus on product strengths and will have a range of tools to deflect from their weaknesses and gaps. Arming yourself with your requirements and checking them off as the demo progresses will help you eke out all the information you need to fill in your spreadsheet or cross a provider off.

We’d suggest longlisting at least five providers – and aim to include a mix of well-known players like Zendesk, and more agile solutions like Gnatta. What’s more, if you mention other providers during the demo, your host will likely highlight some of the pros and cons if they’re aware of their competitor.

3: Evalulation

Cutting a longlist down to your favourites should be simple. If your requirements framework was detailed enough and your demos were informative, you’ll be able to scan your spreadsheet for pros and cons and eliminate players quickly. 

Something to consider at this stage is chemistry, and how much you liked the providers. How helpful were they? Would they support you fully throughout the transition? Do you feel they’d help you solve any problem? Were they as honest as they could be in the demo about the product capabilities? These questions are often the key difference between the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.

4: Final Selection

To narrow your favourites down to a final selection, we’d suggest engaging them in a follow-up chat so you can address any outstanding concerns that weren’t covered in your demos. This should be considered their final opportunity to pitch the product.

You should also consider insisting on a trial period and exit strategy in the event the product does not deliver what you need. Most software providers are familiar with trial contracts and should be willing to do this. If they’re not, it’s important to find out why. Getting this clause in place minimises risk for you in the event a critical requirement has been miscommunicated – and it also demonstrates the provider’s belief in their own product.

Choosing the right communication platform for a growing customer service team is a decision that will make or break a business. We believe that giving operators the right tools for the job is what guarantees success