Evaluating RFPs is a subjective process
These vendors develop their products on similar platforms with little differences. Therefore, several features are common in all packages. This contributes to subjectivity during the evaluation of RFPs. The evaluation process accounted for the applicability of the package based on critical factors and features, such as interactive voice response (IVR), customer relationship management (CRM), workforce management (WFM), recording or quality monitoring, and outbound dialing, which vendors integrated into their packages. The evaluation is also considered the most cost-effective vendor.
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However, the final judgment was independent, rational, understandable, and consistent for all vendors, and it did not go against RFP conditions.
A ‘lowest possible cost’ criterion is perhaps the worst approach a firm can rely on to choose a vendor. It could lead to a poor selection of a vendor and product. Firms incur hidden costs in such products through expensive maintenance costs and training employees. Moreover, the comparative study showed that there were additional considerable costs from the design of the contact center, system configuration, deployment, customization, and modification. Such costs could even exceed 50% of the product cost.
Firms should use cost criteria to determine competitive rates and choose the best vendor that would offer the right software. The right product should be economical to maintain and customize. Right vendors have the right skills, which they use to develop the best products at the lowest possible costs.
Terms in telephony
IVR (Interactive voice response)
This is a telephony platform, which allows computers to sense voices and touch-tones through the usual phone call. It can use either pre-recorded audio or a speaker to provide further direction to callers.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
PBX is a telephone exchange service that only serves the firm, which owns it. PBX automates telephone services through software or physical devices. It can place, end, or transfer a call.
ACD (Automatic Call Distribution)
ACD is a telephony platform that “distributes incoming calls to a given group of agents in a station” (Waite, 2002). ACDs are common in call centers in which the caller can speak to any ‘next available agent’. Its main role is purely called distribution in a workstation.
CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
This software manages customer information in a call center. Telephony technologies integrate CRM with phone calls to allow for easy tracking of e-mails and managing both incoming and outgoing calls. It enhances accuracy and efficiency.
CTI (Computer Telephony Integration)
This is the application of a computer system to manage phone calls.
Challenges in preparing an RFP
One major technical challenge in writing an RFP is the project description section. This stage requires technical knowledge in all critical areas of the firm’s processes and operations that require the new system. Any mistake in this stage could result in data incompatibility, constant errors, manual processes, and huge maintenance costs (Walli, 2010). Vendors also rely on this part of the RFP to plan their products in terms of customization, configuration, installation, and developing user-training manuals. It also affects costs and returns on investments.
It is surprising to note that evaluating vendors is a thorough process that involves ‘question and answer sessions’ for all vendors in the tendering process. It is necessary to adopt the best practices used in developing effective RFPs. This would enhance the chances of developing a successful RFP.
Waite, A. (2002). A Practical Guide to Call Center Technology. United States: CRC Press.
Walli, B. (2010). Best Practices for Preparing a Request for Proposal. Pennsauken, NJ: Faulkner Information Services.