Evaluating potential IVR vendors isn't as straightforward as it sounds.
The problem is that many IVR solutions are packaged with other telecommunication applications and installations. Comparing standalone product vendors is difficult enough, but comparing vendors who offer IVR products as part of a larger package can seem almost impossible.
Your best bet is to look for vendors who possess a combination of technical expertise and real-world business sense. It's especially helpful when vendors can point to successful IVR implementations in similarly sized businesses located within your industry. From there, you need to determine how suitable the IVR solution is for your call center and how easily it can be separated from the vendor's other product offerings.
At some point, you will also need to evaluate each IVR dealer based on the traits that are exhibited by best-of-breed IVR providers.
- Hosted vs. inhouse (or both). IVR solutions that are hosted in-house give your business more direct control and save the expense of monthly provider fees. Hosted IVR is preferred by companies who lack extensive IT resources. Some vendors specialize in one type of solution, while others offer both. If you choose a hosted solution, look for a vendor who provides easy data migration to an in-house system later on.
- Manufacturers vs. resellers. It's not always clear whether you're buying directly from the manufacturer or through a dealer. Although it might seem like a small detail, the ramifications can be significant. If you're working through a reseller, evaluate both the dealer and the manufacturer to ensure future service and system upgrades.
- System performance. An effective call center is your lifeline to your customer base. Outages can have a detrimental effect on your bottom line and are unacceptable, given the quality of today's technology. Ask the vendor to provide information about system performance. Believe it or not, a performance report of 99.9% uptime is standard in the industry.
- Software integration. If you are buying a standalone IVR solution, it's important to verify that it can be seamlessly integrated with your existing software applications. Vendors are usually aware of the need for their products to integrate with common applications – but don't take anything for granted.
- Service after the sale. The issue of service after the sale is especially relevant for systems that will be maintained by internal IT personnel. Make sure your service agreement clearly describes the level of support and additional fees you can expect for service and upgrades.