February 01, 2024

Writing the Modern Customer Service Platform RFP

Find the best platform for you, your business, and your customers.

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Introduction

Being in the customer service software business, we spend a lot of time talking to companies about their approach to service — what their goals are and what they view as the ideal experience for their customers. What often arises in the course of these discussions is the realization that their ultimate vision around service doesn’t quite match up to the reality of what it currently is.

If, like these companies, you’ve been feeling constrained by the limitations of your current customer service platform and are ready for one that delivers a more modern, personalized, and efficient customer service experience, we’re here to help.

We understand that writing a request for proposal (RFP) for a modern customer service platform (CRM RFP) isn’t easy. That’s why we did the legwork of identifying what makes a platform suited to today’s consumer.

We hope this handbook will help you find the platform that’s best for you, your business, and your customers.

The World Has Changed.

We’re in a digital-first era of commerce. Traditional retailers are now digital converts. New retailers are digitally native. There are millions of consumer-facing brands today, and it’s easier than ever to start a new one. Consumers have never had so much choice, and it’s getting increasingly harder to enter their limited consideration set of brands.

Despite these changes and evolving consumer expectations around communication and channel preferences, many customer service platforms have remained staunchly in the past, relying on the same systems built decades ago. And instead of tearing down those foundations and starting anew, legacy platforms have simply piled on new technology atop an aging infrastructure.

Because of that, many companies have no choice but to bolt together multiple platforms, channel providers, and integrations to provide the service experience that meets their customers’ needs, leading to sky-high operational costs and information silos that hinder the deep and meaningful customer interactions that lead to long-term loyalty.

Enter AI.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here. It’s transforming how we create, communicate, and transact. And it’s fundamentally changing the way we work — especially how companies provide customer service.

This change is happening at a time when economic challenges have put incredible pressure on customer service teams to do more with less. Yet consumers expect the companies they love to deliver world-class, personalized experiences regardless of what’s happening in the world.

In this new world we live in, businesses must navigate the tension between saving money with AI and automation and delivering the experiences their customers want. With loyalty being the single biggest metric to predict a company’s long-term success for sales growth, customer behavior, and profitability, providing exceptional customer experiences should be a company-wide initiative.

One way to achieve this is by finding a customer service platform that meets each of the requirements you set forth in your CRM RFP, which we detail in this handbook.

While AI enables companies to handle unprecedented ticket volumes, complex customer issues still require a human touch. Choose a customer service platform focused on people — not tickets — to strike the right balance between efficiency and empathy.

To unlock the full potential of AI in your support center, it has to pair with a deep customer focus. A modern, people-centered platform ensures that every conversation, whether led by an agent or AI, starts with a clear understanding of the customer and what they’re reaching out about.

That means less effort for both your customers and your agents and a greater, more personalized experience overall.

People-Centered Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

Key Customer Details in One View

The modern customer service platform should identify customers based on unique identifiers (eg. their email address or phone number) and tie them to a single profile that includes key details like lifetime value, past purchases, and personal preferences — all in a single view. That way, every customer interaction — regardless of channel — is unified in one space, and agents are equipped with the context needed to take swift action and deliver personalized experiences. Agents spend less time searching for a customer’s information or asking a customer for information you already have, and customers have a better overall experience since they don’t have to repeat and recap their history or reason for reaching out.

Question: A customer reaches out via email, follows up with a phone call, then moves to chat. What must an agent do (i.e. how many systems/windows/tabs do they have to navigate) to see the interactions across those various communication channels? Please provide a screenshot of your agent’s view of multi-channel communications.

Question: How does your platform handle an existing customer reaching out from an unidentified email address or phone number? What must an agent do to ensure these communications are consolidated with the customer’s previous interactions, and not siloed in a different case/ticket/space?

Prompt: Describe the key customer details an agent sees about a customer when helping them (eg. transactions history and order numbers).

Question: How does your platform integrate with external CRM systems to pull in contextual information about the customer in real time? Once pulled in, where does this information live on your platform, and how easily can agents access it? Please provide a screenshot of your agent’s view of key customer information.

Question: How does your platform integrate with third-party transaction systems to pull in real-time contextual information about the customer to your agents (eg. reservation status, latest order shipped, preferred products/services)? Once pulled in, where does this information live on your platform, and how easily can agents access it?

Route By Customer Need

Not all customers come to you with the same questions or needs. Whether it’s a high-spending VIP member or a customer affected by a flight delay, your platform should give you the flexibility to determine how customers are routed in your organization and who gets priority. The right modern customer service platform should use the information you’ve already gathered about a customer to automatically route them to the right agent based on their unique history or needs — like matching them to the last agent that helped them to build rapport, and prioritizing a passenger with a flight in the next few minutes versus a customer with a flight in 2 weeks.

Question: How does your system route customers by default? What are the configuration options available?

Question: How does your platform maintain continuity between a customer and the last agent they interacted with?

Question: Can we apply rules or mechanisms to ensure certain customers are routed ahead of others?

Question: How does your system prioritize customers based on contact reason?

Question: How does your system handle escalations to ensure customers are quickly transferred to the next best resource?

Answers Everywhere They’re Needed

When you understand your customers on a deeper level, the right customer service platform — with the help of AI — should provide them with the right information in real time, whether they’re talking to an agent or self-serving. With built-in knowledge management, you can draw on one knowledge base and surface relevant content (from help articles to conversational replies) across channels and languages, so customers get consistent, accurate answers to their questions instantly.

Question: How does your system handle the creation and management of content? I.e. Describe where content is managed and where it’s made available to agents and customers.

Question: Does your system offer various content types? I.e. Can you create content best suited for a specific channel? Can you automatically create content variants in different languages?

Question: Can your system distinguish internal- versus external-facing content?

Requirement 2. Help Customers Help Themselves

In the next 24 to 36 months, 30–50% of all customer conversations can and will be automated. Companies that apply AI with a deep customer focus they can control will offer an experience that’s as personalized as it is efficient.

A modern support platform with an easy-to-use AI-powered self-service solution can unlock what you know about your customers and help provide fast, personalized responses everywhere your customers want to self-serve — including email, chat, SMS, FAQ pages, voice, and mobile — at any hour of the day, enhancing customer satisfaction while reducing wait times and alleviating agent fatigue.

Self-Service Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

No-Code, Automated Conversations

The modern customer service platform should have a self-service solution — ideally powered by Generative AI — that assists with real-time communication across all digital channels. It should excel in routine customer assistance for common requests like “Where is my order?”, cancellations, returns, and more, all while interacting with the customer, asking the right follow-up questions, and ensuring customers are satisfied with the resolution — all without requiring human intervention. This helps enhance customer satisfaction while reducing wait times and alleviating agent fatigue.

Question: Describe how the system supports self-service functionality for customers using AI to present relevant information to answer questions, walk them through troubleshooting an issue, assist with placing or tracking an order, initiating a cancellation or return, etc.

Question: How does the system determine when an interaction should be transferred to a live agent for support and what does that handoff look like?

Question: Describe the key components of the self-service tool and conversational workflow builder. I.e. Does the system require developers? Does the system offer conversational workflow templates?

Question: Does your platform allow agents to securely collect payments over your messaging channels?

Self-Service At Every Turn

The right customer service platform should allow you to author your single source of truth — such as your Help Center or FAQs — once and publish everywhere, so that customer service knowledge is accessible across all channels and languages. With embeddable web apps, you should be able to follow customers around your website and surface the answers they need in a pinch.

Question: Describe how and where the system enables customers to surface knowledge articles, product information, FAQs, etc.

Question: How can knowledge articles be personalized for different audiences?

Integrated and Personalized IVR

Your customer service platform should be equipped with a fully integrated and personalized IVR to help lower your voice costs and enable your customers to get quick answers to frequently asked questions about payment issues, cancellation requests, loyalty points balance, and more when they don’t feel like talking to agents or they aren’t available for a call.

Question: Does your voice offering come built in with an IVR, and does it include speech recognition capabilities and the ability to dip into customer data? If so, please describe how it works. If not, how does it get added on?

Question: Can external customer data be used in the system’s IVR decision logic?

Question: Is it possible to configure the IVR tree from your platform? Please provide a screenshot of the administrator’s view when making changes.

Requirement 3. Maximizes Agent Efficiency

In a busy contact center, every second saved represents real dollar savings. Your customer service platform should empower your agents to work smarter, not harder, with tools that help them be more efficient.

When your customer service agents are freed from repetitive manual tasks, they can focus on providing customers with exceptional, efficient, and memorable service experiences that drive lifelong loyalty. Achieving this means providing them with resources like automation for manual tasks, an easy-to-access knowledge base, powerful collaboration features, and a UI that’s intuitive and inspired by modern consumer apps (just to name a few).

Agent Efficiency Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

Simple, Intuitive Platform Design

The modern customer service platform should prioritize simplicity and ease of use. When it looks and feels like a modern messaging application, onboarding becomes a breeze and agents can work faster and with more confidence, resulting in customers who receive a consistently high level of service. Detailed customer information and next actions should be easy to find, and conversation with relevant context should be front and center.

Question: Describe the customer service tool. I.e. What functionality does the standard agent interface offer?

Question: Does your knowledge base automatically suggest answers that your agents can use to respond to a customer? If so, please describe how your platform decides which answers to surface to agents.

Question: Does your knowledge base offer agents the best-suited answer based on the channel the agent is responding to the customer on?

Collaborate, Manage, and Automate Tasks

Often, solving a customer’s issue requires help from more than just one person. Your customer service platform should make it easy for agents to collaborate with people both within and outside the company, delegate work and manage tasks easily with deadlines and reminders, and tie every interaction about a customer back to that customer’s profile. Plus, it should automate tasks to reduce effort while ensuring efficacy, like adding conversation topics for reporting purposes or assigning team members to execute cancellations.

Question: A customer has an issue that requires help from multiple people, some within the organization and some outside of it. Describe: (i) how the agent goes about liaising with and delegating work to each of these groups of people, (ii) how the agent can keep track of the work that needs to be done, by when and by whom, and (iii) where these interactions (i.e. that are about the customer, but which do not involve them directly) are stored.

Question: Can departments without system licenses be assigned tasks and respond accordingly?

Question: How are tasks created? Manually? Automatically? Please describe.

Take the Burden Off of Agents With AI

Play to your agents’ strengths and invest in a platform that applies powerful AI to empower the people within your customer service organization. Agent-facing AI tools like conversation summaries and real-time response guidance can save precious time, improve your agents’ quality of work, foster team collaboration, boost agent productivity, and help agents focus on delivering a high level of service that keeps customers loyal to your brand.

Question: Does the system enable agents to summarize conversations automatically?

Question: Does the system offer out-of-the-box generative AI tools for rewriting or rephrasing text?

Question: Does the system offer out-of-the-box grammar- and spell-check tools?

Question: Does the system offer AI-enabled next-best actions or responses based on customer context? Please describe.

Requirement 4. Moves Beyond the Channel

Eliminate the constraints of omnichannel communication. By centralizing your entire customer service experience, your team will know the full story for every customer, every time they reach out.

Your customers aren’t thinking about the channel they use to contact you. They just want to use the method that’s most convenient to them at the time they need to reach out and not feel like context is lost when they switch to another. Invest in a customer service platform that’s channel agnostic — one where you can engage with customers through their preferred channel, that equips your agents with a holistic view of customer conversations, and that enables both to seamlessly transition between channels at any given moment.

Channel Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

A Single Conversation Across Every Channel

With a single conversation thread that includes every customer interaction, your agents no longer have to switch between apps, platforms, or tabs based on where a customer initiates a conversation with your brand. The modern customer service platform should feature every contact in one customer view, independent of channel or whether it’s AI- or agent-generated, resulting in more context, less repetition, quicker responses, and a highly personal touch to every customer experience.

Question: Describe the system’s communication interface. I.e. Are different channels available on one screen, or do agents manage multiple screens when available on multiple channels?

Question: Describe how agents view past customer conversations in the system. I.e. For each customer, does the agent have access to their conversation history? If so, please describe how this appears.

All Channels Natively Built-In (Including Voice)

Invest in a single platform that has all the channels you want to offer, rather than purchasing separate, ad-hoc solutions. Integrating or bolting on separate solutions results in a clunky experience for agents and customers and adds operational costs and other inefficiencies. With a single platform, you can eliminate data silos and give your agents full visibility into a customer’s history and past interactions regardless of channel, avoid having to sign a big check to integrate the stand-alone or 3rd party apps needed to support the “360-degree view” you’ve been promised and save significant dollars (up to 30% of what you’re used to paying) because you don’t have to integrate and maintain a separate voice platform.

Question: Are all channels (including voice) built in natively? If not, what plugins, apps, or add-ons are required to support and/or integrate those channels?

Question: As a provider, are specific channels priced individually, and are telephony costs included? Please describe.

Question: Is it possible to select a mix of channels to activate based on the specific needs of our business?

Easy, Traceable Movement Between Channels

Sometimes, customers may use different channels to reach out about the same inquiry. Your platform should support channel fluidity by enabling both agents and customers to interact seamlessly across multiple channels according to what is appropriate or convenient for them, and consolidating simultaneous conversations across channels within the customer’s overall timeline of interactions, without creating a separate ticket.

Question: Does your platform allow agents to work simultaneously across multiple channels (eg. being able to send an SMS while on the phone with a customer or vice versa)? Describe the agent experience and the interface used to manage this.

Question: How does your platform handle simultaneous interactions from a customer over multiple channels (eg. a customer sending an image over MMS while talking to the agent over the phone)? Describe the agent experience and the interface used to manage this.

Requirement 5. Real-Time Metrics and Reporting

Customer service happens in real-time, and success metrics aren’t always one size fits all. That’s why your platform should give you a live view of your contact center with the ability to customize and analyze the metrics that matter, so you can make the adjustments you need in the moment.

A modern customer service platform should also give you a bird’s eye view across every channel you provide and make it easy to understand what’s going on with detailed, out-of-the-box reports that don’t require a data scientist to put together or decipher, and customizable insights that cover every measurable outcome at the agent, conversation, and channel level.

Real-Time Metrics and Reporting Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

Insights That Empower Decision-Making

Your contact center is dynamic and always changing. Your platform should be just as dynamic, arming you with the information you need to make important decisions on staffing, work allocation, and training. This includes a real-time view of contact center performance across all channels, including important metrics like the volume of incoming customers, service level agreements, and average wait time, a quick snapshot view of your most important contact center metrics without requiring you to toggle between multiple tabs and windows, a live view of agent activity as well as key agent-related metrics like total agent idle time, utilized time, and overall productivity metrics, and the ability to surface dashboards to everyone on your team — from supervisors to agents — so they know where they stand and how the team is doing.

Question: Does your platform provide real-time metrics of how the contact center is performing across all the channels offered? Does it require refreshing the page to see the latest?

Question: Can users be taken to the interaction or conversation referred to in a specific metric? If so, please describe the user experience and types of metrics this applies to.

Question: Can your platform provide a real-time view of the status of agents at any given time? If so, please provide a screenshot of this view.

Question: Can your platform aggregate metrics across all channels in a single view?

Easy-to-Understand Reports

The contact center may be full of complex customer requests, but your platform should make it easy to understand how your contact center is performing and the topics that are trending in your customer service organization. Your platform should provide a historical view of how your channels and agents have performed and are performing, plus out-of-the-box reports that don’t require a data scientist to pull or decipher.

Prompt: Describe what agent metrics your platform can report on.
Question: How are you currently measuring agent work for omnichannel handle time and forecasting calculations?

Custom Insights and Reporting

To help answer operational questions and bring together hundreds of contact center, KMS, and team-based metrics, your customer service platform should provide a custom reporting and dashboard tool, out-of-the-box historical reports and dashboards, and real-time dashboards. It should also give full access to your metrics and reporting via export, APIs, or external streaming, enabling you to leverage the data for storage in your data warehouse ecosystem or within business insights tools outside of the platform when necessary.

Question: Do you provide out-of-the-box reports on our contact center and agent performance? Provide a list of all the out-of-the-box reports you provide.

Question: Does your platform support the export or external streaming of metrics and reporting?

Requirement 6. Fast Implementation and Ongoing Partnership

Customer service software providers should support their customers at every step, providing world-class implementation, technical support, and ongoing customer success that ensures growth for years to come.

Implementing your customer service platform shouldn’t feel arduous or cost an arm and a leg. Find yourself a trusted platform provider who is skilled and committed to being a partner from the first day of setup and beyond. Even better if they centralize implementation, onboarding, and ongoing support teams and manage everything in-house, which can help eliminate information silos, optimize time and effort, and ensure a long partnership built upon a deep understanding of your business and vision for service.

Implementation and Partnership Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

More Than a Product, It’s a Partnership

Implementing a customer service platform is far more than just plug-and-play. Your platform provider needs to ensure that you’re properly set up to promote both your current and future needs by creating a bespoke implementation plan that takes into consideration key factors like the channels you want to offer, how your teams are structured, and how work is managed in your contact center, managing implementation in-house, and having a proven record of providing great support up to and beyond go live, with a clear vision of how to take your contact center from where you are to where you want to be.

Prompt: Describe the initial configuration and implementation process for your platform. Is there a need for, or do customers typically rely on, third-party implementation partners to help with setup?

Question: How long does it typically take to configure and set up the platform?

Question: What kind of support can we expect to receive from you after the initial implementation and setup? Do you provide ongoing training for agents?

Fast Time to Value

It shouldn’t take long for you to experience the benefits a modern customer service solution can provide — like consolidated tech stack and decreased costs — because your provider should deploy an in-house implementation team that ensures you go live fast with a solution that fits your exact business needs.

Ongoing Success

Modern customer service providers know what it takes for customer service teams to succeed, which is why they should offer reliable technical support, a dedicated customer success team, seasonal support and pricing flexibility, and continuous delivery of custom reporting and insights.

Question: Describe how you support service requests.

Question: Define the process to escalate and resolve support-related issues.

Prompt: Describe how your platform is priced for seasonal or peak period agents.

Requirement 7. It Makes ‘Cents’

It has to make ‘cents’ — and dollars. Your customer service platform should help dramatically lower operational costs and drive customer loyalty by enabling personalized self-service, improving agent efficiency, and optimizing channel mix.

Great experiences create loyal customers, and loyal customers create opportunities for repeatable revenue from higher average order values, increased purchase frequency, and resistance to competition. Loyalty has the power to transform customers into brand advocates, who refer other customers and lower your acquisition costs. And with more self-service and automation, customers can help themselves more which dramatically lowers long-term costs.

Reduce Costs and Generate Revenue Requirements and Sample RFP Questions

Turn Your Contact Center Into a Revenue Center

Your customer service platform should empower agents with key customer information — such as their purchase history or preferred products — and enable them to make tailored upsell or cross-sell recommendations your customers are more likely to act on. It should also leverage AI and automation to empower customers to self-serve on digital channels, enhancing agent focus and productivity, and reducing call center operational costs.

Eliminate Service Waste

Your new customer service platform should consolidate your existing tech stacks to help remove work silos and streamline operations. This will help eliminate duplicate tickets and duplicate work and reduce agent collision, leading to more productivity and better efficiency in your contact center.

Question: Does your platform allow agents to securely collect payments over your messaging channels?

Question: Can your system assign specific customers to specific agents (or teams of agents) so that certain customers can always be routed to a designated primary agent?

Question: Can you identify which of your customers have a high purchase intent, and route them to a specific agent?

Transform Your Customer Service With Gladly

We’ve come a long way from the time when the main lines of support from a company came through phone or email. With modern channels and the widespread adoption of AI, today’s contact centers are challenged with adapting to the forward march of technology and rising consumer expectations.

How Gladly Can Help

Modern customers want a modern customer service experience. That means the freedom to reach out how and when they want, the option to self-serve, and the ability to seamlessly transition between the various channels they use to communicate with your brand. And they want you to remember who they are and what they prefer, and for you to tailor their experience accordingly.

But legacy platforms that focus on single channels or manage customer issues according to case or ticket numbers aren’t equipped to help you provide the level of service that customers today are looking for.

At Gladly, we set out to reinvent customer service to help facilitate the types of deeply personal and human experiences that lead to long-term loyalty. Instead of routing tickets and cases, we route people and, with them, their entire history of conversations and interactions. That means agents see a complete view of the customer they’re interacting with, and can use those details to provide the seamless, omnichannel experience that today’s customers desire.

To learn more or get started with Gladly, book a demo with our dedicated team of experts.

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