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The 9 Best Questions to Ask When Evaluating Contact Center Vendors to Avoid Hidden Fees

by Shaundalee Carvalho | Published On June 13, 2022

Everyone knows that great customer service is important to any business. Naturally, that means that the contact center you use for customer service is an important decision to make. With so many options out there, and the pressure of knowing your organization’s customer service depends on it, it can be a tough decision. The process can be complicated and time-consuming, so it can be especially disappointing when you think you’ve found the perfect solution, only to realize that there are hidden fees that will make it cost more than expected.

Knowing the right questions to ask when evaluating your options can help you fully understand what’s included in a vendor’s offering so you can avoid hidden fees and make an informed decision. Read on to learn 9 questions you should ask contact center vendors when evaluating your options.

Are agent licenses for named or concurrent agents?

Agents may be licensed per concurrent user or per named user. To understand the true cost of your contact center licenses, it’s essential to understand the difference between the two, and understand which model your prospective vendor uses. The named agent model requires a license for every individual user who ever logs into your contact center, no matter how many of them are logged in at any one time. The concurrent model only requires as many licenses as there are users logged in at the same time.

If your contact center operates on a single shift with a full-time staff, the number of named licenses required will probably be about the same as the number of concurrent licenses. However, if your organization has multiple contact center shifts per day or has several part-time staff sharing full-time hours, the number of named licenses your organization requires is likely much higher than the number of concurrent licenses. In these cases, if you think you’ve found a great deal on concurrent licenses and then discover it’s named pricing and you’ll need a higher quantity, your costs could rise significantly.

Are there any per-minute usage fees for inbound or outbound calls?

There are a variety of pricing models that contact center vendors use. While a quote may show prices for agent license or for concurrent capacity, that may not be the whole story. Vendors may charge usage fees as well, meaning that monthly costs may vary. To get an accurate picture of what monthly costs will look like, you’ll need to understand any applicable usage fees, as well as what your organization’s average usage would be.

What fees will apply if we go over our bucket of minutes?

Alternatively to a per-minute usage model, some organizations may charge a base price for a specified bucket of time. If your organization’s usage is fairly stable and usually stays within the specified bucket, this model may work for you. However, if your usage is highly variable and likely to often go over the bucket of time, you’ll need to understand what overage fees may apply.

Are there any one-time upfront fees for setup?

While monthly recurring fees may be your main focus when considering a solution’s cost, upfront fees cannot be ignored. Ensure that all applicable upfront fees are included in any quotes you receive from potential vendors.

Are network fees included?

There are multiple costs that need to be accounted for when purchasing a contact center. Firstly, a vendor must charge for the licensing of their own product. Secondly, there are telephony fees paid to carriers for network connectivity. A contact center vendor may pay these fees to the carrier directly and pass the cost along to the buyer (either included in the license cost or as a separate line item on their quote), or they may require the buyer to acquire telephony on their own.

Telephony fees can make up a large portion of the total cost for a contact center. Therefore, it’s important to understand what network fees have been included and what fees, if any, you will have to incur beyond the price paid to the contact center vendor.

Are Direct Inbound Dialing numbers (DIDs) included? If so, how many?

For every one of your organization’s phone numbers that reach the contact center, carrier charges apply. Ensure that there are no hidden fees by asking the vendor if these charges are included in their licensing costs or if you will need to pay for them separately.

What is included in the agent bundle?

With the rise in popularity of third party integrations and non-voice modalities like instant messaging, social media, and more, agent license costs can vary greatly, depending on what is covered by the license. To avoid hidden fees later, ask your vendor what all is included in the agent license cost. Find out if it’s for voice only or if it includes other modalities as well; check to see if it includes any applicable integrations or if the license cost increases with the addition of a CRM or workforce management integration.

How much will it cost to add new modalities in the future?

If you decide to start with a voice-only contact center and add modalities like IM or email later, you should understand in advance what those future costs will look like. If you sign a contract for a voice-only contact center and realize too late that the cost to add new modalities exceeds your budget, you could end up stuck without your desired modalities for the remainder of your contract.

 What options are available for future workflow changes?

Organizational needs are constantly changing. There’s a good chance that changes will need to be made to your contact center in the future, whether it’s adding new queues, implementing skill-based routing or something else. Some of these solutions will be easier than others. If you have an in-house team with the skills and interests to make changes themselves, find out what kind of training is available so that you can save money on professional services in the future. If you don’t have the resources in-house, find out what types of professional services are available from your vendor and how much they’ll cost.

Finding a new contact center vendor can be tough, especially when you don’t know what questions to ask. These 9 questions will help you better understand a contact center vendor’s product and pricing, allowing you to avoid hidden fees and find the right solution at the right price point for your organization. For more information on evaluating contact center vendors, check out 7 Things to Consider When You’re Choosing Your Next Contact Center Solution.

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