March 21, 2012
Outsourcing contact center operations helps organizations deliver better customer service. In Forrester’s recent survey of 304 North American and European network and telecommunications decision-makers, we found that nearly 20% have already outsourced some or all of their contact center seats or are very interested in doing so. Choosing to outsource should not be based on cost considerations alone. Select an outsourcer carefully. Outsourcers need to provide an environment that delivers quality customer service in a cost-effective manner. When looking for providers, evaluate their capability to:
- Onboard new customers. Outsourcers should be able to communicate a well-defined process and timeline for onboarding a new customer and articulate the commitments that both the outsourcer and the customer need to meet for a successful onboarding process. The outsourcer should also be able to guarantee phased service-level agreements (SLAs) for the length of the onboarding process.
- Report key metrics. Comprehensive reporting should accompany all engagements and should be available for review at any time. Identify the types of operational reports that you will have access to. Evaluate the ability to customize reports.
- Adhere to quality standards. Make sure that outsourcers comply with quality standards such as Six Sigma and the Customer Operation Performance Center (COPC) that provide guidelines for managing operations and that ensure consistency for delivering services.
- Maintain advanced technology platforms. Evaluate the breadth of communication channels the outsourcer supports (voice, email, chat, SMS, social, etc). Audit the contact center, workforce optimization, and business intelligence technologies used in order to determine their ability to deliver optimized customer service. Understand the outsourcer’s timeline for technology innovation.
- Provide a secure, redundant network. Outsourcers need to provide a secure, redundant network infrastructure to support high traffic volumes and withstand emergency situations like power outages or weather disruptions. Drill into their backup and failover capabilities to ensure continuity of operations.
- Attract agents with suitable skill sets. It is important that an outsourcer’s delivery location can attract agents with the right educational background and technical skills and who are familiar with the products or services that they will be asked to support.
- Coach and train agents. Contact centers have notoriously high turnover rates for personnel, which is typically attributed to the agent not having the knowledge and tools to effectively service customers, access to further skill development, or a defined career path.Look for outsourcers that offer comprehensive training in the products and skills agents need to support your customers and will provide continuous coaching throughout the agent’s career as well as career advancement opportunities.
- Invest in an ongoing partnership. Choose an outsourcer that will actively partner with you for the duration of the relationship, where both parties have a stake in the maintenance of a partnership. Some vendors offer formal contracts that explicitly state the rewards or penalties for achieving improved customer service and cost reduction outcomes.
Check out my recent report on outsourcing, which profiles eight very different outsourcing vendors: Alpine Access, Convergys, LiveOps, Sitel, TeleTech, Teleperformance, West and ACS, now a Xerox company.