Get Smart About Outsourcing
It's easy to consider potential cost savings of turning to contact center outsourcers, particularly when cash is tight. However, blindly looking at cost savings when could be a customer experience disaster, according to a recent report from Forrester Research.
The report, "Twelve Criteria For Contact Center Outsourcers," goes into greater depth regarding the three areas potential clients should consider when looking at outsourcers: organizational structure, use of technology, and customer support and internal processes.
Elizabeth Herrell, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, explains the genesis for the report came from conversations she had with uninformed buyers. "If you don't ask the right questions and default to cost, that's not the best deal," she says. "You don't want to go with the lowest cost with customers involved. You go with the vendor best equipped to service your consumers."
Herrell says the problem many companies face when starting to look for outsourcers is the people who would know the right questions to ask, customer service employees, are not involved in the process. "This is often delegated by senior managers to the likes of those in the purchasing department," she says. "They don't understand the right questions to ask, and may write a request for proposal but don't look at all of the requirements."
The 12 criteria Herrell believes to be essential for conducting a quality search are:
- company background;
- locations and agents;
- contact center infrastructure;
- quality assurance;
- training; and
- service level adherence.
Uninformed purchasing agents may be tempted to simply ask how many calls per hour they can perform -- even outsourcers don't want you to ask that question, Herrell says. She says it's important to look at a company's background because smaller companies with few clients could become less viable financially if some of its own customers are to leave. "Look for outsourcers that deal with companies similar to yours," she says. "That's a happier match than someone that ... doesn't have as deep an understanding of your industry and requirements as others."
Another point of importance is the type of technology an outsourcer can provide. Herrell says that proactive outsourcers understand that by supporting applications for multiple channels (http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/Editorial/Magazine-Features/In-More-Ways-Than-One-53699.aspx), they can get more clients. Companies looking for outsourcers should look for this as well. "It's good to expand services and be more effective in multichannel and multimodal integration to deliver a better customer experience," she explains.
Herrell's report is geared largely toward the consideration of outsourcers, but also emphasizes companies should look at their own internal processes first and consider if there are other viable options. These include
- filling in technology gaps;
- home agents;
- integrating Web and email response into contact center operations; and
- updating your interactive voice response system to a voice portal.
"Many contact centers are just spending far too much for operations," Herrell says. "The really wise companies are looking inside their operations first to see what they are and aren't doing well. It's possible to save 10 to 15 percent off of overhead expenses just by cleaning that up ... which could be more than enough to keep employees and run a more efficient organization."
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