Posted January 31, 2017
When you think of contact center outsourcing, what’s the first image that comes to mind? Chances are, it’s one of those shiny stock photos of smiling agents talking on headset-style phones.
That’s because the contact center outsourcing industry started with a single channel alone: voice-based customer care, where you dial an 800 number and wait in a queue for a friendly customer service representative to pick up and assist you with your concern.
Of course, times have changed. The ubiquity of smart phones, smart watches and tablets enables customers to communicate with brands on the go, and across channels, including Facebook, Skype, Twitter and Instagram, among many others. Brands now maintain dedicated customer care programs in web chat, video chat, social media, self-service, email, text message and more.
Still, despite changing times, phone support stands to retain its title of lord of all channels for the foreseeable future, at least in North America. Though digital channels are growing and will likely overtake voice, a 2015 study by Dimension Data showed voice customer support comprising 65 percent of all contact center interactions.
The benefits of outsourcing
If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt aware of the potential benefits of outsourcing – from the obvious cost savings, to the less obvious benefits of working with an experienced vendor that may be able to help you innovate and strengthen your brand.
Before considering all the nuances required to successfully outsource your non-voice support channels, here are some of the fundamental considerations when outsourcing your voice-based support:
Consideration #1 – Location, location, location (and its implications)
For outsourcing voice-based support, location is a critical factor. First of all, can you meet customer needs from a given time zone where a potential partner operates? Does your partner’s support team speak the correct languages to serve your customers, particularly if your customers speak a variety of languages?
Even more importantly, is the local culture consistent with both your company culture, as well as your customers’ culture? Some programs may require such a cultural affinity that onshoring is the only option. Will your customers object to talking to an agent with an accent, for example? If so, onshore is probably your best bet.
Other programs can be served by agents in nearshore locations like Guatemala and El Salvador, where minor accents are common, but where cultural affinity with the United States is very strong (El Salvador even uses the U.S. dollar).
Though quite removed geographically from North America, the Philippines is among the most westernized of all Asian countries. Labor costs are low, especially for a highly skilled workforce that is more than 90 percent proficient with American English, with minimal accent, according to Cushman and Wakefield’s 2015 BPO and shared services location index.
Consideration #2 –The culture factor
When assessing outsourcing partners, once you’ve determined a partner can meet your program’s technical needs, corporate culture becomes king. Finding the right fit is a blend of the right industry expertise and referenceable client experience, but it’s also about simple chemistry. Do you and your potential partner look at your brand the same way? Do they value what you value? Do you approach hiring and training in the same way? Do you agree on what an ideal agent profile for your account should look like?
One method of judging cultural alignment that can be especially telling: Do you agree on what KPIs you should measure to determine a program’s success? Instead of measuring Average Handle Time, which can encourage agents to rush a customer solution and drive up repeat calls, many top brands prefer to measure First Contact Resolution instead. Ask lots of questions, and you’ll slowly get a feel for the culture of your potential outsourcing partner. Of course, the best way to experience a contact center culture is to visit and see it for yourself. In advance of an in-person visit, take the time to view any video tours the company may have produced.
Consideration #3 –Integration of voice support with other channels
Making all your channels work together as a unit is imperative for improving and maintaining a great customer experience. Having a true omnichannel platform (preferably one that is cloud-based and scalable) enables agents to understand all of the interactions that may have led up to a given customer touch point.
Working with a partner that can provide an omnichannel technology solution doesn’t just enable you to personalize your interactions with customers. Through sophisticated data analysis, it also gives you greater visibility into the set of experiences that caused them to reach out in the first place. Has the customer already reached out via social media? Did they experience a long and frustrating chat session? These are the kinds of insights an omnichannel solution empowers you to glean – before the agent even picks up the phone to answer a call.
Even if omnichannel is a goal for down the road, it’s important to pursue relationships with outsourcers that can address your current and future technology needs. Because after everything is said and done, there is no special manual or magic wand to create a perfect outsourcing relationship. But with a few tips and the right strategy, you can consistently delight your customers.