Deciding to take the plunge to outsource to a call center is a major decision. Turning over the critical function of customer interaction to a third party carries with it inherent risks. But those risks can be managed correctly, enabling the advantages of call center outsourcing to be realized.
The first consideration is matching your program, corporate and brand needs to the experience, skill and cost level of the call center provider. What skill level is required of the customer service representatives who will work on your program? How long is the training period they will need? Is it relatively difficult or easy to explain your product service, to help customers process orders?
If your program requirements are relatively straightforward, calibrate your needs to the cost and skills offered by the outsourcer. You don’t want to overpay for call center outsourcing.
On the other hand, if your program is relatively complicated, be sure to ask for references and then speak to contacts at client companies in some level of detail to determine if the prospective call center outsourcing partner can provide the skill level you require.
The second consideration is the call center’s IT infrastructure and its IT experience and capabilities. One of the key benefits of call center outsourcing is avoiding investment in high-end infrastructure and technology. Most advanced call centers these days utilize cloud-based technology that can be integrated with virtually any back-end CRM system. If you have the knowledge to thoroughly assess the call center’s IT infrastructure, then put them through their paces. If you lack that knowledge, then once again rely on references whose programs are at your relatively level of complexity, and discuss in detail the call center’s IT support capabilities.’
It’s also critical that the call center’s IT organization has a demonstrated track record of responsiveness to change requests and to building custom, detailed reports.
Another benefit of outsourcing is the time and cost savings in hiring and training staff. But that also means the provider must have good hiring and training practices. Ask what their criteria are for new employees. Ask for career profiles of the representatives and account managers who will be assigned to your program. Ask if the call center has a training partner, and if the call center invests money and time with that partner in the ongoing staff skill development.
Make sure the call center has vertical industry experience in your market sector – or, at minimum, relatively close and transferable experience. If, for example, you are in the medical device field and your product or service has life- and mission-critical implications for patients, then you must make sure the call center has a proven ability to respond and process customer requests within the timeframe you require. If you are a retailer with a service that results in a high number of angry customer calls, make sure your call center is able to reliably staff such a program.
Finally, put a spotlight on the prospective call center partner’s billing methodology. You will want a transparent approach in which there are no hidden charges. Most bills should be relatively simple and delivered on a single sheet of paper. Ask to see several sample invoices, and then, when you speak to the call center’s client references, validate that they are happy with their vendor’s approach to billing. Nothing spoils a outsourcing partnership faster than extra or unexpected charges.
Mark Fichera, CEO
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