June 20, 2014 - Relying on a third party call center services provider to handle that most valuable of business interactions – talking, emailing and chatting with customers – requires a leap of faith that many customer services, sales, marketing and operations managers find difficult to make.
Who can blame them? Good customer service helps ensure return business from existing customers, generates good word-of-mouth conversations and positive peer reviews on social media. It maximizes average order size and generates additional upselling and cross-selling revenue. And it includes the effective expression of a company’s brand.
On the other hand, using an outsourced call center has obvious advantages: extending customer service coverage beyond the hours of operation of the in-house call center; a more flexible and scalable customer service workforce that can be added to or shrunk at short notice based on fluctuating call volume, less investment in call center telephone systems and IT infrastructure; and savings on personnel.
But how can a company overcome the outsourced call center’s geographical separation, how can its customer service quality and productivity be tracked and examined?
The short answer: demand transparency and accountability.
This can be achieved in several ways. First and foremost: require that all phone calls, emails and live chats are captured, recorded and easily accessed. There is no better way to make sure that the representatives at your outsourced provider understand lessons learned during training than to hear them in action dealing with your customers.
Second, get the managers at your outsourcer to allow you to visit the call center any time you would like and walk among the agents working on your behalf. Also use these visits to meet with your team of representatives and account managers. A good call center program is an iterative process – you and your call center should continually refine the program to ensure that your brand is being well represented and that the greatest efficiencies are being delivered.
Another tool for transparency is a program dashboard or portal, which enables the client to view real-time call volume data and call center performance, such as average talk time (ATT), speed-to-answer, abandonment rate, total handle time, first time resolution and other key metrics.
In addition, the basis of any good outsourced partnership is a detailed Service Level Agreement (SLA) written into the contract. In it, the client lists all of the performance requirements that it expects of the service provider. In return, the provider should generate detailed, frequent reports that measure its work against the specifics of the SLA.
Another key aspect of accountability is open, daily communications between the client and the call center’s program managers. There should be an open phone line between them, and they should develop a close working partnership.
While many companies believe in quarterly business reviews (QBRs), much more frequent calibration sessions between the client and call center provider is highly recommended – monthly or weekly, based on program need and preference.
Call center service providers should be highly transparent, accountable and measurable if the client partnership is to be a successful one. When assessing a third-party call center, make sure transparency is one of their core company values.
Mark Fichera, CEO