Research firms report that call center outsources revenues were $11.2 billion in 2006 and are expected to grow to $16 billion by 2012. Outsourcing can be an emotional decision for a company, particularly when it involves something as mission-critical as managing customer relationships. While the decision to outsource should not be taken lightly it doesn’t have to be something to fear. If you’re considering outsourcing this paper is designed to help you develop an outsourcing strategy that will help ensure a successful experience.
Outsource Planning Strategy
Choosing the right telephone partner is critical. From the RFP stage to site tours and references, you can do all the research. But, you only want to choose once. And, the telephone partner you select becomes an extension of your business, and your sales goals. So, it is important to make your first selection your best selection.
For nearly 40 years we have provided telephone sales partnership to clients. We have learned a thing or two of what make s our partner- clients a success, and how they choose Phone Ware to represent their business. Our best clients started with planning the strategy, for key elements. Here are some key elements in planning the right outsource strategy :
- Examine your current infrastructure
- Will your outsource partner be an extension of a current division or department or will they be a standalone or replacement department vital to your organization’ s success?
- What are your current internal resources? This applies to people and technology. Are you able to hire and keep skilled agents in your area of expertise?
- Is your technology current and more importantly are you willing to keep up to date on the most recent technology to best serve your customer base?
- What will you outsource? If you have a variety of call center functions such as sales, customer service, basic order taking, etc, then determine what you want to outsource, any or all?
- Evaluate your current performance levels. Measurement of current levels is a critical step because it will allow you to determine project management benchmarks with your outsource partner.
- Identify your particular needs. Specific requirements such as extremely large volume or strong automated response experience automatically narrow the candidate field. Make a list of what your basic “have to have” requirements are in an outsource partner.
You’ve Made the Decision to Outsource, Now What?
Planning is the most essential element to a successful outsource program, yet is the most often overlooked. Your outbound telephone partner will only be as successful as the plan. Here are the basics to creating an outsource plan.
- Start with a good business model. Be certain you have a well- defined call center business model with reasonable target metrics. You may need to work with outside talent for this. Be prepared to share this with your outsourcer so that they have an opportunity to help the partnership succeed. A good outsourcing partner will have to understand your core business model in order to fully contribute as a partner.
- Plan well. Be sure to have a written plan with specific dates, deliverables and a set of ‘success milestones’ that escalate from modest results to desired results. It will be just as important to you as it will be to the outsourcer to know what is expected and what is to be achieved. A six to twelve-week plan laying out accomplishments, spending, and ROI is reasonable. Parties should clearly understand their respective roles and responsibilities within this timeline. There should also be a plan for expansion after the testing/transition phase.
- Define your commitment to the project in advance. Don’t lose focus at the first sign of trouble. But don’t get buried in a deep hole either. I suggest that you clearly understand your 4 limits prior to beginning the project. If you are starting a project for the first time, there will be a learning curve. The goal should be that your outsourcer’s thinking and your thinking are aligned and all parties are prepared to respond quickly and adapt within the boundaries of your plan.
- Choose well. Select a partner with experience, integrity, stability. Close proximity should be the tiebreaker if the first three are a match. In addition, be sure both parties agree that the calling application and business model are realistic and achievable.
- Develop a good compensation model. I am a big advocate that the best compensation models are in alignment with both client and outsourcer needs. This usually boils down to a modest variable rate and heavy performance-based incentives. Obviously, both parties should understand th at the arrangement has to be a win for all… oddly enough, that’s not always the case. See # 4 abov
- Be there . Get involved with the program you are outsourcing and be prepared to send and receive information with an open mind. At a minimum, be part of the training, do regular remote monitoring, and insist on call calibration sessions with the outsourcer and their agents. The outsourcer will bring many of the tactical and developmental tools, but you should be prepared to contribute domain knowledge and quality specs.
- Expect the expected. If you have a process problem with your project internally or have had one in the past, you will likely still have that problem when you outsource if nothing else has changed. Don’t expect that outsourcing will eliminate your challenges. Address them head-on with the outsourcer. Staffing problems, legal costs, and other overhead burdens should all be addressed upfront. It’s also a good step toward mutual respect and trust required for long-term success.
- Do n’t suffocate the project. Let the experts handled much of the ‘who’ and ‘how’ while you focus on the ‘when’ and ‘what’. Checkpoint objectives must be achieved, but beyond that, let the Outsourcer do their job.
PLAN, PLAN, and PLAN again. Seriously if you’ve learned anything here planning is the key to success. Do your homework up front, determine if and what you’ll outsource and then find a partner who shares your vision and can deliver.
Don’t be afraid to ask your potential partner for referrals before the ink is dry on the contract and do your part, call them. It all circles back to planning, preparing and executing well. If you’re unsure get expert help. There are many call center consulting firms that can help, investing now will s ave you money and headache later.