Inside any organization, be it large or small, hundreds, if not thousands, of people make hundreds of decisions each year. Only a few are strategic, such as those that involve commitment through investments like specific products and services, innovation, operations management and customer service. Within the “customer service” banner, you would see a mishmash of functions and processes ranging from call center operations management to client surveys and customer service representative training. To effectively outsource call center operations, a company must analyze its internal client service practices, identify risks and benefits of outsourcing, develop an outsourcing plan, select service providers and implement the outsourcing plan.
Analyze Internal Customer Service Practices
Before implementing an outsourcing scheme, a company first must determine what its current practices are. Things to consider here include the client service staff hiring and termination practices, employee morale, training plans and customer surveys. Other elements a client service manager must heed are more amorphous, the kind of thing you cannot see but can feel if you do a quick investigation about the company’s brand position and find out that customers think they receive excellent or subpar service. In analyzing current internal practices, a business must give operational prominence to technology. In other words, it must use state-of-the-art software and equipment to track client feedback over time. In analyzing internal processes, an organization must heed things like client service delivery, best practices, global sourcing strategy and proper use of technology, says Mike McMenamin, an expert on call center operations outsourcing and a director at Information Services Group, a leading market intelligence firm.
Identify Risks and Benefits of Outsourcing
After poring over internal practices, a company must figure out the risks and benefits of call center operations outsourcing. Risks include operational inefficiency due to time zone difference as well as cultural divergence between clients and customer service representatives. Benefits run the gamut from lower salaries and overall reduced operational expenses to efficiency in processes as varied as customer delivery, response time and profitability tracking.
Develop an Outsourcing Plan
According to call center outsourcing connoisseurs Zeynep Aksin, Mor Armony and Vijay Mehrotra – all of whom are associated with New York University – an effective outsourcing plan must include things like forecasting, personnel scheduling, capacity planning and queuing. The last item is critical because that is how a business must strike the perfect balance between making customers wait for a few minutes and serve them as soon as possible.
Select Service Providers
Effectively outsourcing call center operations requires attention to detail, business savvy, an ear for cultural subtleties and a keen understanding of cross-border business practices. The last item explains why, for example, you would sometimes hear client service staff in a foreign country, say, India, speak impeccable English with an accent close to what you would perceive in Boston, Houston or Los Angeles. Besides cultural affinity, a company selects service providers based on criteria like financial solidity, regulatory compliance, reputation, market position and reputation.
Implement the Outsourcing Plan
After analyzing its internal practices, identifying its risks and benefits and selecting service providers, a company must implement its outsourcing plan. Noteworthy factors to include in the rollout range from staff training to interface integration to risk mitigation to service delivery to feedback tracking. Here the key goal is to make sure the company’s operations meddle nicely with the service provider’s processes, so that customers don’t feel like talking to someone at another company or that their calls are not handled in an effective and operationally efficient manner.
For a business, the decision to outsource call center operations is as strategic as operational. The company needs to make sure its outsourcing strategy meshes perfectly with its client service standards, lest patrons not understand how and when to contact the company for general questions or specific inquiries. To implement an effective outsourcing program, the organization must figure out what it currently does, determine operational problems it is facing, select the right outsourcing company to fix internal issues, and save cash in the long term.