Call Center Outsourcing Services: How to Choose the Right Contact Center Vendor
Deciding to outsource your call center activities is a smart way to keep your focus on what really matters – running your business! But, it only works if you choose the right vendor. If you aren’t careful, you could end up with more headaches than the outsourcing is worth.
In this article, we will share the call center outsourcing best practices that lead to the most successful contact center projects. We will also go over a few red flags to look out for at the beginning of a project as well. Taken together, they can help keep your outsourcing project on the right path.
How to Choose the Right Contact Center Vendor
Choosing the right call center vendor is one of the most important decisions your business can make. The ability to work within your budget and schedule is an absolute starting point, but there are additional considerations you need to cover when choosing a contact center vendor. Below are different factors to consider that can make the decision easier for you.
1. Open and Honest Communication
The best business relationships start with open and honest communication. When you are transparent from the very beginning, both parties can start to align their expectations realistically and begin to build trust as those expectations are fulfilled.
Your outsourcer should be clear about the issues they identify in meeting your contact center program requirements. Likewise, you need to be open about the causes of any frustrations and any contributing factors. Your relationship, and the solution will be stronger as a result.
2. Be Clear
Clarity is important. You need to make sure that you are giving your vendor all of the information they need to be effective. Define what success means in the context of your efforts to improve your contact center activities and explain that definition to potential contact center vendors. Your outsourcer will more easily meet, even exceed your expectations when they know what they are.
In turn, expect them to be professional and fact-based. Remember, your call center outsourcing vendor doesn’t know your situation at first, or the root of any issues in your back office. Your information and honesty helps them get up to speed as much as possible. After the project starts, expect them to check-in regularly. Make sure you understand their reporting and that your feedback is clear, actionable, and objective. Your vendor will appreciate your candor.
3. Expect Setbacks
Complex projects are bound to have minor setbacks. On your side of the table, you need to accept that there will be the occasional bump in the road. Don’t panic; plan for it. At GCS, we find that conducting “pre-brief” exercises help the team envision things that could help or hurt project implementation. There is a good one here. Try it for yourself. The outcomes can be illuminating.
4. Accept Your Call Center Outsourcer as Part of Your Team
No contact center vendor will be successful by working in a vacuum. An outsourcer who has taken the time to learn your business’s needs, expectations, and future plans will want to treat your business like their own – and you should let them.
Keep in mind that your success is their success. It is in no one’s best interest for your vendor to fail in providing your call center services.
Bringing an outsourcer “into the fold” increases ownership of your company’s success and that only benefits you. Make the effort to invite key members of the vendor staff to visit your company and meet the key people who own the customer-facing relationship. This face-to-face commitment deepens the vendor’s appreciation of your company. That in turn, helps them to personalize your brand and better share that passion with the contact center staff.
Once the program is underway, make sure you visit the center regularly. Seeing the client on the floor, hearing them share success stories, and listening to them discuss pain points increases the connection the center staff has to your company and makes it easier to share your culture with your customers.
5. Commit to Change
Improvement does not come without change, so be prepared. When you demonstrate an expectation for ongoing improvement, you open the door for a great outsourcer to help you do just that.
Commit to making regular improvements in the way your company does things. Don’t be surprised if your call center vendor likes to tweak procedures often, especially in the beginning. Also, be ready to loosen the grip on some of your longest-held processes. They may unwittingly have a negative effect on your contact center and your customers’ experiences. Listen openly to the vendor’s reasoning based on their experience and best practices. A good vendor should also serve as a consultant to you in their area of expertise.
It is a good idea to schedule formal meetings, at least quarterly, to focus on where the program needs to go. This gives you the opportunity to set goals and key objectives to focus on in the next period. You can also use it as a time to get feedback from your vendor.
6. Be Disciplined, But Flexible
Be realistic with the center about your forecasted volumes and your performance expectations. A great company establishes audacious goals. It plans carefully to achieve its goals, but it also willing to amend and improve the plans when necessary. When course changes are required, they adapt rapidly and easily and keep their eyes on their goals.
Give your vendor the latitude to be great on your behalf. Also, keep them in the loop for upcoming seasonal trends, promotions, product launches, and the like so staffing is available. They have the ability to ramp up or down to meet your customer demands and your outreach needs.
You need to listen as well. Your vendor has been working in contact centers for longer than you have. Listen to their suggestions for utilizing other channels and self-service techniques. They may have insights that can help your business and save you money.
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7. Have a Playbook
Whether you call it a roadmap or a playbook, having written direction that’s been vetted by the necessary stakeholders in your company will be a boon to your outsourcer. A great contact center vendor can use it to help plot the course of your project.
If you don’t have a playbook, now is a great time to get started. You can use the RFP process to have potential contact center vendors outline plans for you. You will be able to see how much input your outsourcing candidates like to see before they get started, how well they understand the steps in your business, and how thorough they are in developing a written plan of action.
8. Manage Change
Finally, make sure that you pay attention to the need for change management as you select and incorporate a contact center services vendor.
If you have not outsourced your call center activities before, keep in mind that you need to prepare for it internally. A good vendor will help you get ready for the change.
For companies that are switching vendors, make sure you have a process in place to manage the move. We have seen times when the old center partner “gives up” and sets a program on “coast” or worse, brings short-term harm to the client’s reputation. Prevent this from happening to you by being upfront with the old vendor and making it clear that you are holding them accountable through the end of the contract. Be firm, but realistic; performance may decline and it may not be just the vendor. You can mitigate these transition risks by discussing the transition timeline with your new vendor and having an emergency plan in place to move quicker if required.
9. Roadblocks to Contact Center Outsourcing Success
When it comes to contact center outsourcing, there are several things that can sabotage your success. Company culture, organizational structure, politics, lack of transparency, and many other factors can make finding the best outsourcer for your company difficult.
Best practices help you get to the right place, but you still need to watch out for roadblocks. If best practices are like driving directions, learning how to handle red flags is tantamount to knowing how to change a tire, watching for brake lights, and paying attention to road conditions.
To successfully find the best contact vendor for your project, you need to eliminate the following roadblocks to your success.
10. No Distinct Decision Makers
Make a list of your project’s stakeholders, then divide it into two parts: influencers and decision makers. Before you reach out to a single contact center vendor, get the opinions of your influencers. An “open comment” period with a firm endpoint should push influencers to offer their insights on your timetable, and without last minute confusion and course changes. Next, make it clear who the decision makers will be, and let it stand. You need to have people that you can hold accountable for the success of the outsourced program.
11. Poor Preparation
You also need to establish what it is that you are trying to achieve, exactly. Your outsourcer will not be able to meet your business objectives if you don’t define them so, before vendor selection, be sure that you completely understand your company’s business objectives.
Remember too that a great outsourcer will want to learn your company inside and out. Be prepared to help them become an expert on your company’s services, products, customers and strategic objectives.
12. No Real Buy-In
In our years of experience delivering highly-effective contact centers, we’ve found that a make-or-break difference between outsourcers is ownership. Your choice of call center services vendor should be as invested in your success as much as you do.
When you choose GCS, we invest in our clients’ outcomes absolutely. We put all of our resources on the line, including our talent in management, marketing, human resources, and technology. Our ethics and objectives are clearly stated, and we share detailed information about how and what we do. Without that level of buy-in, you don’t know what you are getting, and that’s just bad business.
13. Creeping Scope
This one can be tricky, because it applies to everyone on both sides of the relationship. Mission creep can happen easily. It starts with a little bending and it compounds from there. If you aren’t careful, your scope will snowball, leaving you or your vendor unhappy.
On the one hand, beware of outsourcers who try to expand their role (and their retainers) by influencing aspects of your business without having put in the time to support this level of involvement. This could come in the form of a sweeping software solution or a systemic overhaul beyond your center’s needs.
On the other hand, beware of internal stakeholders who see your outsourcer as a general “fix it” person for company difficulties. You are contracting with your vendor for specific activities and objectives. Don’t ask your outsourcer to provide more than what they have bargained for.
Finding the Right Contact Center Outsourcer
If you can follow the best practices outlined above and stay alert for red flags during the selection process your chances of choosing a partner who will green light your expectations and help you achieve your goals will increase exponentially.
The Difference Experience Makes
At GCS, we’ve successfully run contact centers for dozens of companies across various industries. Whether shared or dedicated facilities, these experiences have given us real insight into what makes a successful call center outsourcing engagement. That’s the difference experience makes. That’s the GCS difference. See what we can do for you.
The Complete Call Center Outsourcing Guide
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