It is no news that outsourcing has countless benefits for a business. When you outsource, it means you no longer have to worry about hiring, training, re-training, monitoring, ongoing employee management and other related tasks that are involved in running a call centre. By outsourcing your customer support to an offshore call center, you are effectively circumventing real estate costs, cost of maintaining backup resources, employee benefits, management cost and other overheads, thus allowing you to convert your fixed expenditure into variable costs, freeing your capital for investment in more revenue-producing activities in your business. It increases efficiency and helps you to shift focus from peripheral activities to your core business. In nutshell, outsourcing helps you stay lean, mean and in the green!
If it is all so promising then why do so many businesses pull back from outsourcing and complain of poor experience? While in some cases it is certainly true that some unscrupulous outsourcing companies oversell their capabilities or underestimate the complexities of the project just to bag the contract and grossly underdeliver. Some impose hidden costs that bring the entire industry a bad name but if your outsourcing arrangement does not function well even with a genuine and experienced outsourcing company, you have to dig a little beneath the surface and ask yourself why.
Here are some tips to help you make outsourcing work for your business :
Don’t treat outsourced call centers like third-party vendors, work with them like partners
For a relationship to work, both sides have to put in an effort. Outsourcing is no different. If you reckon that your job is over once you outsourced, the relationship is doomed. Your outsourced call center does require your initial support to get trained and learn your business, just the way your in-house team does. In fact, the more your outsourced call center involves you in initial training, the better, as it creates transparency. You get more visibility in how your outsourced call center works and get a chance to interact with the team that will eventually work on your account. This way you also ensure that knowledge migration happens accurately and smoothly first hand.
Don’t misconstrue handholding for spoonfeeding though. If that’s what your outsourcing partner expects, move on!
At LiveSalesman, while we encourage our clients to actively participate in training, we don’t over-depend on them for execution. We invest considerable time in comprehending each and every aspect of our client’s business and make sure that we work like their extended team, just offshore but completely hands-on!
Set clear objectives, scope and service levels
In absence of clear objective and defined scope, your outsourced calll center will be groping in the dark wondering what they are expected to do until one day you declare that they are falling short of expectations! But ask yourself- did you clearly lay out the expectations? If not, both sides are bound to lose out and indulge in the unsightly blame game for the time, money and effort that is wasted.
This often happens when businesses randomly delegate the responsibility of signing up an outsourced call center to a person who is neither directly responsible for customer service nor has any understanding of what their business is trying to achieve through the outsourced call center.
Set clear objectives for your outsourced call center. Have clarity on what you want them to accomplish- focus on improving your customer experience, generate leads and sales and simply act as your answering service to collect the message.
Don’t push your outsourced call center to assume more responsibility which is way beyond the scope of work you defined while signing up just because you wish to extract the maximum value. You may not get the desired results and may wrongly judge them as incompetent. If you want them to take on more responsibilities, evaluate their multi-tasking capabilities and bandwidth and then decide on how to do it.
Have defined procedures
You should define a clear set of guidelines, expectations and processes for your outsourced call center so that there is uniformity in how they handle different customer service scenarios across the team. Well defined procedures not only make sure that no discrepant information is floating around but also helps you manage the quality of service rendered. Unambiguous rules for escalation ensure that you are not having to handle issues that can easily be handled by your outsourced call center and that your outsourced call center team is not stepping beyond the authority you have allowed them.
At LiveSalesman, we help our clients streamline and define procedures if they don’t have already have them in place.
Have a dedicated point of contact and have an open communication channel
It is obvious that your call center team will invariably have questions or escalations they will need your help or guidance on. There should be a single point of contact from the beginning of the project who is responsible to coordinate with the call center and answer all their questions. Needless to say, if you have too many people managing your outsourced call center or none at all to answer their questions or attend to their escalations promptly, there will be chaos. Delayed responses to customers, inconsistent information is imparted- all of which will inevitably lead to degraded quality and subsequently customer frustration.
You should communicate with your outsourced call center regularly, set up a weekly or monthly call to review their performance and help them improve by sharing constructive feedbacks instead of exploding on them with scathing criticising. Ask for reports proactively if not given access already. Regular feedbacks make sure that mistakes don’t pile up. If the errors are repetitive despite your efforts, it is time to break up.
Allow it time
Just the way your in-house call center can’t be up and running and performing perfectly from the first day, your outsourced call center team also needs to be allowed the required learning curve. True, due to geographical separation and cultural difference odds are stacked against an outsourcing arrangement but these are initial hiccups which are soon overcome. Outsourced call centers are professionals and they know how to bridge this gap in the shortest time possible and deliver the expected results. In the long run, outsourcing is beneficial than having the in-house team for all the reasons mentioned above.
Outsourcing is undoubtedly the right approach and has substantial benefits to an organization, provided you take the time to properly plan, structure and execute. If you are contemplating the idea of outsourcing, there may never be a better time!