Outsourcing and the customer experience
There can be no doubt that at times, outsourcing certain elements of a business can be a real shot in the arm, especially when it comes to the customer experience. Doing so can make things run more efficiently and effectively, it can save the organisation money, it can help engage staff and it can effect a change in overall direction.
But outsourcing is not a silver bullet. If an area of the business is failing, then outsourcing it is not suddenly going to turn things around. This rush to outsource is particularly true in areas such as the contact centre. So when is the right time to outsource, and what should a brand look for in its outsourcing partner?
An external perspective
Contact centres remain an important part of the modern customer experience, but they must constantly evolve and refine how they operate to keep delivering a superior customer experience. There have been advances such as Visual IVR and other solutions that make the concept of the single digital channel a reality and are breathing new life into the contact centre.
Keeping customer contact in-house is tempting. It allows a brand to retain control, is straight forward, initially cheaper and there are fewer opportunities for the brand to suffer through association with an outsourced contact centre.
But are the people that run and manage operations in a contact centre, necessarily the best-placed to understand how to improve it and make it fit-for-purpose? To decide whether or not a contact centre needs outsourcing, a 360 degree perspective is essential, and self-interest must be put to one side. This can be done internally, but is done better when using external help. Even if you ultimately decide to keep your contact centre in-house, external guidance can help make that decision for you.
Are you experienced?
If a brand decides that outsourcing its contact centre is the best way forward, then transparency should be at the top of the list when evaluating a partner. A brand should expect (and demand) assurances as to the quality of interactions with their customers. So a provider should be clear and transparent about: call volumes; the number of calls answered; how many calls are lost each day; and providing KPI scores each day to ensure things are as they should be.
Experience in your sector is also important. While best practice in an outsourced contact centre remains the same whatever the industry, there are nuanced differences between say an energy supplier and a travel firm. So what kind of customer base does your proposed provider have? Have they worked with other firms in your industry previously? If you can see firm evidence of success with these, then that is a good sign they could be the right fit for your business.
Single Digital Channel
Of course, perhaps the most significant factor for a provider is having the right technology. Anyone providing outsourced contact centre services needs to be able to demonstrate they can make use of advances like Visual IVR and the Single Digital Channel (SDC).
SDC gives a customer service agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers - voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.
It allows agents to deliver a much more efficient service and is a real asset to any firm wanting to deliver true next-generation customer experience. But such advances would not be so easily available should a brand choose not to outsource its contact centre, as providers can update to the latest technologies more effectively than in-house teams.
That’s why sourcing can be such a strong option for contact centres, delivering the most powerful technologies and helping to maintain the overall customer experience. The best option is an outcome-based commercial model, with a hybrid element of fixed and out performance / NPS-based bonus element, a much more likely win for both the brand and the provider.
Mike Hughes is MD at PeopleTECH and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked for and consulted companies such Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom on how best to deliver a first-class experience to their customers.