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Outsourcer: What to look for on your on-site visit

19th Nov 2019
TLC Associates
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The responses to your contact center RFP can help you develop a strong sense of which partners can deliver on their promises to increase your revenue and public perception. Yet don’t let your instincts alone make the final call for you. Protect your investments by visiting one of their contact centers first.

The challenge is spotting quality when you see it. Though there aren’t certified contact center inspectors to verify your observations, you can come prepared with penetrating questions and examinations. Get the most from your on-site contact center by watching for all of the following conditions in your outsourced contact center partner. 

Watch Out for Security Best Practices

Any outsourced partner (no matter the type of service) should have your security on their minds. Plenty of high-profile data breaches started with a careless vendor failing to take the proper security precautions. How your partner approaches both their network infrastructure and their contact center floor protocols have direct bearing on your security.

During your visit, watch for signs that the center is safeguarding the data of their current clients. Our own visitors are advised about the preventative measures we take to protect our clients and are expected to comply with the following rules (no exceptions):

  • Cameras and recording equipment are prohibited from our centers
  • Personal devices may not be used on the contact center floor
  • When not on the contact center floor, visitors can only access Wi-Fi through guest network

Clear security precautions, mentioned in advance and honored during the visit, indicate a contact center’s commitment to total security. Whether you’re in an industry with strict security regulations (think healthcare customer service or BFSI customer support) or just want to save your business millions in lost sales and legal fees, this level of scrutiny is a must.

Get a Sense of Their Work Atmosphere

Contact center work often is not for everyone. Outsourced contact center agents are expected to deliver remarkable experiences at a fast-paced, often demanding cadence. The right people will thrive in this atmosphere – but only if their employer strives to provide them with extensive resources and treats engagement as a priority. That’s why you need to remain attuned to the energy of a potential partner’s workplace during your on-site contact center visit.

What should you try to observe? The following signs show a healthy contact center environment:

  • Comfortable settings – Just because your outsourced agents are at work doesn’t mean they should be uncomfortable. Ergonomic chairs and desks, warm lighting, and an inviting break room keep workers from getting bogged down.
  • General satisfaction – Watching the body language of contact center agents is another important indicator. Though some people will have a stressful day (we’ve all had one) and carry their tension in their body language, it shouldn’t be endemic. If there’s a sense of purpose in an outsourced contact center, there will be a general contentedness among the staff.
  • And watch out for how supervisors and coaches deal with agents. Are they noticing tension and trying to defuse it? If so, you’ve found the right contact center. 
  • A warm welcome – Are you greeted in a friendly manner when you walk through the door? Do people smile when they make eye contact, even if they’re in the middle of wrapping up a solution? Or are they heads-down, just trying to endure the day? When there’s warmth, it comes across in every action – impacting public perception of your brand and your bottom line.

If you have time, ask your tour-giver to describe what sets their company culture apart. It’ll help you recognize if their principles influence real-world morale and performance or if they’re hollow words.

Listen in on a Coaching Session

Exceptional contact center service never settles for the status quo. Agents, supervisors, and leadership dedicate themselves to ongoing improvement, making a concerted effort to learn, change, and grow every day. Yet their self-betterment requires a framework of formal trainings and informal coaching to succeed.

Though you might not be able to sit in on a training during your on-site contact center visit, there’s always an agent receiving coaching. Whether the session covers their cumulative work or feedback on their last interactions, you can learn a great deal about the center through these conversations. And most contact centers welcome potential clients to view a training. When they do, be sure to watch for the following qualities in the session:

  • The feedback is constructive – With harsh feedback, people survive – they don’t thrive. When agents are thriving, they’ll go the extra mile for your brand and your customers. That’s why coaching conversations should focus on the wins, as well as the opportunities, and the methods for improvement, as well as the mistakes.
  • Average handle time (AHT) isn’t mentioned – This is a clear coaching faux pas. AHT is only useful for resource planning sessions or workforce utilization conversations. In a one-on-one with an agent, focusing on this metric often undercuts all the other good work that is being done.
  • Feedback is tied into other KPIs – Beyond AHT, your agents should be familiar with how their actions directly impact the overall program. Coaches should mention actions in relation to customer satisfaction, first call resolution, and other customer service metrics.

When a training is over, try to dig into the reasoning behind coaching strategy with your guide. If they can explain the big picture thinking, then you’ll be certain that you are both on the same page.

Check Out the Technology

If working with contact centers is new to you, you likely aren’t going to be able to differentiate the software lemons from the Lamborghinis. Yet your partner still should be willing to clarify any questions and make the tools at their disposal comprehensible. Keep these questions in mind as you take the tour with the contact center vendor.

Will your software integrate with our internal tools? Not all technology plays well with others. Yet it’s vital for contact center software to integrate seamlessly with a variety of other systems. Ask whether your CRMs, social platforms, and other systems are designed to connect without hassle. If not, ask if they have an internal team dedicated to threading the needle and loading essential data sources into their platform.

Is the UI easy to use? Every program has its own learning curve, but new agents shouldn’t need a PhD in computer science to operate software as intended. Without much effort, your guide should be able to explain the basics of the software, show you a trial interaction, and convey the client benefits of using this tool.

Moreover, watch the ways in which agents are interacting with the technology. If they seem frustrated by an element of the interface or functionality, it’s a bad sign for your future partnership. Your vendor is only as good as their vendors, and the right partner settles for nothing shy of elite performance.

How are Brands Represented

Brands are like fingerprints: each is different and unique. As you move between different teams on your tour, you should notice variations in the energy, culture, and approach to solutions. That’s a reflection that the team for each project internalizes the specifics of the brand, industry, and type of service.

If you take the time to ask members of each team about the brand promise and beliefs of their client, they should be able to articulate what they are – and how their actions fulfill those values for clients.

Want to see an exceptional partner first-hand? Schedule an on-site contact center visit at one of our TLC locations and prepare to be wowed!

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