The Request for Proposal (RFP) is usually the first step to selecting and procuring call center services with a new outsourcing partner, followed by a quote, consultation and purchase. Outsourcing partnerships require a smart communication strategy that begins during the RFP phase, and develops through the transition phase to normal operations.
Successful call center services outsourcing can be crucial to enabling organisations to develop their products and services, deliver operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
In this article we present some best practices we’ve identified for creating successful outsourcing partnerships.
1. Align outsourcing with strategic business vision
What are the critical elements of your call center services needs?
How will they help you achieve your business vision?
Answering these questions will support clarity in your negotiations with a third-party provider and when defining the Service Level Agreement (SLA). If one of your strategic goals is to enter new European markets, consider which markets will be most viable for your business and give yourself a timeframe, e.g. Enter new markets Ireland, UK, Hungary, Poland [by year] or within 3 years. You can then shortlist outsourcing providers who have the expertise and talent in those markets.
Other strategic goals could be:
Reduce customer wait times from 8 minutes to 4 minutes within 18 months
Increase first call resolution from 72% to 80% within 3 months
Reduce accounts receivable from 60 days to 30 days within 6 months
Once your outsourcing shortlist is established, it’s useful to request case studies from the BPO or managed solutions providers, to find out more about how they’ve supported their clients in meeting strategic goals relevant to yours.
2. Invest time and effort in the consultation stage
Developing a strong partnership with your outsourcing provider, and together, identifying the job to be done, involves a considerable learning process. Once your call center services provider understands your organisational beliefs and values, it’s easier for them to align the right talent with your organisational needs.
For example, you may need a new, fully managed contact center solution, to cross-sell your products to existing clients in Germany.
Let’s say you require: 50 German-speaking Customer Service Associates.
What type of background and experience will these people have?
Where will they be currently based?
What training will be provided, and its frequency?
What will the KPIs be?
By educating your call center services provider on how your business model operates and the standards of performance needed to help you deliver against your objectives, together, you’ll develop a clear vision of what success looks like.
Invest the time to test, stress test, and troubleshoot issues that could arise, therefore minimising the chances of confusion about each party’s role going forwards. Your Managed Solutions or BPO Provider will appreciate the input because it will reduce the chances of misinterpretations throughout the process by setting firm foundations. There is no substitute for upfront planning, scope and objectives. Have you provided enough in-depth information so that your supplier can develop their service model around it?
3. Drive internal stakeholder buy-in
Getting your key internal stakeholders on board improves the likelihood of reaching contract agreement. Once stakeholders understand the value of the solution, it’s easier to drive buy-in. Regularly updating your stakeholders of developments, addressing their queries and tracking their feedback will enable you to identify delays in the agreement process. It will also highlight any need for additional information in order to keep things moving. Keeping your CFO informed and aware of changes to the proposed budget will help you to manage the process and negotiations, maintain “buy-in”, and prevent surprises in the final negotiations stage.
It’s crucial that leaders and stakeholders are involved in the selection process, and that they continue to play an active role in developing the new partnership to fulfil its potential.
4. Determine the scope of work, service level and pricing model
A reliable SLA details the scope of services the outsourcing partner will be responsible for, exactly what their responsibilities will be, and it clearly defines the metrics, expectations and accountabilities. Either party can refer to the SLA for confirmation any time. A contract without a robust SLA won’t provide the level of information needed to explain key factors such as service delivery and customer satisfaction goals. It’s important that your outsourcing provider understands exactly how you communicate with your customers, so customers have the same experience with them as when they deal directly with the organisation.
The pricing model will enable both parties to understand the significance of volume fluctuations in terms of staff, hours or shifts, thereby reducing the need for renegotiations, and avoiding delays in carrying out the service level agreement.
5. Co-create solutions
To lay down the framework for a successful project, co-create solutions with your outsource provider and agree the project expectations. An outsider’s perspective can bring new, innovative ideas.
Without regular communication, priorities can become misaligned. This can create obstacles in the decision-making process. The processes you define and implement during the hand-off should clarify your expectations. By co-creating, developing and revisiting solutions over time, you will easily notice if there are faults or gaps in the process, policies or procedure.
6. Manage change
Consider the possible scenarios where change may occur over time and put measures in place to deal with such changes. The more advance thought given to this, the better your partnership is likely to be, because you’ll have accounted for unforeseen circumstances that could affect the scope or cost of your agreement.
In our experience of a multi-client environment at Interaction Europe, we understand that SLA’s will vary from time to time. This happens when new customer offerings are introduced, or by re-negotiation of existing products. We easily adapt by following a clear quality process from the start. Changes are managed though our quality change management cycle which allows modification, approval and launch of any changes to our employees in a timely manner. Using this change management process, we continue to drive the agreed KPIs and focus areas set by our client. The quality measurements are aligned with KPIs to drive sales and service agreements.
7. Continually invest in the relationship
With significant outsourcing projects, it’s imperative to keep the lines of communication open and allow innovative ideas to flourish. Co-creating in a partnership supports a process of continuous innovation and improvement. At Interaction Europe, before signing any contract or SLA, we arrange a series of workshops to develop our client relationship and let ideas flow freely.
Executive level support and guidance from the client organisation to the outsourcing partner are particularly important in the early stages. This enables a smooth transition with a leadership support system where challenges can be discussed and resolved.
In this article we discussed best practices for successfully outsourcing your call center services, including:
Selection of outsourcing partner based on capability to match your business requirements
Consultation and education of your outsourcing partner in your business
Buy-in of your internal stakeholders
Service Level Agreement development
Change Management processes
Above all, your call center services outsourcing partner is an extension of your business, and working collaboratively together to co-create solutions and manage the services going forward are essential to success.
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