Tuesday, June 20, 2006

7 Strategies for Partnering With Outsourcers

Contact center outsourcing at first glance does not set the stage for delivering a seamless customer service experience. At its base, the relationship often forces companies to weaken, not strengthen, direct interactions with their customers. But bringing an outsourcing vendor into your service blueprint doesn't have to mean the business's slip will show. Instead, the vendor should represent an extension of the company, rather than a separate entity. Fashioning that seamlessness, however, can be tricky. Following are seven process-focused strategies to help ensure that the outsourcing partner is an extension of your business.
Give the Outsourcer a Crash Course
Reps are only as good as the knowledge they have about the product or service they're supporting. You could have terrific technology infrastructure to link the two organizations, but if you haven't taken care of training, then you could have great infrastructure and a poor result from the outsourcing relationship. The responsibility for training the agents on contact center skills falls on the shoulders of the outsourcing provider. But you know your organization best: Product, culture, and overall company training should lie with the customer organization. And remember to provide the outsourcer any information (i.e., clothing, videos, product) to help agents represent your brand.
Keep Communication Lines Open
As with any business partnership unexpected challenges and changes may arise. To stay on track, frequent communication and periodic site visits from day one will keep the organization up to date on the health of the initiative.
Understand Needs and Expectations
One important tenet of providing a seamless service experience is to establish what your current service levels are, what you'd like them to be, and relay these expectations to the outsourcing partner. We really work with clients to identify what we do at the point of execution. If each side understands the other's needs and expectations, companies will minimize misunderstandings and create a more trusting and successful relationship. Along with goal alignment, select an outsourcing partner whose corporate culture and work ethic align with yours.
Break Out the Measuring Tape
Although the decision has been made to farm out a customer service function, this process still involves your customers. Maintain a balanced scorecard to measure the outsourcing provider against contractual KPIs that you deem important.
Assign Equal Authority
Most customers would agree that the worst service experience is one that ends without a resolution. Lack of partner empowerment is often the cause here. Say a customer calls her credit card provider's service department to report a mistake on her balance or dispute a late fee. In some cases, outsourced agents have the authority to waive a late fee associated with the account.
Trust Thy Partner
Trust: It's an essential component of building a successful connection. Companies should trust their outsourcing partner with access to critical timely and accurate data. A lack of timely and accurate data can translate into a customer service nightmare. But if certain elements haven't been communicated, such as when information is updated, there may not be any more of that item. So, establish the communication of data back and forth between the client and the outsourcer.
Capture Customer Feedback
Agents' interactions with customers can equate to tons of valuable information. But if that information isn't filtered back to the organization itself, much of its value goes untapped. As we move forward out of the postrecession mindset, it's going to be crucial for investors and outsourcers to really focus on that seamless experience. They must "try to ensure that the outsourced portion is really part of the value proposition because if it's not, if it's just a front end to handle calls, nobody's going to win."

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