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Customer service key to BPO business

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South Africa’s contact centres and business process outsourcing (BPO) providers are going to have to become brand custodians and sources of key business intelligence to their clients if they are to stay relevant in a highly competitive industry.
That’s the stark warning from Tanya Phillips, who heads up Quality and Customer Experience for Aegis Outsourcing SA, the local subsidiary of global outsourcing giant Aegis.
She believes the industry’s ability to add what she calls “the next level of outsourcing services” – higher end judgement-based transactions and the ability to actively enhance the customer experience – will be a key selling point in the global war for offshoring business.
“Customer experience is the latest buzz-phrase in customer service, and for good reason: it’s the path to customer loyalty, greater brand awareness and ultimately profitability,” says Phillips. “But to deliver great customer experience at a contact centre level demands a deeply ingrained culture of quality that’s going to challenge companies that think they can compete on price or language.”
Apart from traditional outsourcing powerhouses like India and the Philippines, South Africa also has to compete with emerging locations in South America, the Middle East and Asia for global offshoring business – and in many cases, moving up the value chain may mean changing the traditional metrics that outsourcing operations used to measure their success.
“Clients no longer want to know how many calls were answered, or even how many customer queries were resolved at the first time of asking. They want to know what they should be doing more to delight their customers and the contact centre operators should be investing in key driver surveys to determine these inputs and then actively drive performance in these areas,” says Phillips.
Traditionally, in call centres, quality was always measured at agent level: team leaders and assessors would listen to random calls, and counsel agents accordingly. At Phillips’ urging, Aegis is taking a far more comprehensive approach, engaging independent teams to listen to significant samples of calls.
This not only provides a far truer picture of client and customer experience issues, but also provides genuine intelligence that the provider can use to improve processes and customer satisfaction.
So in a sales environment, for example, the company can assess very quickly whether a sale was made – and if not, why not. Did the agent fail to capitalise on the opportunity? Was price an issue? Was the product right for the particular customer? Was the warranty an issue?
Or if customers are calling a contact centre to have a query resolved it is not only important to know whether the issue was resolved or not. A detailed understanding of what the agent and non agent reasons for non-resolution enable the outsourcer and the company to improve on service delivery and customer excellence.
Phillips says this information enables the provider and client to work together as partners and define better ways to deliver service continuously improving business processes by essentially putting the customer at the heart of the business.
“We’ve got to show our customers local and global trends and the propensity to buy in certain channels. What does a good customer relationship management strategy look like? How should you gather information from your consumers and what will you do with it? How do you get consumers to buy in to your marketing efforts?
“It’s only by delivering answers like these that add value to the business that we’re going to be successful,” says Phillips.
For Aegis and the rest of the South African BPO industry, the stakes have never been higher. An Everest Group survey last year placed South Africa among the top three offshore locations in which service providers are planning to enter to expand their global footprint – but quality will be a key issue on which overseas companies will be basing their outsourcing decisions.
Phillips and Aegis believe they are ready for the challenge.