A massive 91% of South African organisations view Customer Experience (CX) or the contact centre as a competitive differentiator (2016 Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report) so it comes as no surprise that organisations, across different industries, are looking at increasing the professionalism and raising the profile of their contact centres to improve their CX.
“The biggest drivers for outsourcing your contact centre are usually cost, the need for service improvement, or simply wanting to offload an issue, but it is a far more complex decision than that,” says Sandra Galer, Consulting Director at Merchants. She adds that people often think that outsourcing is cheaper, but the cost benefit takes some time to realise and the upfront setup, combined with improvement costs, could make it more expensive initially.
“There are, of course, cheaper bureau-type options available in the market, which will result in cost-savings, but could lead to a decrease in service levels. Equally, if you are outsourcing to improve your service levels, it also takes a while to realise those benefits, particularly if you are not making the required changes within your business to support those efforts.”
Outsourcing is a major strategic decision that cannot be made in isolation. “You need to understand what your customer service strategy is, why you are doing it, why you are not achieving your goals in the first place and finally, how outsourcing will solve this issue. So organisations need to think it through very carefully, be clear on the benefits they expect to reap and, of course, not abdicate responsibility,” says Galer.
Overcoming the fear of losing control
Many organisations fear that they will lose control of their customers should they outsource. “If you have the right partner and have invested time in your relationship with the outsourcer this will not be the case. These are professional communicators and customer service consultants and if you get the right partner they will love your customers as much as you do,” she says.
Another inhibitor could be the initial setup cost, particularly around possible retrenchments, empty space and the costs for the other organisation to manage it properly. Other considerations, which often only come into play further down the decision-making line, include security and inter-departmental collaboration.
“It comes back to being very clear on why you want to outsource and what you hope to achieve through it. If that is a simple one-word answer, then you are probably considering outsourcing for the wrong reasons,” says Galer. Once the organisation is clear on what it wants to achieve, it then needs to find the right partner to support that strategy.
Understand your needs, then choose your partner
“There are a lot of outsourcers out there and I really don’t believe you can take a one-size-fits-all approach. You need to be very clear about whether needing a full outsource partner or are just looking to outsource a portion of your business, such as outbound sales, to just get it done and improve your results,” she says.
“Building an outsourcing partnership also does not happen overnight. We, as Merchants, have been in relationships with organisations for 10 years and more; so when you select your partner you need to ensure that they understand your vision, where you want to take your organisation and that they are going to travel the entire journey with you. A lot of things are also changing in customer service, so your partner needs to support your vision for your customers and your organisation in the future.”
Galer adds that outsourcing comes with benefits beyond just standard improvement and cost reduction. “It allows for someone else to take over that service element so that you can focus on your core business,” she says. There are also some side benefits, such as up-to-date technology.
“Outsourcers will usually have access to state-of-the-art technology and multimedia solutions, often on a consumption basis, so it’s cheaper and you don’t have to invest in expensive technological infrastructure that is potentially beyond your team’s expertise. Also, the people who are using that technology have done it before. So, when you launch a new channel with the outsourcer, they should already be acclimated, know the pitfalls and training required and will know how to manage and motivate the people working on the technology, and how to get the best out of offering that service to your customers.”
Other benefits include increased flexibility, scalability, access to expert managers and support staff, and the benefit of extended operating hours with the same level of management, input and level of service. “Another big focus area is analytics and most outsourcers will understand the importance of data, how to use it, how to get the most out of the interactions they are handling on your behalf and how to package that information in a way that drives value for your organisation,” Galer concludes.