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Pros and cons of outsourcing a contact centre

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All too often, companies decide to outsource their Contact Centre because they don't really understand its challenges and potential benefit to the business, writes Graham McLeod, contact centre focus group manager at Siemens Enterprise Communications. In fact, understanding and quantifying the unique issues facing contact centres can be extremely complex.

That doesn't mean that outsourcing is the wrong decision; quite the contrary. However, organisations need to fully understand the situation, including all the dynamics of the contact centre, before making this important leap.
Most frequently, the reasons for outsourcing a contact centre include that it's not core to the business, it's not profitable, the value is unclear, and it doesn't fit into the overall sales and service strategy.
If this is how your organisation regards its contact centre, consider how important the face of your company is. Quite often, the contact centre is the only contact your client has with your organisation, especially when it takes care of your service or tele-sales offering. You need to be able to measure the cost of these interactions as well as repeat calls and repeat business.
Obtaining a good understanding of these facets of the business is vital before you even consider the question of outsourcing or co-sourcing. Once you have this understanding, you might reconsider your decision – or at least your choice of partner.
The term 'due diligence' tends to be bandied about quite loosely, often to justify the time needed to procrastinate over the decision, or to buy time while thumb-sucking the correct value of the contact centre. However, this is probably the most important part of any outsourcing discussion.
The correct approach, and the one endorsed by Siemens as a solutions provider, would be to follow a structured due diligence process – first understand your company, your people and the maturity of your systems and processes, and then propose a solution and add values.
If you decide to outsource, choose a partner – but be careful. The company you choose to run the face of your business cannot be an outsider, nor can they be kept at arm's length. They need to be an integral part of your business: keep them aware of developments in the business, make them part of your strategic discussions.
Of course, this begs the question: wouldn't this exercise deliver better insight and a more complete understanding of what the contact centre delivers, how it operates and what the real cost versus value is? Wouldn't your contact centre be able to align itself with the strategic direction of the business, and as a result become a core part of the organisation?
It also suggests that as a company, you will have to support your partner to ensure their success and, in return, yours. Your outsourcing decision therefore cannot be financially motivated .. unless you can prove that it will increase the profitability of both companies.
In conclusion, if you are considering outsourcing your contact centre, the first step is to understand the real issues before making any moves. Ensure that yours is a working concern – you cannot transfer it or outsource it if it is 'broken', as this will invariably lead to the failure of the partnership.
There are many reputable, well-run outsourced centres around. Be clear on your objectives, choose a partner which fits your criteria, and you could be one of them.