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The Purdue Page
November 2002

Ask Dr. Jon

The Purdue benchmark research has been conducted since 1995. Purdue currently holds data for more than 5,400 call centers. To learn about how to participate in some of Purdue University's new benchmark research, please visit www.BenchmarkPortal.com.

Q: What would be the key issues to consider regarding whether to outsource call center work? Are there any published guidelines for analysis? Thanks for your help.
- Barry Bermudez

A: There are many issues to consider regarding whether to outsource call center work: many articles and even books have been written. One of the best places to go to read about the issues surrounding outsourcing are the outsourcers themselves. Nineteen percent of the contact centers that participate in our benchmarking service outsource at least some of their calls. Outsourcing is a big industry and it is growing rapidly. Obviously, when considering outsourcing, cost will be a factor, but we believe it is the last factor you should consider. The real question is what strategy will get you the best overall performance? In-house only, outsourcing only or a blend? Overall performance must include both efficiency metrics and effectiveness metrics. A valuable feature of our Peer Group Benchmark Report is the Performance Matrix, a balanced score card of efficiency and effectiveness measures that allows you to compare your performance to your peers. Can you raise your performance relative to your peers by outsourcing? When looking at outsourcers, look at their technology, their management processes and their management team. Do they have the technologies, processes and management team required to drive superior performance? Ask them to show you how their performance for customers with applications and needs similar to yours compares to their peers in our data base. You may find that they do outperform the in-house centers in their peer group. This should not be surprising. After all, operating contact centers is their business, whereas most internal call centers exist to support their company's primary business. A good first step is to benchmark your current operation and compare your performance to your peers. The process will help you identify your most pressing performance gaps, which can help you decide if outsourcing would be useful. To find out how, visit the Purdue University benchmarking Web site at www.BenchmarkPortal.com.

In a recent BenchmarkPortal One-Minute Survey', we investigated how call centers handle seasonal fluctuations in call volume. We learned that, on average, a call center's peak volume is between 20 percent and 30 percent higher than the normal daily volume. We also asked what benefits the center provided to seasonal employees during these peak times. As you can see from the table above, overtime pay is the most popular benefit given to seasonal employees ' followed closely by 'other.' For this question, participants were able to choose as many of the options as applied, so the total percentage will be greater than 100 percent. With 'other' being the second most popular response, we analyzed the open-ended text question where respondents could describe what benefits they gave. We found the following popular responses:
' Commissions,
' Product discounts and prizes,
' Tickets and passes,
' Extended breaks,
' Gifts, and
' Internet access.

Dr. Jon Anton (also known as 'Dr. Jon') is the Director of Benchmark Research at Purdue University Center for Customer-Driven Quality. Have a question? E-mail him at [email protected].

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