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Customer Care Feature Article

February 14, 2006

Customer Care Outsourcing Advice

By TMCnet Special Guest

by Gary Pudles
   President, AnswerNet
Trusting your customers to a contact center outsourcer is like leaving your child in the hands of others. You want to make sure that your most precious assets are looked after. To ensure this, here’s some practical customer care outsourcing advice:
* Decide what customer care functions you want to have outsourced, and that you are willing to trust to an outsourcer.
Tasks that do not require a great deal of product knowledge, which are relatively simple that you do not consider part of your core competencies and/or where volumes fluctuate greatly are easily outsourceable.
Common examples include first level customer service and help desk, corporate hotlines, disaster response, dealer locator, order entry, collections, virtual receptionist, telephone answering plus outbound telemarketing, telesales, lead generation/qualification and outbound customer care.
*  Choose between shared-agent, dedicated-agent and blended-agent programs. Each method has their benefits and costs.
With a shared-agent program, outsourcer’s agents handle your contacts, and those of its other clients, on first-come/first-served basis to the service levels set out in your contract. This is the most economical of the three choices.
Dedicated-agent means the outsourcer will dedicate staff to handling only your calls. This method delivers the best quality service but at the highest cost. It requires careful planning on how much outsourcing you need to buy and when to minimize paying for agents who may be idle, waiting for the next call on your line.
Blended-agent is a flexible compromise. Dedicated agents manage your contacts during your busiest periods, enabling you to maximize your investment in them. Shared agents answer for you during off-peak periods, supplying you with cost-effective service.
Blended-agent can also include having your dedicated inbound customer care agents make outbound customer care, telemarketing or telesales calls when they are not busy. This way you also obtain increased efficiency and benefits from outsourcing.
* Determine the contact volume and plan out when it occurs, or in the case of outbound when you want it to occur, in accordance with telemarketing calling hours regulations.
Outline the mix between calls, emails and web chat. Emails and chat interactions usually take longer than voice. If you require agents who communicate in languages other than English, estimate the percentage of volume for each language.
With this information outsourcers can determine how many hours and contact center agents they need to support your program. They can then give you accurate prices for their services.
* When reviewing outsourcer partners ask about their contact center agent hiring and training, supervision and management, and monitoring and QA programs. How do they ensure topnotch customer care?
* Obtain references. Check if outsourcers have served clients similar to you, and customers like yours, on the same types of programs
* Evaluate price versus performance. An outsourcer that puts in a lower per-hour bid could have results from metrics such as first-call resolution, numbers of repeat calls, average handle time and customer satisfaction that indicate poor quality—and ultimately higher costs.
* Make sure outsourcer candidates have effective disaster response methods and procedures including onsite power and the ability to reroute calls, contacts and data to sites that are out of harm’s way. This will ensure that your customers will receive the best of customer care no matter what happens.
* When you choose a contact center outsourcer work closely with them on training and scripting. Set up and test escalation procedures; make it easy for the outsourcer to communicate issues and concerns to you for quick resolution. Request reporting systems that provide you with the data you need, when you need it. Benchmark the outsourcer’s performance against that of your own contact centers.
It is tempting when you outsource anything precious, be it child care or customer care, to supervise your providers by frequent calling and site visits. Resist that tendency and let the outsourcers get on with their tasks because you will only get in the way.
Remember; you have put in a lot of effort in selecting the best outsourced provider for your customers. The mission and core competency of contact center outsourcers is in supplying excellent cost-effective customer care. By working together your customers will be well looked after at all times.

Customer Care

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