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October 2008 | Volume 27 / Number 5
Innovative SOLUTIONS

Seven questions to ask before you choose a contact center

By Dana Allender
Director of New Business Development InfoCision Management Corporation

No matter what your product or service, your company’s image and brand is shaped by what your customers hear on the other end of the line. The impression they take away from that interaction will have an impact on your brand – either good or bad. On the one hand, your contact center can be a priceless resource that sustains and cultivates loyal customers who have immeasurable lifetime value for your company. On the other hand, bad experiences lead to unhappy customers and can undo all the years you’ve spent developing good relationships with them.

Selecting the right outsourcing partner is no less important than selecting the employees who work in your own offices, so look for a contact center that emulates the customer experience you would deliver. As with an employee interview, there are a few essential questions that can help you make the best decision for your business.

Is it easy to customize a program?
Taking someone else’s off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all approach isn’t necessary. Make sure your account managers are asking the right questions about what’s happening throughout your organization – not just the call center - and creating the solution around your business. For example, perhaps you already have a state-of-the-art billing system that you would like to continue using. A good contact center partner should be able to integrate its systems into your own as well as train agents on the intricacies of the software to ensure a seamless customer interaction.

How flexible is the pricing?
Look for a vendor that understands your bottom line. Ultimately, your goal is to transform what has historically been a cost center into a profit center. To do this, you must find a contact center that will work with you to develop a successful model that also focuses on cost containment and a high return on investment. Investigate whether your prospective partner is willing to base at least part of its compensation on the metrics that are important to your business.

What about the ability to scale?
The best contact centers can adjust to your changing business demands. From long-term staffing needs to short-term solutions, your contact center should have the ability to add or reduce the number of agents needed for your program quickly and efficiently. This is particularly important for media-driven inbound spikes, when call centers must analyze call volume history to determine adequate staffing levels so that customers aren’t left waiting on hold.

Are communications open and honest?
Your contact center provider should make you feel welcome to visit the center where your program will be conducted. It is critical that you spend time getting to know the people who will be speaking to your customers. Your account team should also provide remote monitoring opportunities and generate daily, weekly and monthly reports that summarize performance. Additionally, your partner should commit to meetings on-site with you, such as quarterly business reviews, to update you and your team on performance and objectives moving forward.

Is there a reliable, dedicated account team?
There’s nothing worse than being transferred from department to department when you need immediate answers on how your program is performing. A quality contact center provider gives clients one point of contact from which they can glean all pertinent information. This person should be a dedicated liaison between the management of the program and all the supporting departments including operations, IT and regulatory compliance. Additionally, your account managers should specialize in your industry and serve as a knowledgeable resource for all your needs. Are the agents mature and professional? The agents making and taking your calls are representing your company in front of its most valuable assets - your customers. They should provide service with all the respect, knowledge and attention to detail that you would. To provide this level of service, a contact center should have a highly selective hiring policy and extensive training curriculum – as well as recognition programs to retain and reward top performers.

Is there a plan for continuous process improvement?
Your contact center partner should quantify and calibrate key performance metrics, providing customized, real-time reports. To ensure that your program isn’t becoming stale, dedicated marketing analysts should examine those reports and make creative suggestions, supported by historical data, on ways to increase results and enhance the overall customer experience.

These guidelines provide a framework for choosing a contact center that will be a long-term marketing partner rather than just a vendor. In addition to creating immediate streams of revenue for your company, a contact center like this can boost customer loyalty and in turn generate revenue for years. Most importantly, it can enhance your market position and maintain your company’s good reputation.

Dana Allender, Director of New Business Development, InfoCision Management Corporation. In business for 25 years, InfoCision Management Corporation is the second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 100 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leader of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 32 call centers at 13 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information,

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