Feature Story

Outsourcing For Success

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  November 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions

Outsourcing contact center tasks to the right partners – BPO (business process outsourcer) firms that excel in people, process and technology – can generate significant bottom-line results. For these outsourcing companies’ success depends on how well they can make their clients’ programs successful. Yet to make this happen require close coordination between the clients and the BPO providers, as this example illustrates:

Acuity Brands sells commercial lighting products to the new construction and renovations markets. Lighting is considered a “must have” for new construction buyers, explains George Stringer, Acuity Brands vice president and general manager, Renovation, Government and National Accounts as it traditionally purchases from a bid schedule. This makes identifying leads relatively easy. Renovation customers, however, may or may not have a lighting purchase planned. Lighting products are typically sold through channel partners.

“Our biggest competitor in the renovation space is a potential customer doing nothing,” explains Stringer. “Therefore, we have to create demand and show value with financial metrics. We do this by showing how a lighting renovation project can reduce a company’s energy footprint, often with investment payback in less than two years.”

Yet to generate productive leads requires the bandwidth and personnel. In response Acuity engaged TeleNet Marketing Solution’s (www.telenetmarketing.com) outbound telemarketing team to make cold calls on its behalf. It selected the BPO firm after a competitive bid and detailed analysis.

Acuity had considered building an internal team for the cold-calling and lead qualification but had no experience in the contact center business. The firm also saw that a key advantage of using an outsourced model is that the BPO firm has more pressure to perform.

“We may have saved costs by doing the project ourselves,” says Stringer. “However, it would have been at the expense of the program’s effectiveness, measurability and reporting.”

Acuity piloted the program with TeleNet in 2009 with two dedicated agents. They were tasked with identifying decision-makers, positioning Acuity’s value proposition and uncovering leads for Acuity’s internal lead specialists: who then cultivated them further and ultimately provided them to the company’s partner network.

The TeleNet agents were selected for having a proven ability to pique called party interest, establish credibility and build rapport and had experience in Acuity’s target vertical industries. They also had experience in promoting green business solutions and similar “payback” value propositions. 

The pilot program showed immediate signs of success. However, there were challenges with how the leads were being pursued and tracked by Acuity and the two firms agreed to place the effort on hold. Acuity refined its back end lead engagement structure and tracking mechanisms. It hired and trained an internal lead specialist dedicated to the TeleNet program. It also implemented a new CRM tool that enables automated lead tracking. It then re-engaged TeleNet at the start of 2010.

Acuity and TeleNet are measuring the results of this initiative in three ways:

1.         TeleNet set a benchmark that 10 percent of the prospect interviews will result in a lead for Acuity. To date, the program is yielding a 15 percent lead rate, exceeding the benchmark

2.         Acuity set an objective for their internal lead specialist to convert one lead to pipeline per day. To date, Acuity has averaged 1.2 leads converted per day, again exceeding their goal

3.         Acuity put into place a goal of closing $8 million in incremental revenue. While Acuity’s partners have already won new accounts as a result of this program, their average sales cycle is a lengthy 12 to 18 months

While the final ROI has not yet been determined, key indicators are positive. Ninety percent of the leads provided by TeleNet have been accepted by Acuity’s lead specialist; 30 percent of the leads have been converted to pipeline and passed to partners already. 

Once the ROI objectives are met, Acuity may expand the initiative with TeleNet to include the government sector as well as other key vertical industries.

“The philosophy of our program and the processes we have in place is to drive for quality, not quantity,” states Stringer.

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi