October 17, 2017
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7 of the Most Common Contact and Call Center Outsourcing Issues
…And How To Overcome Them
Many CFO and CIOs looking for cost-effective, efficient solutions for their greatest business challenges turn to outsourcing administrative, call center and back-office functions. When a company identifies a BPO partner, they must develop a relationship that enables the outsourcing provider to seamlessly oversee day-to-day tasks with the same level of expertise and quality as their internal teams. BPO partners collaborate closely with companies to implement innovative strategies to achieve their goals, whether those are cutting costs or providing comprehensive, high-quality customer service and tech support to their clients.
Choosing the Right BPO Partner Takes Time and Effort
CFOs and CIOs who spend a bit more time on the bidding process have fewer problems after services are initiated. According to research from Deloitte, 28% of companies with outsourcing partners said they could have avoided certain issues by understanding the value of a Request for Information (RFI). An RFI is used to evaluate how the outsourcing agency will provide a platform to deliver quality service. Consider it a useful tool to help you narrow down your choices to only those BPO providers who have the potential to meet your needs. Be thorough while negotiating expectations and as a general guideline, remember that most companies take 6 to 12 months to find the right BPO provider. This is a significant investment of both time and resources, so take your time, do your research thoroughly, and choose carefully.
Familiarizing yourself with the ten most common contact and call center outsourcing issues will help you ask all the important questions during the vetting process. Addressing each of these ten items below will ensure you choose the best BPO partner for your company.
1. Difficulty Communicating Business Needs and Goals
Communication has long been an issue in outsourcing. Although many companies have developed departments like the Vendor Management Office (VMO), which have improved communications with their BPO providers, CEOs still consider outsourcing a business risk and liability due to the communication challenges. The job of a VMO officer is to understand the goals of your BPO partnership and address any problems when they occur. VMOs also evaluate services and work with the BPO company to improve performance levels. Even if your company does not have a VMO, consider delegating these responsibilities to one member of your staff and make sure your BPO has a process in place to keep lines of communication with this individual open.
During the vetting process, evaluate if the provider is asking the right questions and if they listen and show in their proposal and presentations that they understand your business challenges. Ask for the details on their communication and escalation processes as well.
The best BPO partners will work with you to evaluate performance, provide a clear path to meeting milestones, and will have effective communication strategies in place.
2. Lack of Flexibility or Innovation
Some BPO partners do not have the technology or skills to meet their clients most current, challenging business needs. This can happen when the BPO has not adjusted their training and recruiting to reflect shifting customer expectations for agents, and/or they have not invested in new, innovative technologies. One way you can avoid this issue is by researching the history of the BPO provider. Do they show examples of introducing new technologies and solutions over time? Do their current offerings include cutting-edge platforms designed for scalability, automation, and integrated services? Will their solutions be competitive and fit into your business model and vision for success? A company looks to a contact center provider to help them scale, and to strengthen their brand by providing top-notch service to their customers. BPOs who actively seek to improve their services show the kind of flexibility you need in a great partner.
3. High Turnover Rates
Research has shown that high turnover rates with call center agents lead to a reduction in revenue. A study by Mattenson and Ivancevich found that the
average turnover rate is 40%, and replacing an agent costs approximately $10,000. This quickly adds up to diminish any cost-savings benefits your BPO partnership was to provide. To minimize the loss, look for a BPO service provider that is transparent with their numbers and has solutions in place to increase retention. Some of the main reasons include high-stress levels from intense call volumes, lack of advancement, and no access to benefits. A study by Fred Reichheld, with Bain and Company, found that a 5% increase in retention rates translated to more than 25% profit increases for companies.
For some ideas on processes and structures to look for in BPO providers that are addressing these problems, read 5 Easy Steps to Ensure Agent Success.
4. Lack of Management Oversight
Middle and senior management teams are essential functions in companies because they oversee day-to-day activities that make sure operations run smoothly. Not all contact centers employ the same level of managerial oversight, nor do they provide the same level of service, both of which result in greatly inconsistent standards across the industry. BPO providers that have strong management structures in place, and managers who keep transparent and open lines of communication with their clients, are better prepared to provide the high-level service businesses need to meet their outsourcing goals. Also look for a BPO partner that employs managers with a broad range of expertise. These providers are more likely to have a better understanding of your industry, your unique business challenges, and how to provide the best service to your customers. One final aspect to evaluate is the average tenure of their management staff. A high turnover rate for the BPO provider’s managers can put your partnership through additional challenges.
5. Language and Cultural Barriers with the Customer Base
Regional dialects, or casual, nuanced language, can be a challenge for contact center agents who are not in the same location as your customer base. To minimize communication challenges, and to ensure your customers receive high-level understanding from your customer care, many BPOs employ strategies like Voice and Accent Neutralization and extensive ESL training. These service providers go beyond awareness of the issues, and actively work to bring the language skills and cultural understanding of their customer service agents as close to native level as possible.
6. BPO Service Provider Does Not Meet Consistent Performance Levels
Improving service levels is one of the primary goals companies have when they choose to outsource customer care. Some contact centers quickly attain a reputation for being unreliable due to their inability to meet Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Look for a BPO partner with managerial teams who continuously evaluate important KPIs, such as response times and First Call Resolution, and who implement specific strategies to improve performance levels when the do not meet SLAs and KPIs. Another KPI your provider should regularly measure is call volume-per-agent. Pro-active BPO providers then take that analysis and implement steps to schedule high-performing agents during busier peak periods to balance call volumes and agent stress levels.
To get a clearer picture of their structures and processes in place, you should ask about their quality assurance processes in detail. Specifically which factors are being tracked. There are many beyond call volume by agent, or first call resolution as mentioned above. Ask how frequently they evaluate performance and ask how they improve performance. Are they proactive vs. reactive? What kinds of coaching and remediation training programs do they have?
The BPO service providers that proactively work to improve performance go beyond simply producing reports and demonstrate their dedication to meeting KPIs and SLAs.
7. Lower Security Standards
Cybersecurity is a major concern for most companies, and CEOs, particularly in industries that handle sensitive client data, have valid concerns that outsourcing will put their information and the information of their customers at risk. BPO providers sometimes do not maintain the same level of vigilance and dedication to managing security threats, or they may not have the best experts to handle breaches when they occur. A prepared contact center employs a diverse and talented pool of specialists who protect their systems, services, and the information handled by their agents. They will also have action plans tested and in place, if a security threat occurs.
A number of questions to ask need to go beyond IT security, such as their knowledge and adherence to PCI compliance. PCI compliance was first developed for the credit card industry and is a set of security standards related to office space and facilities as well as digital systems. The checklist is comprehensive, and covers bring your own device policies, site monitoring and how easy is it to access the facilities. For instance, do they have biometric security? Ask your potential BPO partner about their action plans for breaches in detail. For IT security evaluate if their staff hold certifications in cybersecurity (such as security analysis and digital forensics), IT security management (cybersecurity and information technology), and computer systems security.
As each of these challenges demonstrates, an outsourcing partnership can quickly go from an asset to liability if the partners are not fully aligned with shared goals, values, and open communication to manage issues that arise. Knowing these common challenges in advance can help you find the best BPO provider, set the partnership up for success, and manage issues with greater effectiveness.