Top 12 Qualities to Look for in an Outsourced Contact Center Partner
May 09, 2019
By: Rob Johnson
Finding a quality, affordable outsourced contact center partner can be hard. There are many factors to consider, including site location, company culture, the technology in use, price, quality, and more.
Certainly, you want to find the partner that is the right fit for your business needs. You also want one who looks out for your best interests and protects your brand. Above all, you want a partner that can deliver on the SLAs and outperform on KPIs.
But of all the items on your outsourcing checklist, which are most important? Consider these 12 as a place to start:
Do you need to go offshore, nearshore, or onshore?
As countries like the Philippines and India reach maturity, nearshoring is growing as a popular option for several reasons:
Time zone differences. Many nearshore countries are in the same or similar time zones as the U.S. and Canada making it easier to do business;
Flight times. Flights to countries like the Philippines and India can take as much as 24 hours. With nearshore, flights can be as short as 2-4 hours;
Cultural awareness. Nearshore countries like those in the Caribbean and LATAM regions share a stronger bond with U.S. and Canadian cultures thanks to the influx of tourists and growing expat populations.
2. Language & Cultural Fit
The agents selected for your account need to communicate effectively and professionally. So, when researching call centers, look for one with agents who have a minimal accent, are easy to understand, and possess a strong cultural connection.
Connecting with the customer or prospect within the first 15-30 seconds is vital to achieving success, which is why removing any language or cultural barriers between the agent and customer is necessary.
The agents’ ability to go off-script is another factor related to language and cultural understanding. While not undermining the value a well-conceived and written call center script can have on achieving a positive customer interaction, look for a call center with agents who sound natural (even when reading scripts), can “go with the flow,” and ad-lib off-script.
3. Onboarding & Training
Take time to gain a deep understanding of the potential partner’s hiring and training practices.
How are new agents onboarded, what training do they receive before they start on the floor, and what is the ongoing training like? Do they train for metrics only or behaviors, such as communication and language skills, as well?
To gain deeper insights into how well agents are trained, ask for call recordings, secret shop their queues, or handpick focus groups during site visits.
In our experience, roundtable discussions with agents are the most impactful part of the site visit and is a practice we encourage. Be wary of any vendor that won’t allow you to speak to agents, team leaders, operations managers, or anyone on the floor.
4. Business Culture
The contact center partner should demonstrate a strong corporate culture with a focus on employee engagement that offers personal and professional growth.
Are the agents happy, enthused, and motivated or are they somber? What level of energy do you pick up? Is there good floor support? Are TLs engaging with agents, walking the floor, offering help, and listening to calls?
Happy and motivated employees result in a committed staff that provides a better overall customer experience.
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The vendor should be a fit with the client regarding both enterprise-level technology and specific applications related to your program.
6. Data Security
Data security is another extremely important aspect of technology to add to your list.
It’s critical that the vendor be able to provide data protection regarding your customers’ personally-identifiable information. PCI DSS, SOC 2, and HIPAA certifications indicate the company takes data security and compliance seriously.
Check the outsource contact center’s certifications to determine compliance. Ask how secure the call center is physically and what redundant systems and back-up plans are in place in the event of a natural disaster or breach.
7. Services Offered
What services does the prospective partner offer? Are they multichannel (voice, email, web chat, IVR, etc.), omnichannel, or specialize in one specific type of service? Do they offer both inbound customer service and outbound sales?
Some contact centers are more well-versed in specific processes and industries than others, so ask your potential partner if they have related experience. You will appreciate knowing that your business is in good hands being handled by experienced operational experts applying best practices.
8. Management Experience
Learn about the company’s management team, their experience, and performance management practices. This will be the group responsible for protecting your brand and driving results so take as much liberty as you need to probe them with questions.
The leadership team at Transparent BPO has “been there, done that.” Many began at the agent level and worked their way up through the ranks. Our CEO, Scott Newman, started on the client-side as a director of operations for a national direct response merchandise lender.
9. Client Services
Client services is the liaison between you, the client, and the contact center, which is why it’s vital to partner with a company that has both a U.S.-based team and a team on the ground, available to you at any time to provide immediate support. You also want to look for the same level of experience as you expect of senior management regarding industry or service backgrounds.
The vendor should be 100 percent referenceable and provide high-quality case studies, testimonials, and evidence of tenure in the industry. You only want to deal with a company that demonstrates it has a solid track record.
Reputation also has to do with the company’s standing in the community. Is it well regarded, a reputable employer, and contributor in other ways, such as a donor or participant in charitable causes? Don’t hesitate to conduct research on social media and Google to find out.
11. Scalability & Flexibility
Whether you’re seeking an outsourced call center to manage 100 percent of your call volume or the overflow during seasonal peaks, the partner you choose must have the flexibility to scale to meet your current requirements.
12. Quality & Price
It’s a misnomer to think that just because an outsourced contact center can save costs in terms of dollars spent that you will lose money due to poor quality at the expense of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
That may be true in some situations, but it shouldn’t be a blanket statement. There are many offshore and nearshore providers who manage both well.
The best way to know is to see the numbers, including metrics such as CSAT, AHT, FCR, and others. If they are unwilling to share those, walk away. The chances are you won’t fare any better once you partner with them. It never pays to do business with a “black box.”
Many factors go into deciding whether to outsource and what vendor with which to do business. Hopefully, the 12 items on this list are enough to give you a head start and help guarantee a successful partnership over the long-term.
As you research contact centers, we invite you to add Transparent BPO to your list. We design flexible, customizable, brand-boosting contact center and business process outsourcing solutions for mid-size and enterprise companies. We create the right mix of value and quality to fit your business needs.