Author: Kirsten Jepson, Director, Product Marketing
Selecting an outsourced call center vendor is a big commitment. But, it’s also an opportunity to achieve excellence in an area that’s not likely a core competency for your company. Among the many reasons to outsource call center customer service is to enable higher flexibility and adaptability to change. With the volatility of the marketplace presenting continuous challenges, a call center vendor that has experience in implementation and scaling up or down to service a variety of programs, locations, and languages can enable your bank to address the paradigm of efficiency vs. quality with ease.
Consider four areas that can direct the call center vendor selection process according to your financial institution’s goals:
1. Rethink the Business Model
Creating a long-term, sustainable business model means exploring all options; some will be new to you. For example, outsourcing allows choices between on shore, near shore and off shore services that each can provide options that accommodate all business needs and considerations.
The business model doesn’t need to be an all or nothing approach. For example, one financial institution chose to start with one call center location and has grown our partnership to four locations over the course of our eight-year relationship.
Some of the questions to answer when rethinking your call center business model may include:
a. What would be the impact of a 3%, 5%, 7%, etc. improvement in CSAT ratings?
b. How do you validate the results of CSAT performance of your current vendors?
c. What kind of challenges do you face with the CSAT performance of your current vendors? Of your in-house centers?
d. What strategic initiatives are driven by improvement to the customer experience?
e. How do you determine where you have business challenges and how are they solved once surfaced?
f. Where do you provide customer service today? What is your geographic mix? Why?
2. Regulatory Compliance
Financial services institutions must be prepared and flexible to create and adopt processes that enable them to comply with new rules and regulations. Outsourced vendors bring operational excellence and come prepared with innovative ideas. Call center expertise is their core competency. Implementation and program management experience should not be underestimated.
Change management in call centers can be extremely challenging. Consider this scenario of a client that introduced new policies due to a regulation change. Their average handle time (AHT) increased dramatically due to an elevated volume of inquiries from displeased customers. We were able to develop consistent solutions that enabled the agents to understand the correct way to solve a difficult case, within an acceptable period of time, and with a higher level of customer satisfaction.
How would you answer these questions in relation to the overdraft opt-in regulations?
a. Is your bank handling the new overdraft opt-in with a replacement revenue stream?
b. Are the notifications about the opt-in option being successfully acted upon by your customers?
c. How have satisfaction levels changed in response to notifications about anticipated fee increases for overdrafts? Or has your bank blocked debit card purchases that would overdraw accounts?
d. From an operational perspective, what concerns you most about your bank’s approach?
e. Are you successfully tracking the channels and opt-in methods for a successful audit?
f. Do your agents handle the overdraft opt-in strictly as a customer service transaction upon request, or do they help to sell customers on choosing the option?
3. Reduce Costs
Vendor relations must serve as a lever to keep the business in control of outsourced call center operations—especially from a financial perspective. Reducing costs while amplifying service quality has been the paradigm of outsourced call center operations since its inception. Spending must be carefully controlled as a managed cost for financial institutions with P&Ls that are subject to internal and public scrutiny.
But, cost reduction doesn’t need to introduce inefficiencies or lower service quality. By approaching the need to reduce costs strategically, you will find opportunities to meet both needs. In this example, a financial institution needed service for a number of initiatives at multiple locations. By cross training agents, they are able to service the locations simultaneously, eliminating the problem of over and understaffing.
Questions to answer that help you explore opportunities for creating a multi-program call center team that helps to reduce costs, while improving service quality, include:
a. What are your targets for the coming quarter(s)? For the coming year? Will you grow or is there a plan to purge and/or shrink portfolios?
b. How are your current vendors helping you meet and/or manage to these objectives?
c. What kind of challenges do you face with performance of your current vendors? Of your in-house centers?
d. How do you see proactive chat contributing to your CSAT objectives and portfolio management objectives?
e. What strategic initiatives are driven by improvement to the customer experience?
f. Are new distribution channels being explored or improvements to current channels planned? (i.e. Mobile banking, online banking)
4. Rebuild Brand Confidence
This is no surprise, but financial institutions are continuously being challenged to prove to customers that they can trust you. With much of the personalized interaction conducted with your customers, efficient and well-trained call center agents are a must. A good experience will help to reassure them that your institution cares. This includes capabilities such as identifying and fixing customer service problems with targeted solutions, as well as responding to customers in the language they choose.
To assess the potential contribution to improved customer confidence that an outsourced call center vendor can help your brand to achieve, consider what they’ve helped other financial service clients to achieve. Awards are certainly not everything, but they are visible endorsements that your institution puts its best foot forward in the realm of customer care.
If the vendor you’re considering can’t show that they’ve helped their clients to achieve these standings for customer service excellence, this should tell you something about their potential as a strategic partner.
a. How far above the industry average have they achieved in customer satisfaction scores for telephone customer service?
b. Does your organization have a goal to achieve a J.D. Powers and Associates award?
c. How many nominations would your call center customer service receive from BusinessWeek readers toward the Customer Service Champs award?
If you do the work to assess the four areas above in relation to what your financial institution wants to accomplish, you will find the right match in the vendor you choose. Taking a strategic approach to vendor selection is dependent on much more than cost reduction. And the benefits will weigh out in the achievement of business objectives much more valuable to your organization than shaving a few cents off of each incoming call.