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What You Should Expect From Call Center Vendors

It’s become standard practice for telco’s to outsource their customer contact centers, hoping to drive both cost savings and performance improvements along the way. But not all vendors are created equally, and many telecom companies learned the hard way that contract terms (pricing per hour or per minute, for example) often drive bad behavior with unintended consequences. So what should you look for as you consider outsourced customer contact management vendors, and more importantly, what value should you expect from them?

The answer? You can (and should) expect much more value than you might imagine. While it’s tempting to set a contact center on autopilot and get the minimum requisite performance, the truth of the matter is that a great vendor can add quite a bit of expertise and value beyond just easy management or improved relations with your customers — that is, if you let them.

Start With Your Business Objectives

Any vendor worth considering should not only be comfortable with, but experienced in running a contact center that delivers beyond just the industry standard KPI’s. By sharing your business goals and objectives with your contact center, you may be able to significantly increase the number of resources deployed around helping you meet them.

Business objectives are a great way to test the strategic value of a vendor, as well. Consider sharing a few key objectives during the RFP process to see who rises to the top with a proposal that considers the bigger picture, not just call volumes and handle times. Not all vendors will excel in this area, and it gives you a yardstick to compare them against beyond just price. Since it’s common for most telecom companies to have relationships with more than one contact center vendor at a time, this is also a great way to incent better performance and competition among existing strategic partners.

Give More To Get More

The tendency to provide limited information and basic KPI’s to contact centers is actually letting them off easy. While “no surprises” can sound like an idealistic outcome to telecom companies coming off of tough vendor management situations, “no surprises” should be table stakes service levels, not a stretch goal or measure of success.

It’s true that narrowing the periphery of your vendors can keep the focus on the primary task you contracted them for, but the cost can be greater than the benefit. In reality, you may be diminishing their ability to earn your trust, additional business, and most importantly, to offer alternative products and services to your customers that may be good for loyalty and profitability.

For example, it’s common for outsourced contact centers to be measured against average handle time, call resolution, and even customer satisfaction. While these metrics are useful, a customer’s satisfaction with a single call is not necessarily indicative of their overall satisfaction as a customer. One way to get more value from your contact center is to tie its customer satisfaction measurements with your business goals around customer retention or churn.

Alternatively, from a financial perspective, a business objective to boost margins by 3% could translate directly to a contact center measurement around average revenue per user, something a proven contact center management team should be able to strategize around and deploy their agents to deliver against.

Separating The Good from The Great

Remember, sharing your business goals should not be a one-sided exchange with a vendor. One of the key values you should expect a contact center to add is to take action on your objectives across the entire service delivery chain. This means every contact center agent should be properly trained not only on your standard operating procedures, but also around your business goals, the role they play in your company’s success, and actions they can take to help attain them. Contact center managers should be held accountable for delivering performance against your objectives, keeping agents “in the know” about their individual performance, and ensuring the entire team stays on track to deliver against performance targets.

The best contact center vendors have very broad experience and deep expertise in service delivery, and it’s not uncommon for seasoned players to be able to spot opportunities to approach a business challenge from a new angle that user companies may have missed. It’s easy to fall into doing things “the way they’ve always been done” in large telco companies, but giving your vendors the chance to build trust and earn more business by solving a key challenge for you is truly a win-win relationship.

Expect Your Contact Center To Be Strategic — Or Keep Looking

And no, they won’t look at you crazy when you introduce business objectives into the conversation. In fact, as telcos have turned to innovation to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market, it’s forced contact center vendors to do the same. Whereas contact centers used to focus on innovating around things like ease-of-use for their agents, they now compete against ability to measure, train, and deliver against financial and performance objectives. If you’re not exploiting your contact center vendor’s expertise, you’re missing a big opportunity.

Lastly, as you research and evaluate potential vendors, remember that contact centers that express disinterest, uncertainty, or lack of accountability for your business goals should be removed from consideration — they simply aren’t qualified to be a strategic partner.