The Value of Selecting a Strategic Partner for an Outsourced Call Center
July 17, 2014
July 17, 2014
Customers are inarguably the most valuable asset that a financial services business can claim. Outsourcing the customer relationship through an external call center can present an uncomfortable risk and must be carefully orchestrated. The primary goal should be to enable the organization to focus on core business competencies while contracting a specialist firm qualified to serve customers and play an instrumental role in customer retention, enhanced revenue generation, and increasing loyal relationships.
Due to economic constraints, many companies approach outsourcing their call center as a vendor relationship predicated on cost reduction as the most important driver. This approach shows a misunderstanding in the value that customers provide to the organization and increases unnecessary risk levels.
Cost can only be a meaningful measure when it is balanced against value. Therefore, reducing costs to match budgetary goals can lead to a false economy. Shaving incremental costs off of call center processes can give the appearance of adding to the bottom line, but this may not be the best choice. Instead, perhaps the question to ask is, how can we modify the process to deliver more value to the company than we derive from our customer interactions today?
Call centers have inherently been focused on developing processes that achieve the highest efficiency possible. However, research has consistently proven that a focus on customer outcomes—rather than cost—achieves the lowest operating costs while generating higher value. Yet, when companies look to outsourcing, they continually focus on greater efficiencies, rather than to advantages of scale that dedicated call center agents are able to consistently deliver.
Financial services firms looking to achieve profitable outcomes from their call center operations should approach outsourcing as the opportunity to work with a strategic partner, not merely a vendor.
Offload costs with Outsourced Call Centers
When creating a strategic partnership for an outsourced call center, the following components can contribute to building the case for a long-term perspective based on both cost and performance objectives. Where selecting a vendor can result in merely shifting costs, a strategic partner can transform the contribution of the call center to your business.
First, let’s look at three cost savings opportunities:
1. An outsourced provider may be able to provide full-time employees at up to a 15% cost reduction than the company could achieve given turnover and the compensation, pension and benefits structure in place. Removing the responsibility for sourcing and retaining talent results in additional savings in costs and time.
2. Paying the mortgage and maintenance on the facility that houses the call center requires substantial, ongoing capital investment that may be better invested in the company’s intellectual property and product development. The additional monthly operational overhead costs, as well as the communications equipment and technology infrastructure should also be included in your cost reduction estimations.
3. Training agents requires a substantial investment. The performance level of your call center is dependent upon both the soft-skills of your agents as well as the processes that support them.
It’s important to find a partner who is committed to working with you on making an investment in training agents on the front-end to earn payback over the longer term based on performance. When you work with a seasoned training team, like those you find in place at an expert partner, the time to productivity is much faster.
Payoffs in Performance Made Possible with a Strategic Partner
Next, consider several scenarios for improved call center performance based on the operational expertise, dedicated training, and coaching reinforcement provided by a strategic outsourcing partner:
· Creating and capitalizing on moments of loyalty. Call center agents who are adept and knowing when and how to help customers optimize their products and account bundles have been proven to boost both the retention and share of wallet value for companies. This type of service delivery creates customer advocates who are a continuous source of referrals and repeat business—both of which are critical to creating competitive advantage.
· Resolving issues in just the right time. Call center agents who have the knowledge to ask the right probing questions are able to resolve issues while simultaneously up-leveling customer satisfaction. Spending “as long as it takes” to resolve an issue has resulted in customers reporting frustration that their time is not being well spent, lowering their satisfaction. It is important for agents to recognize that not all customers reporting the same issue have the same root cause and to handle each situation with the best specific path for resolution.
· What presents as a problem may actually yield a bigger opportunity. Sometimes, the manner in which an issue materializes can mask the problem at hand. For example, higher dissatisfaction numbers may indicate a failure on the part of agents to handle issues with empathy and grace. However, upon looking further, a systemic problem may be uncovered that enables a much larger opportunity to be realized that provides an uplift in satisfaction across a much wider percentage of customers than were previously thought to be affected.
Considering Partnership – More Than Price
The difference between customer satisfaction and complaint can often be a very fine line. With a strategic partner that has industry expertise, dedicated resources and offers a seamless partnership in the operation of your call center, performance improvements will outweigh the cost savings that you sought when considering outsourcing the call center in the first place. Companies that are looking to ensure their call centers accurately represent their brand and culture; provide optimal performance; and add value to the bottom line should consider much more than pricing when making their vendor selection.
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