If outsourcing strikes fear into the very heart of your operation and gives you more sleepless nights then a Hitchcock horror then read on with this article as there are some useful tips to hammer out the horror of your Outsourcing fears and if you are outsourcing currently and something isn’t right then check out some of the suggestions below that might help turn your Wes Craven’s “Scream” into …”A wonderful life” ?????

First though some context on the outsource Industry, you might not believe it but it’s a £6 billion pound industry and it’s less hard to believe when you consider the amount of countries that outsourcers operate from, manilla, to south Africa and of course India and the benefit of this of course means you have a 24/7, 365 day operation if you wanted to with in many cases English speaking and multi lingual agents.

The Reputation of outsourcers has been tarnished over the years by poor practices and this still has a hangover, even years on and some of the misconceptions are that the quality of candidates but I’ve seen many experienced and highly qualified CV’s for outsourced agents that we don’t even get sight of in the UK contact centre market.

But nevertheless, the fear that goes with outsourcing can and does still exist which is why I wrote this article which chares 10+ 1 Bonus tip for managing your outsource relationship and what to think about when starting out a new one!

So let’s start from the very beginning as that’s a very good place to start, where have I heard that before?

# 1. Start with choosing your outsource Supplier It’s a marriage so select the right partner, unless it’s married at first sight you don’t usually jump into a relationship with someone you haven’t done a little research on, so the first questions I would ask is what do they know about running a contact centre? What experience do they have of managing that dynamic and what questions do they ask you about the goals that you are looking to achieve, if the focus is all about cost reduction, then they are missing the point. The key question is are they the right fit for what you are trying to achieve.

# 2. You’ve heard the expression “Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast” – well you can have the best laid plans with your outsourcer but if they don’t understand your values and the culture you want to project to your customers then how are they going to deliver the same tone of voice and brand that underpins some of your customer experience? Your agents are an extension of your business brand so recruiting people that align to this is important. If there is a revolving day on agents on your campaign then go back to recruitment process and the culture and don’t be afraid to be part of the sign off for recruitment, listen to role play calls and ask for Interview notes.

IP Phone – Hang up the phone call

# 3. Successful relationships are give and take they are about open two way communications It’s a two way street – You can’t just lob a load of data over the wall and expect them to crack on, outsourcing requires a clear strategy on data, touch points, sharing of insights and two way communication. Defining what success looks like , agreeing targets and two way communication, what’s working well, who isn’t cutting the mustard what are they doing about them, it’s a sign something has gone wrong when you are having to ask all the questions so be clear on what you expect from them and what they can expect from you.

#4. Would you induct some one into your own team and then leave them to find their own feet? No you wouldn’t so expect the same from your outsourcer, what’s the training plan, how do they measure speed to competence, what’s the Team manager to agent ratio. Train them like you would your own team: – Investing in the agents training up front will help with attrition and quality of work, of course you want to make some sort of saving in this area so you may choose to adopt a train the trainer programme or if you have the capability perhaps a joint delivery or perhaps even just sitting in on a few day of the training, but I would recommend having some presence so the agents feel connected to the company they are working for.

# 5. Set your stall out from day 1 – You aren’t being demanding if you ask for MI on team performance, and you certainly aren’t being demanding asking what levels of talk time, productivity and team leaders coaching has happened with “your” people – remember they are an extension of your business you are paying for. Where these relationships can fail is that we haven’t agreed up front who does what and when so be clear on what you NEED from the outsourcer to run your business and what else would be nice to have. Be clear on expectations, KPI’s, Quality, and set some agreed milestones for performance for all Levels and the relevant speed to competency that you might expect to see.

# 6. Ask yourself how often you calibrate on call quality and customer outcomes internally? Regular Calibration helps you stay on the same page – you should be calibrating everything – how do they compare to your internal teams, Connection rate, Decision maker contacts, conversion levels, retention, occupancy, productivity, QA – all these things can be calibrated to understand if it’s better than internal, in which case great there is some tangible ROI, or if it’s below internal levels what’s the reason? Calibration helps you all stay on the same page and fuels that communication engine so why not Include your outsourcer in calibration sessions and why not include some of your Internal team first-hand to help bridge any cultural divide.

# 7. Bonus schemes, rewards and incentives are common practice in the call centre, whether its donuts or dress up or more formal incentive schemes so it makes sense to Incentivise best practice and performance in your outsourcer as you might in your own contact centre. If you are running a valentine’s pod dressing day or celebrating world food day communicate with your outsourcer and don’t be afraid of bringing them into the mix, but equally empower your outsourcer to do the same, make it fun, be clear though on what’s acceptable and not based on your culture and your customers. Building in Fun and Incentives not only makes the experience richer it also allows the outsourcer to use this as an attraction tool for new recruits, so you get even better-quality candidates hungry to work for your campaign.

# 8. The beauty of having someone external look at your process is that they can do so objectively so Create an open dialogue for process improvement – don’t be defensive if your outsourcer asks a lot of questions about the process, in fact I would go as far as to say be grateful! They are asking because they want to learn and want to help you make the process as slick as possible for your customers and make sure agents fully understand what they are doing. Be open to new suggestions that may have on improving the process and some of the technology such as speech analytics or automated Quality dashboards they may be able to bring to the table that you may want to adopt internally.

# 9. When you move at pace things can get missed so If In doubt slow the roll out…sometimes a proof of concept in a particular area or with one team can help you kick the tyres on whether outsourcing is right for you or even better allow you to test your hypothesis on whether something works before you roll it out to everyone for example a particular campaign message you want to test with customers or offers that might be available, Use your outsourcers as a control cell for the message before you launch company wide, this creates intelligence and volume that you might not have had access to.

# 10. It’s not unusual for companies to have more than one outsourcer, especially if you operate 24/7 access so Don’t feel you have to put all your eggs in one basket – Sometimes using more than one outsourcer can be useful to allow for contingency of coverage and breadth of cover across the global clock which means you are open all hours to all people, especially when you have a strong digital retail presence, people may want to webchat at all hours dependent on tehri location so resource this as appropriate but also think locations and site strategy as part of your conversation. Using more than one outsourcer also has the benefit that it keeps your outsourcer on their toes and allows you to calibrate performance across multiple outsourcers to get your best bang for your buck!

As if 10 top tips weren’t enough we also have a Bonus tip for you and this is probably one of the most important ones so listen up!

it’s not the sexiest topic but it stands you in good stead, Governance baby! Daily stand-up calls and meetings to discuss all the key dynamics of the campaign, these are already understood as you’ve done Tip #3 & #5 and you’ve been regularly calibrating as mentioned in tip #6 so this shouldn’t be a surprise and should be a positive and constructive discussion. When starting the relationship you may want to consider Daily stand ups and introduce comm’s plans such as Slack or Whatsapp to quickly nip issues in the bud but as you go start to move towards weekly and monthly meetings and as an absolute minimum you should do a quarterly business review – this will help define future strategy and help you look further down the funnel for recruitment and expansion and build that Partner relationship that helps you see the outsourcer as a natural extension to your business.

Outsourcing should be a fix to a problem, it shouldn’t create more problems, if it does something’s not quite right and perhaps it’s time to confront the brutal truth and request a divorce or at the very least a little counselling!  For help working through what you can and maybe should considering outsourcing drop us a line at www.fabsolutions.co.uk