When’s the right time to outsource elements of the customer experience?

Having worked in customer experience for many years now, I have no doubt that at times outsourcing certain elements of a business can be a real shot in the arm. It can make things run more efficiently and effectively; it can free up resources; it can save the organisation money; it can help engage staff, and it can effect a change in overall direction.

But what is equally true is that outsourcing is not a magic bullet. If an area of the business is failing, then outsourcing is not suddenly going to turn things around. I chant the mantra, 'Fix it, simplify it, and then outsource it' to my clients on a regular basis. This push to outsource is particularly relevant in areas such as the contact centre. So when is the right time to do it, and what should a brand look for in its outsourcing partner?

Take a 360 perspective

Contact centres remain an important part of the modern customer experience, but they must constantly evolve and refine how they operate to keep delivering a superior customer experience. There have been advances such as Visual IVR and other solutions that make the concept of the Single Digital Channel (SDC) a reality and are breathing new life into the contact centre.

Keeping customer contact in-house is tempting. It allows a brand to retain control, is straight forward and initially cheaper, and there are fewer opportunities for the brand to suffer through association with an outsourced contact centre.

But are the people that run and manage operations in a contact centre necessarily the best-placed to understand how to improve it and make it fit for purpose? To decide whether or not a contact centre needs outsourcing, a 360 degree perspective is essential, and self-interest must be put to one side. This review can be done internally, but achieves more using external expertise. Even if you ultimately decide to keep your contact centre in-house, external guidance can help get you the best result.

Transparency and sector experience

If a brand decides that outsourcing its contact centre is the best way forward then transparency should be at the top of the list when evaluating a partner. A brand should expect and demand assurances as to the quality of interactions with their customers. So a provider should be clear and transparent about call volumes, the number of contacts answered; how many contacts are missed each day, and provide KPI scores each day to ensure things are as they should be. They should also provide actionable customer feedback to support and improve brand reputation.

Experience in your sector is also important. While best practice in an outsourced contact centre remains the same whatever the industry, there are nuanced differences between say an energy supplier and a travel firm. So what kind of customer base does your proposed provider have? Have they worked with other firms in your industry previously? If you can see firm evidence of success with these, then that is a good sign they could be the right fit for your business.

The latest technologies

Of course, perhaps the most significant factor for a provider is having the right technology. Anyone providing outsourced contact centre services needs to be able to demonstrate they can make use of advances like Visual IVR and the Single Digital Channel.

SDC gives a customer service agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers - voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

It allows agents to deliver a much more efficient service and is a real asset to any firm wanting to deliver true next-generation customer experience. But such advances would not be so easily available should a brand choose not to outsource its contact centre. Providers bring technical expertise to the table, and can react to the latest technology trends far more effectively than in-house teams.

That’s why outsourcing can be such a strong option for contact centres, delivering the most powerful technologies and helping to maintain the overall customer experience. The best option is an outcome-based commercial model, with a hybrid of fixed work-based payment and performance or NPS-based bonus elements, much more likely to deliver a win for both the brand and the provider.

Maurice Vink, Principal Consultant, PeopleTECH

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Jirsak