Let’s face it, we live in a global economy that is becoming increasingly profit-driven but our margins are smaller than ever. The fact that 200 of the Fortune 500 companies in the US are actively involved in some measure of back office outsourcing is tantamount to that reality.
Outsourcing began to bloom sometime in the 1970’s as technologies started to make the planet a smaller more accessible place. As our perceptions of distance and boundaries changed, so did our self-imposed limitations on what we had to pay to produce products and who we could sell those products to. The giants of industry started to realize that while they paid one worker nine dollars an hour in New York to complete a reasonably menial task, they could take that same nine dollars and pay roughly 21 similarly skilled workers in other countries. Hence, the birth of New Delhi as the call center capital of the world. Talk about a productivity boom. Like it or loathe it, the concept of shipping your back office functions overseas is here to stay and you better get on the ship.
So the next question is how? Well, you can go with a reputable, highly glossed, multi-national corporation that feels it has earned the right to charge more and more with every new client, or a fresh, eager and driven start up. There are pros and cons to both.
There are literally thousands of call centers to choose from in New Delhi or the Philippines. The larger ones are very well established with hundreds of employees, a fantastic infrastructure and a solid reputation. They have clients like GE, Bank of America, Proctor and Gamble and countless others. They do volume and it pays. Our never-ending quest to forage for more dollars from the money tree here in the US has, as a by-product, created a booming beast across the sea. Call centers in India and the Philippines are big business and it is getting bigger.
But here is the wrinkle; perception of most outsourcing to international countries has a negative connotation. And continues to be the blunt of many jokes when dealing with customer service. What you need to be successful in outsourcing your business services boils down to two very simple but very important things; excellent people and excellent technology. These two factors are the make or break backbone of any overseas endeavour.
Normally, I would tell you to start with an excellent person first. The seed to plant the money tree if you will, unless you know someone in India or whichever international country you choose to launch your endeavour, I suggest starting with the technology.
After you have decided that outsourcing is the best alternative for your company, you have to decide what service capabilities you absolutely must have to meet your needs and look for a center that uses the right technology to meet those needs. There are plenty of different technology players in the market and choosing a reputable call center based on name alone may not be the right fit for what your particular needs may be. Concentrate on the technology first, the rest will follow.
If your company prides itself on customer service and has built its reputation on a customer first philosophy, then keeping a watchful eye on your frontline staff will be an important priority to maintain and nurture. Be sure to look for a call center that uses a software package that includes the most up to date employee monitoring capabilities. One that not only records and archives conversations but also can allow you to listen in on a conversation as it is happening for real-time quality control.
The ability to perform quality control tests and reviews is also key. Having a grading mechanism within the system is important, but also having the ability to use the recordings and tests for training purposes makes the system become more valuable. Syncing your training material and policy procedures allows agents to learn from their own mistakes and ensure they are representing you and your company correctly.
Another feature to look for is the ability to capture real time screen shots of your CSRs to ensure they are going about resolution in the correct way. Monitoring the PC screens of your remote agents allows you to ensure correct data entry and properly handled client information.
You should be able to ensure that your call center staff are approaching customer inquiries and conflicts using the tools they are given and doing so in the proper method as prescribed by you. This will help you feel more secure and melt away some of those miles between you and your operations.