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Sep 20

Call-Center Outsourcing and Transparency

If you are in the process of considering outsourcing some aspects of your company´s business activities you are probably using the Internet to do some level of investigation. This might include basic topics, what to do and don´t do, success and horror stories, vendors, checklists, etc. In your process of investigation you may run into the concept of “transparency”, an often abused business term with increasingly nasty political overtones if one spends any time observing the emotionally charged election season in the US. If you choose to look up the term of “transparency” in a dictionary you will get a lot of different contexts based on its type of use (politics, business, media, financial, etc.) but for this discussion let us simply focus on business. In this context as related to call-center outsourcing, let us view transparency as a management philosophy that minimizes barriers of communication to facilitate the flow of information between the outsourcing provider and the client.

In particularly you will likely find that “transparency” or “transparent” are commonly used marketing terms used by call-center outsourcing providers. Why? As a basic starting point, the outsourcing providers know that if you have little experience in outsourcing, you will likely be “uncomfortable” with the thought of letting go of part or all of the basic business process. Business managers by nature like control (i.e., manage) of the resources in the business process. So, the call-center outsourcer wants to alleviate the uncomfortable feeling of the decision-making by offering a “full-disclosure” of who, what, how, and when. The call-center outsourcing provider wants you to have the warm fuzzy feeling that by opening up the clothes, by working together as a trusted teammate, things won´t be as bad as you fear. If you have previous experience in outsourcing, the same still applies, but for substantially different reasons. In the latter case, you have been burnt at least once in the outsourcing business relationship. Things were not as they seemed and did not go as advertised. You now an instinctive ability to smell if things aren´t right and thus the call-center outsourcer, acknowledging that experience, wants to “share the pain”, to verbalize what didn´t go right, to let you know that they are going to be different and that this time it will be much better.

What do most businesses desire once they have made a decision to outsource? They want to reduce their costs, improve the quality, focus on core strengths, increase revenue/profitability and be more competitive. They basically want more for less with maybe a good surprise thrown in.

OK., so how do the call-center outsourcers provide transparency, to give you that good surprise? Some examples include: allowing you to interview and select the personnel assigned to your business process: listening to your agents talking to your customers whenever you want; conference calls and status reports with your assigned team; voice recordings of your agents and customers to listen to, access to production reports by agent to determine levels of productivity, access to outsourcer vendor management in real-time (chat), etc. These tools provide a means to facilitate the communication and accountability (transparency) of the personnel assigned to your outsourcing process. They provide a sense of “control” and direct involvement to the client of the outsourcing personnel and the process.

If transparency offers the perception of a higher likelihood of success, what would be the ideal outsourcing process for your needs? It is perhaps easiest to think of it from the vantage point if you were managing the process internally, that is, that you are NOT GOING to outsource the process. You know the process, you have the infrastructure, you choose the personnel, you determine the metrics for evaluation, you select the forms of monitoring and reporting, etc. If cost, time and management bandwidth were not considerations, you would probably not outsource. Given that is not the case, you would do all the above, with the exception of the daily management of personnel and associated costs. It is primarily the labor component in the business process that gets outsourced (and possibly infrastructure costs), with the assumption that the difference in labor and infrastructure costs is sufficient to justify the outsourcing decision.

In a good outsourcing transparency model, your outsourcing provider replicates the process with the personnel assigned having your company´s logo stamped to their foreheads. They walk and talk your company´s language to your company´s customers, but are simply located in another location, with the labor costs and management assumed by a third party.

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