Outsourcing customer services or customer support can be a big decision for many companies. A lot of questions arise concerning how to procure contact center solutions and setting up guidelines for the procurement can involve a lot of work since there is a great deal to reflect on and think about.
Outsourcing customer services is a unique situation for each individual company and there is no comprehensive guide. However, we can get you started by providing some advice and pointing out some questions you should ask yourself. The answers you come up with will hopefully get you a decent way down the road.
1. Describe the company’s business and the work carried out by customer services.
Produce a description of your company’s business and the tasks dealt with by your customer services. The more information and statistics are available the more it will help tendering companies gain an understanding and produce relevant estimates. The following points should be included:
- Your company’s business concept, vision and goals.
- Types of cases and a brief description on how they are managed.
- Case times, i.e. the time it takes to manage the case, including after-processing
- Volume per month, Weekly and daily curves.
- Results from any customer surveys and how they are implemented.
If you do not keep track of all the above points, share what you have and take it from there. The suppliers you will talk to have extensive experience of delivering outsourcing services and are sure to be able to help you move forward.
2. What is the main purpose of outsourcing your customer services?
Is it, for example:
- More satisfied customers (availability, service)
- Reduced costs (efficient staffing)
- Higher revenues (repeat customers, add-on sales, upsales, lower churn)
- Development (modern technology and customer service at the forefront)
- Be equipped for higher volumes/new customers
3. Objectives and targets shape the requirements for the procurement
Based on relevant objectives and how they are mutually prioritised, define specific needs and targets (KPIs) to enable you to establish relevant requirements in the procurement. Accept input from customers and internal departments such as management, marketing, customer services, logistics, finance. What can each department provide outsourced customer services with and what does it need to provide them with and what do you need to get back?
If the main objective is greater customer satisfaction, you need to know what factors affect this in a positive way. What are your required opening times? How long does the customer think it is acceptable to wait if there is a queue? How do customers prefer to contact customer services?
This will be particularly important if cost is a significant factor. Longer opening times and shorter response times drive costs and you should find a level that is in line with your customers’ expectations.
Do you need more targets regarding availability, such as response rate and average waiting time? A particular average waiting time often corresponds to a particular response rate (i.e. the targets should go hand in hand). If you have several targets within the same area, there should be a correlation between them.
Also think about how you have arrived at your targets, whether they are relevant and balanced and whether system solutions exist to measure the targets you set? Will the targets be fixed or do you want to be able to adjust or replace them as the business develops?
Examples of factors that are directly price-related to the solution.
- Opening times
- Channels (Telephone, E-Mail, Chat, Social Media)
- Average waiting time, x% answered within y seconds, response rate (PCA)
- First call resolution rate (FTR/FCR)
- Customer satisfaction measurement (NPS, CSAT, CES)
- Hit rate, churn rate
4. How will processes and procedures for day-to-day work be designed?
Based on goals and needs. What internal organisation is required? What processes and procedures involving the outsourced customer services need to exist? What mandate and powers does the supplier need to enable it to provide satisfactory service and maintain a high resolution rate?
How involved do you want/need to be when the function has been outsourced, i.e. are you looking for a partner or a supplier? In other words, will you be working closely and dynamically together to achieve common goals or would you rather establish the requirements at the start and then have a supplier that delivers according to those requirements without any more extensive involvement by you as the client? As stated above, the replies are unique to each company, but it is important to consider and clarify these issues.
Should you, as the client, establish all processes and procedures yourself, or could there be advantages with enlisting the supplier’s help?
- How do the suppliers/partners obtain the information they need quickly and easily?
- How do we obtain information on what customers think?
- How do we identify errors/defects in products/services/logistics/payments when we no longer have our finger directly on the pulse as far as the customers are concerned?
- The right staffing at the right time is vital for short response times and cost efficiency at a supplier/partner. What is the best way for us to produce accurate forecasts with minimal deviations?
- How do we work on resolution rates, sales and anti-churn in a structured way?
- Mandates regarding payments, compensation and the power to make decisions?
There are a large number of important questions that you may not previously have thought about. One starting point is that things are often easier than you think when you start to unravel them.
It is common to get the impression that parts of what you are going to outsource are so complex that they need to be managed internally rather than be assigned to another company. However, it is just as common to realise after a while that it is equally possible to let someone else handle what was previously perceived as complex, particularly after work has been carried out jointly on processes and procedures.
5. Review the technical platforms and the prerequisites for them
What technology and business functions will be provided by you and what does the supplier need to provide? What statistics/reports are needed in order to monitor performance and with what frequency? What skills you are looking for in the supplier? How can they supplement your own skills? Here are some examples of points your supplier can help you with:
- Forecasting of case volumes and contact patterns
- Communication platforms
- Reliability (redundancy infrastructure and localities)
- Training plans and training materials
- Call strategies
- Process mapping
- IT, system integrations
- Implementation of multichannel solutions, i.e. how can tools such as Chat and social media supplement your activities in the future?
Are you seeking a particular payment model or can you let the supplier propose the most suitable method according to the nature of the assignment and how it can be applied in the supplier’s existing business?
For example, can pricing include some of the following parameters:
- Per managed contact
- Per minute
- Per hour
- Per FTE
- Incentives for achieving targets
As stated above, there are many matters to consider, but the more matters you specify in the procurement documentation, the better the tenders and quotes you will receive. This will also make it easier to compare different tenders. Good luck with your work on outsourcing customer services and your procurement documentation.
Mona Rydén /Operational Manager
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