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Sourcing the right automobile and call center solution using Edmonds.com's 10 Steps to Finding the Right Car for You

This article was originally published on the Golden Gate BPO Solutions blog.

Although my wife and I have been in the car-buying market before, this time is different.  The car is not for us.  It is for our soon to be 16-year old daughter!  And, for the first time, so many factors, and what seem to be moving pieces, have been part of our decision making process: Buy or lease?  New or Used (well, the politically correct term these days is “pre-owned”)?  How much is too much to spend?  How does spend play into safety concerns?  What happens when she goes to college?  What do we do with the car then?  Does our 13-year old son acquire “primary rights” to the keys when he becomes 16 years old during the middle of our daughter’s freshman year in college?  I could go on for pages and pages with all the questions and answers we went through prior to making our decision, but hopefully you get the point.

So, after we did make our automobile decision, the complex (or dysfunctional) circuits in my brain, no doubt effected by my 18 years in the call center industry, sent the following question to the front of my mind:  Can one draw any helpful parallels between the steps and considerations taken when buying or leasing a car with making an informed decision regarding the right call center solution for someone’s company’s needs?

I went on-line one night and did the Google thing, played the role of uninformed car buyer, which was easy to play for me, and stumbled upon an article published by Edmunds.com, a self-proclaimed “US Online Resource for Automotive Information.”  The article is called 10 Steps to Finding the Right Car for You.   It seemed to be comprehensive, yet simple and structured as well.  What follows is the guidance Edmunds.com provides, through their 10 steps, to people looking for advice and direction related to acquiring a new car followed by my own interpretation of how the order and steps can be applied by people making decisions on behalf of their company related to the best call center solution for their organization.  This is not exactly meant to be something read in the same light as a Harvard Business Review article or a Gartner, Forrester, Deloitte or formal global consulting firm white paper, but something else “maybe” you can add to your call center cook book series or find some nuggets of value….or, just chalk it up as an amusing attempt to compare choosing a car to a call center.  However, there is nothing super-mystical about choosing the right call center solution for your company and,  as most strategic business decisions and transactions go, I strongly believe that sound planning as to what you want to achieve, a well thought out and implemented process as to how you will get there, and then trusting your experience, your advisors or teammates and, ultimately, your gut and instincts win the day.

Well, see what you think…

Step #1 – Consider Your Needs Rather than Your Wants

Automobile Needs – How Many Passengers do You Want to Carry?  What type of driving do you want to do?  Is fuel economy important to you?  Is functionality or styling more important to you?

Call Center Needs – How many call center agents do you need currently and how many do you anticipate needing at any seasonal or other peak periods and/or for more permanent ramping down the road?  Do you require customer service, technical support, sales, inbound, outbound, back-office, social media support, etc., or a combination of capabilities?  How important are the economics to you?  Can you evaluate your call center options based on a healthy balance between quality and cost? Or, is cost the driving factor?  How much weight do you assign to the operational processes, company culture, results and management versus the beauty of the building, the furniture, flooring, layout, overall appearance of the facility and maybe the sexiness of the geographical destination?

Step #2 – How Much Car Can You Afford?

Automobile – What is your budget?

Call Center – What is your company budget?

Step #3 – Should You Lease or Own?

Automobile Lease Pros – You can drive a more expensive car for less money.  You can drive a new car every few years.  There are no trade-in hassles at the end of the lease.

Call Center Outsourcing Pros – You can save capital expenditures, not carry fixed costs, and avoid underutilization of resources.  Your outsourced provider is responsible for human resources hiring, training and management, facility and technology maintenance and upgrades.  At the end of your outsourcing agreement, you do not have any hard assets to sell or try to re-allocate.

Automobile Ownership Pros – There are no mileage penalties for increased driving.  In the long run, your car expenses will be lower.  You have the right to modify your car to your tastes.

Call Center Ownership Pros – To the extent available capacity exists, you can leverage your fixed costs and investment.  If you can run your call center efficiently and at full capacity, in the long run you could save money after covering your initial capital expenditures, continued fixed costs and ongoing maintenance and upgrade requirements.  You have the ability to modify anything you want in the call center to your tastes.

Step #4 – Have You Considered all of the Costs of Ownership?

Automobile – Depreciation, insurance, maintenance, finance/banking fees, repairs, fuel costs, and more.

Call Center – Capital investment/depreciation and amortization, salaries and wages, benefits, payroll and other taxes, health care, utilities, technology licenses and maintenance, fixed costs/SG&A (Selling, General and Administrative Costs), disposition costs, and more.

Step #5 – Have You Considered Similar Vehicles in Your Class to Compare?

Automobile – Have you evaluated similar cars in your class to compare (based on your analysis in Steps 1-4)?

Call Center – Have you evaluated call centers with similar capabilities (based on your analysis in Steps 1-4)?

Step #6 – Check Dealer Inventory for Availability

Automobile – What dealers have the car in stock that you need?

Call Center – What specific locations, geographies and call center providers have the capabilities to meet your conclusions reached in Steps #1-5?

Step #7 – Schedule a Test Drive

Automobile – Test Drive (“Kick the Tires”)

Call Center – Site Visit/Due Diligence (“Kicking the Tires”)

Step #8 – How to Test Drive a Car

Automobile – Drive it the way you would use the car if you bought it.  Spend enough time to look it over.  Consider your intuition/follow your instincts.

Call Center – During your site visit, evaluate the call center’s capabilities based on the criteria that motivated you to go there.  Consider whether or not the people who work for and manage the call center operation are people you trust, qualified and whom you would enjoy working with each day.  Spend enough time at the call center so you can really digest what makes it tick and see it for what it truly is.  And then, consider your intuition and follow your instincts as well.

Step #9 – Making Your Decision

Automobile – Sleep on it.  If you need to, take several steps back and drive more cars. Realize there isn’t one perfect answer.  There could be several good choices and it’s really a matter of individual taste and your intuition.

Call Center – Sleep on it…maybe more than one night in this situation.  If you need to, take several steps back in order to determine if there are additional call centers you should end up conducting site visits.  There could be several good choices and it’s really a matter of you and your team’s taste and intuition.

Step #10 – Buy or Lease the Car

Automobile – Make sure the agreement for the car you choose matches the deal, specifications and is the exact car you acquired, then drive it off the lot.

Call Center – Make sure the agreement reflects what you wanted and contains all the important business terms and matches up with all the expectations set between the parties, and then begin the implementation.