Published: July 21, 2015 | Comments
You’re running a growing company. Growing quickly, by leaps and bounds, to the point where you are getting distracted by running the company instead of doing what you set out to do. Whether it’s engineering or designing or programming or selling—you want to get back to it. So you’re looking to streamline operations and focus on your strong suit(s). You’re looking at a business process outsourcing (BPO) agreement with a contact center.
Once you remind yourself that outsourcing isn’t a bad thing, you dive in. You’re protective of your brand and want to use US-based agents, rather than a BPO with agents offshore. And you’re enthusiastic about making your life easier—and maybe even improving the customer service your customers experience. But where to start?
The process for entering into a BPO arrangement can vary, of course, depending on a brand’s specific requirements, requests and situation. There are some similarities, though, and being familiar with the broad strokes can be useful.
The first thing to be aware of: the first 90 days of a BPO contract are very important, as they set the parameters and the tone for the relationship. The first 90 days may not even involve the contractor interacting with customers, for a contact center, or with your daily finances, for an accounting firm. The first 90 days are about working out the details and establishing the positive working relationship that will result in a successful on-going relationship.
Using a contact center example, here’s a rough outline of ten things you can expect in the first 90 days of a BPO agreement—with some tips to help you make it a success.
1. A cross-functional team, led by a Launch Manager, is assembled to support the launch implementation. People from all areas of the contractor are involved—and may request involvement from different areas of your organization. This is the team that will set the plan, check in on the plan and ensure the plan is successful in the short- and long-term.
2. The launch team works with you (the client) to gather all requirements and create a custom project plan. This is where the good stuff begins. You, the client, are responsible for detailing all of your needs, wants, must-haves, like-to-haves, pipe dreams and deal-breakers. This is the nitty-gritty numbers-sharing stage, where you need to lay out all your cards. The contractor is responsible for gathering the information, confirming understanding and synthesizing a plan to make your expectations a reality (and setting expectations if they are not reality).
3. An assigned Launch Manager is your main point of contact during the launch process and will communicate dependencies, timelines, risks and overall project status. Make sure you like this person, because you will be in close contact for at least three months. This is your person, your guide, your advisor through the process. Ask questions and be sure you understand and are satisfied with progress. If not, speak up!
4. The Agent Acquisition team will find the right agents with the necessary skills for your program either within its existing independent agent community or externally using its sourcing website. Be clear about what you want and don’t want in the agents who will be interacting with your customers. They will be the face of your brand and potentially the only person a customer interacts with…so set your standards high.
5. Using your historical and projected call volume statistics, the Workforce Management team will analyze the data and determine the number of agents needed to ensure service levels are met and that there is a ramp plan in place to help you scale your business. This is an important step. Your initial discussions and plan included required service levels and growth projections—this is where the “rubber meets the road,” as it were, to staff up. One of the biggest benefits of working with a contractor is the ability to quickly and easily adjust your staffing when there is a surge in business or (fingers crossed this doesn’t happen) a dip. Contractors can quickly call upon additional resources, train them and get them working for you to ensure consistent, quality service for all of your customers.
6. The Certification team will work closely with your Training resource or Subject Matter Expert, review your current training materials and recommend a certification approach that engages agents, particularly home-based independent agents, through Virtual Classroom Sessions and interactive e-Learning courses that include assessments and knowledge checks. Training is a big factor in success and another area where contractors offer an advantage. The depth and breadth of experience in creating and implementing training programs likely far surpasses your experience—which means it will be much more effective and more efficient. Virtual learning is an effective training tool and makes for streamlined assessment—leading to faster recognition and implementation of additional training requirements.
7. The Professional Services and Account Management groups will partner with you to define technical requirements for your program and will work with the Telephony, Engineering and other technical teams to implement the call routing strategy, IVR, scripting, system integration/web services and reporting set up. There are many moving parts on the contractor’s side to ensure success—these are just a few. Again, listen, ask questions, provide input and feedback and help shape your successful program.
8. The Program Management and Onboarding teams will shepherd agents through the certification process and assist with agent readiness for live calls. Another big benefit contractors offer is role-playing with live feedback, giving agents “real-world” experience with the types of calls and information they will handle. In addition to the training and certification they received, putting those skills to work in a low-risk environment (with no actual customers) build confidence and helps improve the customer experience when agents interact with customers.
9. Starting on day 1 of live calls, your Account Manager, Program Manager and the Workforce Management team will begin gathering agent data that is the foundation for performance based routing, and immediately begin work on agent and program optimization. At the end of the first 90 days, the program is only just beginning! Performance-based routing means that more calls will be routed to the agents who receive the best customer scores and achieve high performance metrics. This helps ensure customer satisfaction. Your involvement with the program will lessen but still be important as refinements are made to ensure SLAs and KPIs are met, and ultimately, that customers are satisfied with the service they are receiving. Ongoing optimization will ensure continued success.
10. Your contact center is up and running, customers are receiving the information they need and you are back to doing what you set out to do. Congratulations! A smooth and successful contact center set-up is no small feat—it takes time, effort, energy and commitment. Now that it is established, expect regular check-ins and updates along with more time to do what you love.
Good luck and happy BPO-ing!