Insurance for your BPO Efforts
The Reality of Outsourcing Your Contact Center
Congratulations! You decided to outsource your contact center. You put out an RFP and did your due diligence. You carefully considered the key drivers of success: retention of agents, training excellence, quality monitoring, coaching, flexibility, technology, culture, and of course, cost. You spoke with other (satisfied and not so satisfied) clients and investigated their track record over time. And you carefully considered how this provider would/could represent your brand. You made a well-informed, logical choice -- and have taken a serious leap of faith!
Now think ahead 3-6 months. The outsourced contact center you chose brings on another larger account or two. The fabulous management team who worked with you through the launch moved on. Or the high-quality agents you initially trained move on—or both. The cost savings you counted on are not quite there, given longer talk times, lower first call resolution rates, or poor conversion rates. The internal quality scores that your outsourced contact center is providing do not align with what you are hearing yourself or what your customer survey results are telling you. That happens. Frequently. You need to plan for it.
You outsourced your contact center because you wanted to free up internal resources to focus on other parts of the business. After all, you are paying your outsourced partner to manage things for you. Right?
Staying Engaged with your BPO
Well, the reality is that outsourcing your contact center does not mean you can step completely away. You need to stay engaged. Even the best outsourced contact center providers have inconsistent results from time to time. The key is to stay on top of what is happening in the contact center so you can address concerns ‘just-in-time’. To tap into your customer’s experience with each agent interaction.
The primary advantage of hiring an independent, third-party organization to sample your BPO-partner's customer interactions is to ensure you have the necessary insight to fully trust what your BPO is saying about results, quality, and customer loyalty. Think of it as insurance for your Brand.
The most obvious way to do this is via quality monitoring -- evaluating and mining each customer interaction for valuable insight into individual agent performance and more. However, can you trust your BPO to provide insight that is objective and transparent? It is only human nature that they would want to protect you (and their reputation) from ‘bad news’.
You never want to outsource your contact center without setting up the ability to monitor calls, email, and chat yourself. Yes -- the outsourcer should also be monitoring agents daily, but you will want to conduct your own random checking as well. The question is, ‘Do you want to use your own valuable internal employees to spend their time listening to and evaluating a random sample of interactions?’ The answer is ‘no’ for the same reason you outsourced in the first place. However, you do want them to tap into those calls that are problematic or highlight opportunities for improvement.
Just as there are companies that specialize in contact center technology (e.g., Workforce Management, Speech Analytics, IVRs, etc.), so too are there those that specialize in the quality assurance element of contact centers.
How Does Outsourced Contact Center Quality Assurance Work?
You have seen the value of outsourcing your contact center. Now is the time to leverage an independent, third-party perspective of quality in your outsourced contact center. There are a few key differences when you are looking at monitoring your BPO:
The BPO will continue to conduct ongoing, high-volume quality evaluations. That doesn't change; and
The QA provider will randomly select interactions to evaluate across the entire center. For most environments, just 200 additional evaluations will confirm whether the quality assurance results provided by the BPO are accurate and reflect the customer's reality.
Here’s how it works:
The QA provider randomly selects a sample of interactions from your BPO’s call recording (or email/chat) site. Given that the BPO is conducting ongoing QA at the individual agent level (or should be), a random sample across the center or specific queues is all that is needed.
The QA provider captures key insights related to the interaction and can provide you with an overview of how well the BPO is performing. Typically, you will want to compare this result with the QA results the BPO is providing. If there is a wide discrepancy, the outsourced QA provider can ‘calibrate’ with the BPO to ensure greater accuracy.
In addition to an overview of performance, you will also receive valuable data related to training gaps, brand representation, customer experience, and more.
Through real-time reporting, your internal team will gain access to those customer interactions that hold the greatest insight (and challenges) and enable them to act on recommendations proactively.
How Much Is Your Peace of Mind Worth?
Here are a few other things to consider when deciding if you want to do it yourself or hire an outsourced QA partner:
Do It Yourself – Most companies feel that they can handle this task using internal resources. However, the reality is that outsourced contact center providers still require a lot of your attention and support. With this in mind, most companies find that they need to hire people specifically to do this, and this means additional costs (e.g., benefits, meetings, management overhead, training time, vacation time, and more).
Outsourced QA – The cost of hiring an Outsourced QA provider to evaluate a random sample of customer interactions is typically equal to or less than that of a single full-time resource. Rates vary based on the level of seniority of the QA Specialists. In this situation, you will want QA experts. Outsourced QA is generally available on a fixed cost per evaluation which means your budget will be predictable.
2. CUSTOMER PERSPECTIVE
Do It Yourself – Your internal employees simply know too much about the organization and the challenges you are facing. It is difficult to hear/see things from the customer’s perspective. As a result, evaluations may be biased.
Outsourced QA – An Outsourced QA provider is able to provide an independent, third-party perspective that is closer to that of your customers. In addition, some Outsourced QA providers (like VereQuest) can also provide you with insight into the customer’s experience. This is particularly valuable if your BPO is operating in another country.
3. SPECIALIZED QA TOOLS
Do It Yourself – The only QA tools you may have access to may also be used by your BPO. Although you will want the results to be transparent, you will want the reporting mechanism to be separate. Importantly, most QA tools offered by BPO or contact center software providers are rudimentary, offering limited insight.
Outsourced QA - Is typically supported by highly specialized contact center QA software (in most cases proprietary), which in addition to real-time reporting, provides you with full transparency into the QA process.
4. QA EXPERTISE
Do It Yourself – One of the reasons you likely outsourced your contact center in the first place is because you either did not have the expertise or you wanted to focus your effort on other areas of the business. Internal teams often do not have the depth of experience (or attention to detail) that QA needs – they have other skills.
Outsourced QA – When choosing an Outsourced QA partner, you will want to ensure their QA Specialists have at least 6+ years in a supervisory/coaching role. It helps that these individuals are not from the contact center; rather they are skilled coaches and trainers.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that you replace the outsourcer’s quality monitoring but rather augment it. You can do this for just a fraction of what you are paying your BPO. Think of it as insurance for consistently good outsourced contact center performance – and your peace of mind. These three steps will help you stay informed and highlight opportunities for improvement:
Hire a qualified outsourced QA provider to conduct incremental evaluations of randomly selected calls across a category (e.g., service, sales, brand, product, etc.). Don’t forget to include email and chat!
Leverage the results to calibrate with the outsourced contact center’s QA results so you can build ‘trust’ in their internal reporting. And give you the assurance that your brand is being well-represented.
Capture other insights (that may not be related directly to agent performance) like customer demeanor, business insights, high effort, etc., to inform process improvement. Or analyze results to focus on those skills that matter most to improving the customer’s experience.
The net result is that you will be well-informed and in a better position to work with your outsourced contact center partner.
Managing Possible Tension Between Your Partners
Of course, you might be worried that bringing in a third-party quality monitoring provider into your relationship might put your contact center BPO’s nose out of joint. That you do not trust them. Certainly, the conversation and relationship with all your partners need to be respectful, positive, and open. From experience, we know that if your BPO is truly committed to continuous improvement, then they will welcome the opportunity presented by the additional support. The best partners are the ones who are constantly asking, “What else can we be doing to improve performance?”
The common denominator in all of this is that the most important partnership you have is not with any third-party provider -- it is with your customer. And making sure that your outsourced contact center BPO is representing your brand and keeping its promises is paramount. You may be outsourcing the work effort, but the responsibility for delivering a great customer experience remains firmly in your court.
VereQuest is a leading provider of Outsourced Contact Center Quality Assurance products and services. We have been helping some of North America's leading brands improve the quality of their customer interactions in the contact center since 2002. For more information, go to https://www.verequest.com/outsourced-quality-assurance or get in touch!