How to Properly Manage a Call Center Outsourcer
Being that we have over 25 years of call center outsourcing experience, we thought it could be helpful to talk about how to manage your partner while outsourcing: How your relationship should work, and what strategies you should implement. We know outsourcing can feel like you are giving up power, or that the experience your customers are going to be receiving is coming from a third party completely out of your control. If you have a good plan going in and choose the right partner, that should never be the case.
Before we get into the best ways to manage your call center partner, you need to know how to select the right partner for your organization. Here are two articles that we have written on choosing the best call center outsourcer.
One post is on 10 key points you need to follow when choosing a call center outsourcing partner.
The other post is on 21 Questions that we ask call center managers when we are brought in to consult. These will give you some great ideas on some of the culture and operations questions you should ask a prospective call center partner.
So now that we have chosen our call center partner we need to manage them Here are some of the key points to follow when entering into a third-party call center relationship.
1. Do Not Treat Your Outsourcer Like a Vendor
Your relationship with your BPO is too important to treat like a vendor. Your customer service outsourcer is not just some company that you are buying a piece of software from, they are speaking to your customers. There needs to be a give-and-take, an ebb-and-flow to the relationship. You must treat your outsourcer like an extension of your business. If you come in with a stick mentality, and you know that if they mess up or make a mistake, you come down hard on them, that relationship is not going to work. There needs to be a constant cycle of constructive feedback, and you need to treat this relationship like a partnership. Visit them! Go out to dinner! Develop the relationship farther than a business relationship. Be friends with your outsourcing partner!
2. Be an Active Part of the Training
Whether you are onboarding five or 500 agents, you need to be a part of at least the first three or four classes. “Train the Trainer” models are important so you know exactly how your outsourcer is training your reps. You should be on-site (or at least on a video call) for the launch. If you do not have time moving forward and you want to be more hands-off, the outsourcer’s dedicated trainers should be able to take the baton and train the next classes efficiently. However, the agents should always be able to put a face to the client. Make sure your outsourcing agents know who you are.
Work with your partner to develop a solid QA platform that you both agree too. This will make sure that you get the most our of your calibration sessions and you will be able to trust the scores your call center partner should be giving you weekly.
3. One Point of Contact for Your BPO Partner
Have a Client Services Manager Lead: one person you can form a relationship with, and you can ask any question and they can help solve any problem. Nothing is more frustrating than to face a client to move through a corporate directory to find the right person in the right department. You should only be talking to two employees of your call center partner 99% of the time, which is your client service manager and her backup.
Make sure they are able to respond to you within 15-30 minutes for emails and voicemails. That is the SLA time that we give our client services managers and is close to what most centers will offer.
4. Have Weekly Calibration Sessions
Sit down once a week and listen to either recorded or live calls. Your team and your BPO Partner should be on the same page. Understand your goals and understand when your partner may not be hitting them. Make sure you and your partner’s scoring mentalities are the same. What you think is a QA score of 90, your partner could think is a 78. What you think is a 78, your partner might think is a 92. Be consistent.
5. Have an Issue/Escalation Process
Meaning, if a call gets out of hand, if a customer is using foul language, if an agent becomes visibly irritated, have a written procedure about what happened that can be sent to the client. If your BPO Partner makes a mistake, you need to make sure they are comfortable enough to tell you about it. You do not want your BPO Partner to be afraid of you, you need to work together to solve problems to make your customer service as efficient and enjoyable as it can be.
6. Have Weekly Status Calls/ Quarterly Reviews
Have a weekly catch up and talk about service levels, handle time, call volume, and/or whether you need to add more agents to your program. Any adjustments that could be made should be talked about in a weekly status call. In a quarterly review, you should talk about your program at a macro level; agent sentiment, customer sentiment, speech analytics, or if any big changes need to be made.
7. IM Tools
Having some sort of quick messaging tool like Slack can be an easy and quick way to update your BPO partner quickly on any changes. Have constant access to your floor.
8. Be Flexibile
“Everyone has a plan to get punched in the face” -Mike Tyson. No matter how foolproof you think your plans are, how solid you think your forecast is, things will inevitably change. Understand that the partner you choose is going to bend over backward to make sure they are working correctly for you.
We have been so lucky to have the amazing clients we have here are Expivia. I have learned just as much from them as they have from us. They are the reason we were able to hold strong through Covid. Sure, you can be a jerk to your BPO partner and pride yourself in your toughness, but when rubber hits the road, the clients that treat us well are the ones we are going to prioritize our service to when things get rough. The number one reason why programs fail is a lack of coordination, flexibility, and understanding between the client and the BPO Partner. Treat your Outsourcer like a partner, not a vendor!