The One Thing to Improve Outsourcing Success
By Colin Taylor
I was on a webinar yesterday and heard that according to Gartner 80 percent of customer service outsourcing projects that are designed to cut costs will fail. Gartner cited many causes including incomplete processes, ill-planned compensation structures and lack of management. This statistic is in line with the Orbys Consulting finding that “50 per cent of UK blue chip companies still enter the outsourcing selection process without knowing exactly what they want or how best to source it. While one in three firms admitted that their deal failed to meet their needs, a staggering 23 per cent took the services back in-house”
There are alot of actions you can take to improve the chances of success when outsourcing your call center, and certainly knowing what you are trying to achieve is one of them. But for my money and based upon hundreds of outsourcing projects I have been involved with, both as a consultant and as an outsource provider, the #1 thing you need to do to improve your chances of success is to understand what you really have today.
Many clients who embark on outsourcing initiatives, do not have a clear or in many cases an accurate understanding of their existing center. They assume, which is always dangerous, that because they have a process workbook on the shared drive that the process maps are current and accurate. From personal experience they are almost never both of these. Senior executives assume that because they have a training program, that it is full, robust and well aligned with the processes (which we just discovered are not complete). Bright contact center executives assume that the their recruiting and selection models are delivering exactly the right staff to do the job well and that the knowledgebase contains all of the information an agent requires.
These are all Dangerous Assumptions.
If the center I have described above were to outsource, they would quickly discover that:
1- The processes as mapped, do not appear to match the calls that are actually being received. This leads to lower FCR (First Contact Resolution), more calls and increased costs from the outsourcer. This wasn’t evident prior to outsourcing as the agents knew the processes were not always correct and they had work arounds, undocumented work arounds to deal with such variation.
2- The knowledgebase where the freshly trained outsource agents were instructed to go to get the answers to questions, was woefully inadequate, multiple entries, missing entries and just plain wrong entries exist in virtually every knowledgebase. The in house agents knew this also and had sticky notes and pages in their workspace or had simply memorized the correct or accurate information. Of course wrong answers equal longer calls, lower FCR, more calls, lower CSAT and NPS scores and more costs from the outsourcer.
3- The training program while adequate internally, where Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) are plentiful and easy to find, didn’t need to be rigorous. The fact that it wasn’t mapped to the processes, was something that knowledge and experience within th in-house center could overcome. In an outsourced it becomes a very expensive luxury. Poor training, leads again to longer calls, lower FCR, more calls, lower CSAT and NPS scores and more costs from the outsourcer.
4- The hiring criteria even if followed to the letter, may not deliver the same level of competence that existed internally. The job and function requirements may have shifted over time and the position descriptions and associated skills and competencies may or may not have been changed. But even if the skills and comps are accurate and the outsourcer is hiring to the correct profile, the make up of the agent pool has changed. In an outsource environment all agents will be new. In your own center before outsourcing you would likeley have had a cross section of newbies, tenured staff and veterans, each available to assist their less experienced colleagues.
So to recap, not fully understanding and appreciating what you have today, will cost you more, and make your customers less happy. I don’t think either of these outcomes has ever been the stated objective of an outsourcing initiative.
The alternative to the ‘misery on all levels’ offered by the above scenario is to invest in an Outsource Preparedness & Suitability study, that will tell you what you have, really have, today and what actions you need to complete to be able to outsource smoothly and avoid the above listed challenges, downstream, when they cost alot more.
Executing a Preparedness and Suitability study before outsourcing allows you to surface the complex and difficult tasks and processes and assess each process based upon its completeness and accuracy, and its alignment to hiring and training.
A small investment early in the outsource evaluation process can save you from joining Gartners or Orbys majority of failed outsource organizations.
For more information about how to conduct an Outsource Preparedness and Suitability study please contact me by phone 416-276-9068 or by email.