Finding Success Between Shores

By Dilip Barot

Today, business decision-makers have more choices for outsourcing call center operations. From onshore to offshore to nearshore, there is no shortage of people or places willing to host and manage your daily customer service work.

The benefit of going offshore or nearshore remains the same: financial savings. According to Gartner, 80 percent of companies cite cost-cutting as the main reason for outsourcing. It is reported that the average savings for outsourced operations is about 20 percent. However, for some specific work functions, moving operations offshore to places like India, the Philippines, or Malaysia can reduce hourly operating expenses by up to 50 percent.

While the desire may be to save money, more and more businesses across the US are bringing work back stateside. There are several reasons this trend is growing. Key drivers include the language barriers for some locations; the physical travel distance for on-site inspection and management; and most recently, the added pressure by the US government to increase jobs in America. In fact, it is anticipated that President Obama will advocate re-introducing a bill to offer a 20 percent tax break for businesses willing to bring jobs back to the states.

For some organizations, the answer is either black or white: You either stay on US soil or move your business offshore. However, many business executives are finding that a mix of sourcing alternatives provides the best value and allows for a more balanced approach to managing their customer service needs as well as the bottom line.

Working with an outsourcer that offers the flexibility and choice of “all shores” is a great way to maximize operational excellence and profitability. Selecting the right partner is the key. Consider the following tips when contemplating a “multi-shore” BPO:

US Presence: Most US businesses are seeking experienced contact center professionals that can relate to customers. Working with a BPO that has a strong operating presence in the US, with a seasoned management team, is the best way to assure you will receive the cultural support you need. Too often offshore BPOs host a small sales office in the US but have no physical contact centers or experience working domestically. Securing a BPO partner with US executives that have managed or served in offshore locations is ideal.

Experience Matters: The contact center space is competitive, and hungry sales executives will all tell you the same story: “We can do anything.” The key, however, is that experience matters. Find a partner that has worked with the campaigns for the industry you seek. Benchmark their results to others providers. Select one that knows your industry, and can gain you speed to market. It might take a little longer to select the right partner, but in the end, you will benefit from having experienced agents that can deliver results from day one.

Shore to Shore: As a business ebbs and flows, the type of work functions you may need to outsource will vary. Functions can range from inbound/outbound service, sales, back-office support, order entry, email, chat, help desk, and social media. This is why finding a partner with location and resource options becomes important.

Some clients choose to outsource highly intensive work functions like dispute handling and customer service to an onshore location to avoid any additional frustration with language barriers, while others find that outsourcing chat and back-office functions to offshore facilities is a great way to tap highly educated resources without degrading the quality of their customer relationships. Identifying and implementing the right mix for your business is a lot easier when you have a partner who offers you all choices. Using a mix-and-match approach allows you to target the right people at the right time—and for the right cost.

One-Stop Shopping: If you have ever used disparate systems, you know the difficulty of integrating the information across platforms and applications. According to one industry report, contact center leaders ranked consolidated reporting as their highest IT priority. Utilizing one full-service provider that has a consistent reporting process gives you added insight to review program effectiveness and adjust on a real-time basis. Having one leadership team across all centers is another added bonus. As the client, one-stop shopping gives you the benefit of consistent management direction, overall execution, and easier communication for all parties.

Outsourcing your customer service operations is a big decision. Contact center leaders must be thoughtful and diligent when selecting a viable partner. Regardless of which shore you choose, applying these tips will enhance your selection process and increase your overall success rate.

Dilip Barot is the founder and chief strategist of Etech Global Services, a provider of customer contact and business process outsourcing solutions. Etech employs over 3,000 contact center professionals across seven contact centers, located in the US, India, and Jamaica.

[From Connection Magazine April 2013]

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