The Benefits of Outsourcing Customer Communications
What does contact centre outsourcing mean to you? Does it conjure images of faceless offshore contact centres staffed by people who aren’t capable of having a conversation unless it is scripted for them? Whilst this can be the case (we have all experienced this frustrating scenario at some point), it is most definitely not typical and increasingly businesses and brands are looking at the benefits which can be achieved by carefully outsourcing key marketing and communication functions of their operations.
‘Leave it to the experts’ is an oft-used expression and one which is firmly grounded in truth, but businesses can struggle to do so given the fear factor that surrounds outsourcing. Outsourcing can though enable companies to focus on what they do best and leave other specialists (the ‘Outsourcers’) to provide them with the benefit of their skills, knowledge and expertise, taking away tasks which might otherwise prove to be at best a distraction and at worst a serious Achilles’ heel. Different businesses outsource for different reasons but key objectives often include:
• The opportunity to reduce staff and facilities costs
• Increased efficiency, service levels and enquiry response times
• Improved customer service and satisfaction
• A reduction in capital outlay on IT, telephony and infrastructure
• Realising increased revenue and profit margins
Gain the Competitive Edge
Outsourcing communication or contact centre activity has the potential to realise a whole host of benefits but perhaps most importantly it enables businesses to invest in real expertise from people who live and breathe customer relationship management.
Senior Account Director at EWA Bespoke Communications, David Campbell states, “In today’s markets where excellent customer service is a key differentiator for customers with choice, it is crucial to get the timeliness, tone, style and suitability of customer contact activities absolutely right. Whether communications are inbound or outbound; written or verbal; outsourcing these activities to experts is how you can gain that competitive edge which is so vital for ongoing growth and success”.
Effective contact centres build customer loyalty and are not necessarily the offshore ‘battery hen’ environments depicted in the press. The most effective contact centres are staffed with highly trained and motivated agents, recruited to reflect the client’s brand and most often dedicated to a single operation therefore engendering and creating an extension of each client’s business.
The ‘Low Risk’ Option
Outsourcing your contact centre activity enables you to increase your staff without a fixed overhead, it removes the headache of day-to-day management and provides a platform for measurable inputs and outputs that can, and do, realise increased profits and improved efficiencies for companies.
Outsourcing also provides a low-risk opportunity to test a new programme; new initiatives; new enquiry and contact channels. For example, an experienced outsourced contact centre will nearly always offer (or indeed advocate) an initial trial period for any new project, offering the client the option and ability to turn the project on or off dependant on learning and outcomes. This is a further benefit in reducing potential high risk investment in staff, training, management and infrastructure. After all, why take the gamble of recruiting and training new staff to provide an as yet unproven communication programme?
Measurement and ROI
Many of us have experienced the negative aspects of contact centre activity, from frustrating and automated voice messaging; cold calling at inappropriate times with uninteresting services; inbound calls hanging up; uninformed operators continually putting us on hold to answer our questions, all appear to be created just to anger and annoy. And yet we have to assume that this is not the express intention of the provider but do they, or can they measure the impact that this poorly delivered service has on their brand, their business and ultimately their profits?
Here again, an outsourced contact centre provider will potentially already have the systems and processes in place in order to measure precisely these key impacts since this is the lifeblood of their business. They have to be able to evidence these types of results to justify the ongoing investment made by their clients. As important though is how the insight gained from such management information is used in order to amend, redesign or enhance the overall customer communication strategy.
Communication Channels and Strategy
Before outsourcing any customer communication functions, businesses should ask themselves a couple of key questions: in what way and through which channels do customers wish to communicate? Too often companies focus on the channels that are most convenient for themselves rather than the customer, leading to communications that fail to deliver on the brand promises or expectation. At every customer touch point it is essential that the service delivery matches the sales and marketing promise, regardless of the communication medium used.
Customers should not be ‘driven’ to a single source of information or contact but should be able to communicate in their preferred medium and at their preferred time. Websites and email may be perceived as cost effective and interactive; however, what is the opportunity cost of those customers that may not be ‘e-literate’ or have a query that is not answered by the FAQ section? Here again, an outsourced provider will be able to advise, from experience, on preferred channels across differing audiences. The more diverse outsourced service providers may also be able to bring a statistical edge to their recommendations, using customer insight and data from previous customer transactions and campaign responses to drive the communication strategy. They will also have invested in the tools to manage and respond to all enquiry channels efficiently and effectively, thus maximising response opportunities across multiple channels.
Investment and Partnership
Looking at the contact opportunities that exist today for our customers, from websites and email to telephone, SMS, digital and social media… and maybe even the odd letter, the list seems to grow almost daily and is another example of customer choice. Would you be able to invest continually in the communication infrastructure and staff training required to handle all of these channels or do you look to an expert to partner with you?
There, ultimately, is the key to a sound and workable relationship between your business and the outsourcer, it should be developed as a partnership. Both organisations should have clear aims and objectives for the outcomes of the contact management and its focus should never be solely about financial savings. There must be a balance between cost, risk, performance and return on investment in order for an outsourced relationship to function properly to the mutual benefit of both parties. Truly successful outsourcing provides a win-win solution for clients and suppliers that result in long-term, successful business partnerships.
Outsourcing customer communications and contact centres can offer significant benefits to businesses looking to gain a competitive advantage but it’s important to do it for the right reasons. The single most important factor for success is to work in close partnership with whichever outsourced provider is chosen, after all you’ll be trusting them with your most important asset, your customers.