Top Eight Considerations to Look for in a BPO Partner

Posted by Aegis | 21 Sep 2011
customer care

Businesses really cannot afford to compromise on customer care and experience. Unfortunately, however, it is often the case that in the focus to improve revenue streams and cut operating costs, many businesses risk lowering the quality of their customer care. One easy solution is to outsource customer care to a business partner. However, even here, much care and consideration must be given in finding just the right partner.

In a brief, “list-type” article I wrote for the Contact Professional magazine, I offered eight important things to look for when trying to find an outsourcing solutions partner.

One – What kind of relationship is this?

Outsourcing is a strategic, cost-effective solution to manage costs. The decision to outsource, and the subsequent vendor selection process, can be daunting. Businesses are under increasing pressure to find an outsourcer with high quality standards at a reasonable cost. Ensure that your vendor doesn’t cut corners on elements most important to you and your customers. In fact, dispel the notion that the outsourced company is a vendor; re-think the relationship and approach it as a partnership.

Two – What are your goals?

Establish clear goals. Do you want to reduce costs, improve quality, enhance customer experience, generate revenue or retain more customers? You probably answered yes to all five, but what is your priority? The clearer your requirements, the better are your chances of achieving the desired results.

Three – What do they do well?

Look at the BPO partner’s experience in your vertical. Have they worked with your competitors or other firms in your industry? Their ability to understand industry-specific terms and concepts is critical to success. Your BPO partner’s knowledge base must be in-house or quickly acquired. They should be skilled at hiring highly qualified candidates with an industry background, good phone skills, and a track record in previous jobs. Once hired and brought into a stringent quality process, well-trained and high-caliber performers will put your BPO partner in position to meet your Key Performance Indicators.

Four – Where are they?

Compare the BPO partner’s geographical footprint to your location needs. Some providers utilize a one-site-fits-all approach that may not be right for you. Determine how comfortable your organization is with the location of your engagement. Choose an outsourcing partner who will locate your business where you think is best for that process. This is often referred to as a “right-shoring” approach.

Five – Can they scale?

Once you agree on locations, the successful BPO partner should be able to scale up to match your requirements. Look at their track record in opening and operating new locations. How fast can the engagement get up and running? Make sure your BPO partner proactively aligns its schedule with your business. If your business is seasonal in nature, ask about their experience in ramping up and down accordingly.

Six – What about its people?

“People are our most important asset” should be more than just a poster in the HR office; it should permeate the entire organization. A large percentage of a BPO partner’s headcount is its agent pool, so agent retention is a priority of outsourcers. Look at their portfolio of employee incentives and retention programs. Successful outsourcers implement creative incentive programs based on performance metrics and attendance. Innovators take it a step further. For example, we partnered with a fuel price protection solutions provider to roll out a unique fuel incentive program at many of our US locations. The program helped agents reduce agent commuting costs, which bolstered retention and strengthened our ability to recruit leading candidates from a broader geographic area.

Seven – Are they Certified?

BPO partners must operate in the same regulatory environment as their clients. The industry has certain certifications, and organizations possessing these tend to have more rigorous measures of performance quality. Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70, Service Organizations (SAS70), developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, represents that a service organization has thoroughly audited its control objectives and control activities, often including controls over IT and related processes. Payment Card Industry (PCI) certification also demonstrates rigor. If the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) pertains to your customers, make sure your BPO partner understands the Act and knows how to treat your customers accordingly.

Eight – Can I get a reference?

Knowing who your BPO partner’s clients are is important, but do not be alarmed if they are not immediately forthcoming with logos. Even if the BPO engagement is performed in the same zip code as the client’s headquarters, outsourcing is still a sensitive issue. Most companies do not publicly disclose that they outsource customer care. Non-disclosure agreements between BPO partners and clients are typical. The reference check may have to wait until you are very deep in the selection process.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive and it does not replace your own intuitive business sense about the right fit with your business; however, this is a helpful guide to making daunting business decisions like outsourcing a crucial process, which customer care and management most certainly is.

Read the original article published on Contact Professional here.

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