By Michael Mills, SVP, Global Sales and Solutions, CGS – Executives of businesses big and small are faced with many unique decisions as they tackle today’s challenging corporate landscape, while reviewing potential opportunities for growth. Should I expand globally? What location is best for my business? Is there a new market I’m missing out on? As executives seek answers to these questions, they need to consider the cost allocations along with the business strategy for such endeavors. To accomplish these goals while remaining on budget, business process outsourcing (BPO) has become an ever-growing trend. BPO can enable a company of any size to save costs for admin and IT support, enhance quality of service and support business growth while maintaining a focus on core business operations.
Before considering BPO services for your organizations, there are a few decisions to be made when developing your outsourcing engagement that could be determined by the size of your organization, budget and the business processes you are looking to outsource. Here are a few options to review.
The First Steps – BPO Best Practices
As with any business decision, there are several best practices to help guide your outsourcing engagement. Whether you are a startup looking to outsource services for the first time or a global brand evaluating your best return on investment (ROI) with an existing partner, the search for a vendor offers a unique opportunity to evaluate your goals and identify the right partner to help you reach them.
Selecting the Right Location
Know your growth plan – whether it’s five, 10 or 15 years down the road, you will want to align your strategic roadmap with long-term business and financial objectives. For example, if you are a telecommunications company expecting to expand to South America over the next decade, an area in South America may be the most strategic location to establish a centralized call center because of infrastructure and language requirements. Within this same planning, it’s key to ensure your BPO efforts are consolidated. Because BPO is often thought of as a means to save costs, it is easy to fragment the required people, processes and tools by searching for the best blend of countries to outsource at the lowest cost. In order to increase efficiency, improve quality and streamline business processes while decreasing costs, it’s important to streamline support services wherever possible. Your outsourcing partner should work with you to accomplish this.
Choosing the Best Metrics
A successful BPO partnership is one in which the provider serves as a trusted consultant when determining your service level measurement (SLM) and specific key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs may include growing revenue, increasing customer satisfaction rates or building end-user productivity. When making the decision to pursue BPO, there are specific key performance metrics that you will measure to ensure you are maintaining a consistent level of productivity, efficiency and quality delivery to your customers and end users. To best way to gauge the value of the KPIs and make adjustments as needed is to implement a quality management process to monitor these KPIs and SLMs on a consistent basis. Your outsourcing partner should also be involved in the quality management process to recommend measurements to track based on the program that’s ultimately selected as well as provide suggestions for process improvement along the way.
Selecting the Right Technology
With the breadth of new technologies emerging today, it’s also important for you to identify the right solutions for your outsourcing engagement. When exploring potential outsourcing partners’ solution offerings, specifically focus on leveraging software that enables outsourcing initiatives to transition both smoothly and seamlessly within your existing infrastructure. Your partner should be able to work with you to come up with a solution that is tailored to your systems and needs. In addition to offering this flexibility, the vendor should adhere to your specific IT security standards and compliance requirements and have, or be willing to gather, the requisite certifications for your industry. The most successful outsourcing solutions also drive efficiency by enabling complete visibility over various work flows through a web-based ticketing system, managed and operated from a centralized call center location.
Whether you are looking to use your own proprietary tools or are interested in a customized solution, choose a technology-agnostic partner. This will allow you to use the tools that you are comfortable with, such as your current ticketing system. Why simply adopt a third-party vendor’s suggested applications? Your BPO partner should offer consultative support to help evaluate whether your current tools are in fact the best for the objectives you are trying to achieve. The BPO partner should be able to recommend whether your, its own or a third-party tool would be best in the long run.
Enabling your People
Another, and perhaps the most important, best practice when exploring BPO, is that your level of performance is only as good as your people. The provider’s staff skill set should meet your requirements. You may choose to look for an outsourcing partner that uses only badged (W-2) resources versus temporary or subcontractor labor. Regardless, to ensure consistent performance and top-of-line service delivery, the outsourcing partner should offer training and continued education to its employees. This generally includes conducting initial training on location at each facility the vendor is supporting.
With these best practices in mind, there are several other specific factors based on your individual business needs to take into consideration when choosing an outsourcing partner or evaluating a current vendor.
Evaluating service models
BPO partners may offer different service models from which to choose. When outsourcing services related to a call center for example, you may encounter an option of a shared service desk model or a dedicated support model. A shared service desk model may appear initially to be less expensive than a dedicated model; this may be appealing for companies with a tight budget or for smaller and medium-sized businesses.
Shared desk models are made up of staff that are working for multiple clients. Along with lower costs, however, comes service that is less customized to the one-company environment. The agents may be challenged to fully embrace your company’s value and culture and therefore not as fully versed in your products and services as a dedicated agent would be.
Larger organizations and those outsourcing a majority of business services often seek dedicated support models. This model, which offers a centralized location for employees, management oversight, ongoing training and a dedicated staff, tends to lead to higher retention and customer satisfaction rates. However, a dedicated model may be more expensive.
A quality partner will work with you based on your financial capacity and should offer flexibility to ensure top services – whether it is a shared or dedicated model.
Finding a Balanced Pricing Model
When searching for an outsourcing partner, you may encounter a number of different pricing options – fixed-price, price-per-call, price-per-minute, price-per-full time equivalent (FTE), among others. Look for a partner that will work with you to get the best service for your budget, a model that is mutually beneficial – meeting your financial objectives and allowing the outsourcer to offer competitive benefits to attract quality agents to support you. Fixed-price agreements may appear to be pricier or outside of your budget. However, cost are transparent – and this option works well if you do not anticipate fluctuations due to increased call volumes, for example, during peak times. If you do experience fluctuations, per-call or minute models allow you more flexibility and you won’t pay for extra, unneeded resources in slower periods.
Keep in mind, if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. A lower-cost option may result in lower-paid, less-experienced agents, which often results in higher turnover, working for you. This scenario could adversely affect the service your customers are receiving – fewer sales and longer wait times. When considering price you will also want to look for an outsource partner that treats its agents well, because this will ultimately generate greater results for you and your customers. Vendors should also be transparent about pricing; not masking any unforeseen costs that may be incurred throughout the engagement.
Achieving BPO Success
Today’s competitive business culture can be a balancing act between cost and efficiency for many organizations. To keep pace with the changing landscape, BPO can be an optimal solution for ensuring business processes maintain top of line performance while keeping cost down and reducing oversight. By keeping in mind these best practices and partner differentiators, companies turning to BPO or evaluating a current outsourcing partner can ensure they are receiving quality service at the best value. And, in the end, the most important factor to keep in mind is finding a true BPO partner with the flexibility to meet your current and growing needs.
The author: Michael Mills is Senior Vice President of Global Contact Center Sales and Solutions. In this role, he leads the global sales and solutions team in the fostering and development of client relationships, the development and implementation of sales strategies, the design and implementation of global and domestic contact center solutions, and the growth of revenue and profitability in the BPO and contact center outsourcing division. Prior to joining CGS, he had very successful tenures at both the IBM Corporation (14 years) and at Northrop Grumman (10 years); where he held executive level sales management, technical solution design and development, and project/transition management delivery roles. Mr. Mills brings a very unique and diverse perspective in his approach to sales strategies by integrating his project transition and management expertise into developing every deliverable client solution. He is a 1985 graduate from the University of South Florida, and subsequently earned his MS degree in Technical Management from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in 1999. He is also a proud military veteran having served in the United States Air Force as an Imagery Interpretation Specialist for the 544th Imagery Intelligence Wing at Strategic Air Command HQ. LinkedIn: https://www. linkedin.com/pub/mi- chael-mills/9/7a0/471
This article was published in the “ITO&BPO Operations Edition” of the Outsourcing Journal (Q3/15). You can download this edition free of charge via the website of the German Outsourcing Association (free membership required): https://www.outsourcing-verband.org/outsourcing-journal-special-editions/