By Stefan Abadzhiev, Senior Sales Manager EMEA, TELUS International Europe – When the outsourced contact center industry started to flourish it was all about cost cutting for companies. Now, it’s much more; it’s about how contact centers can play a vital role improving customer journeys and adding value to the overall customer experience. Outsourced contact centers are positioned for change – ready to act as strategic partners to the brands that they serve.
I don’t have a crystal ball but from where I sit as a Senior Sales Manager at TELUS International Europe, a provider of customer care outsourcing, serving some of the world’s largest and most respected brands, I can draw from our firsthand experience to predict several big trends that will shape outsourcing in the years ahead.
What is certain, however, is that a contractors’ search for a low-cost service provider delivering immediate gain will gradually fade, giving way to a more strategic model of outsourcing focused on adding value while delighting customers.
Difference no. 1 – Industry specialization
Once upon a time companies have used contact centers when they had more customer calls or IT help desk queries than they could handle, or when they wanted to outsource customer service or technical support to a specialist, leaving them free to focus on their core business. It was a simple model where outsourcing vendors were simply evaluated on their low-cost ability to provide basic customer service. But today, they are evaluated on their strategic ability to deliver on the customer journey and add value to the overall customer experience.
Clients not only expect vendors to have deep expertise in providing great customer experiences, but also, they expect vendors to understand their industries, including the day-to-day market challenges they face. Only then can vendors deliver an authentic and expert customer experience.
Therefore, a general pre-requisite when selecting a contact center partner will be the vendor’s relevant industry expertise. Industry specialization provides better alignment between partners with everyone understanding client issues and opportunities.
Difference no. 2 – Multinational and multilingual
Globalization is in full swing in the contact center field with market integration and increasing international competition daily realities. Hence, for a contact center, the only way to get multinational clients is to be multinational itself. For the most part, contact center providers with a global footprint will be better positioned to serve growing multinationals.
At the same time, forward-looking contact center providers are also choosing to internationalize, expanding their delivery centers and language capabilities to become stronger financially and adapt to the new demands of their clients’ international development. With global growth, contact center scalability also increases in importance. Smaller contact center providers may have reached their limits as clients look for providers that can grow as they grow.
The contact centers of tomorrow will have strong financial backing that will guarantee the reliability and continuity of operations, the level of expertise required, the continuous investment in innovation and technology, and of course, the geographic diversity and multilingual capabilities to serve global customers.
The traditional model of monolingual call centers, where only one language is supported by each center, is already gone. In Europe, some players have begun to offer services in dozens of languages from a single site (a model called “one stop shop delivery”). These services are usually offered in South Eastern Europe, a region that excels from this point of view, due to the large number of multilingual individuals.
Now, more than ever, customers demand support in their native language. Among the thousands of existing languages, most contractors require fewer than 50 to be supported in the contact center. For many providers, this is still a lot of languages to offer. However, global contact center providers with platforms capable of serving dozens of languages (preferably from a single site) are well-positioned to provide the global multilingual solution that major contractors desire.
Difference no. 3 – Business transformation
The Hackett Group, a leading global strategy and operations consulting firm, believes the next generation of BPO transactions will encompass both “Transform and Shift” and “Shift and Transform” business process outsourcing strategies. This expected change will have a profound impact on how strategic sourcing strategies are formulated and executed.
To survive, contact centers can no longer limit themselves to being mere “suppliers” or “subcontractors”. Today, they must fully understand the processes of their clients and be able to evaluate and improve them. The goal is to deliver real economic levers to their clients, acting positively on costs, as well as on the quality and productivity of their work.
To respond to the growing need for such expertise, some contact centers have already established Business Transformation departments. This trend will continue. Contractors will prefer working with a partner who can not only execute existing work procedures, but also bring added value through business transformation services. A handful of contact centers in Europe, including TELUS International, have already anticipated this development, shaping their entire supervisory staff using Six Sigma methodology.
Difference no. 4 – Generation Y – the new customer service stars
Consider the facts – Generation Y (also called Millennials) born between 1980 and 2000, are a game-changing force both as employees and customers. As employees, they typically make up over 80 percent of the workforce at customer service organizations. As customers, Gen Y is heading towards their peak earning years, controlling and influencing a lot of spending – up to US $200 billion per year worldwide.
Gen Y has grown up with a unique set of character traits, personal beliefs, life expectations and career aspirations. Creating a corporate culture that embraces Millennials and their workplace preferences will be a key factor in determining the success of customer service organizations. Companies that cannot attract and retain Gen Y agents will suffer from high rates of attrition and diminished service quality. Those that adapt will find a bright talent pool willing to take their company to the next level of customer experience.
Difference no. 5 – Corporate culture holds the key to success
Corporate culture will emerge as a strong differentiator when choosing between contact center providers. Brand-savvy companies are placing a clear emphasis on cultural compatibility between themselves and their outsourcing partners. Why?
Outsourcing partnerships enjoying the greatest success tend to be aligned when it comes to corporate values and culture. When aligned, conversations about cost-savings take a backseat to conversations about brand building and customer delight.
Typically, when an outsourcing partner becomes an extension of its client’s corporate culture, employee engagement increases. In turn, this has a huge impact on the quality of customer service, including the ability to directly impact profitability.
“The Culture Value Chain” a collaboration between TELUS International and industry analyst firm, Frost & Sullivan, is the world’s first study and framework that demonstrates how a highly-engaged corporate culture in the outsourced world can deliver top-line business benefits. The study maps a framework demonstrating a direct connection between corporate culture, engagement, attrition, CSAT and revenue.
“Maintaining a great corporate culture is so important because it’s a cycle. Happy employees create happy customers. Happy customers keep coming back and they spend more, which creates happy investors. When investors are happy, they share more with employees, which makes them happier.” says Kelly Wolske from Zappos Insights Team.
More and more companies are discovering that it is not enough to transfer their processes to a contact center supplier and consider customer care a done deal. Smart companies are looking for strategic partners to help grow their business and positively influence their brand perception – in other words, to build their competitive advantage in the global marketplace. This requires a higher level of engagement than many contact center providers are accustomed to delivering.
Therefore, the contact centers of tomorrow will need a detailed understanding of their clients’ businesses, have the capability to drive innovation and transform processes for the better, and of course, delight customers with superior customer service talent.
Welcome to a contact center outsourcing world in which internationalization, multilingualism and industry specialization take precedence over small, local and monolingual structures; where corporate culture meets Generation Y; and where the key players are no longer “phone factories” but experts in customer relations, acting as true consultants and sources of innovation.
The Author: Stefan Abadzhiev is a Senior Sales Manager for the EMEA region at TELUS International Europe where he manages all aspects of business development and strategic management. In his position Stefan plays a key role in the corporate expansion and development specifically for the DACH market. With over 4 years of experience in the Outsourcing and Offshoring industry Stefan is specialized in the industries: Games, Financial Services, e-Commerce, High-Tech and Travel & Leisure. His professionalism, expertise and experience are visible in his contribution to TELUS International Europe’s double digit growth rate in revenue for 2015 (+60% increase). Stefan holds a Master’s Degree in Economics & Social Sciences with specialization in Change Management and Organization/Process Optimization from the University of Stuttgart (Germany). > LinkedIn
This article was published in the Outsourcing Journal Special Edition “Nearshoring Europe Edition” in Q4/2015. You can download this edition (150 pages, PDF) free of charge here (membership with German OutsourcingA association required (free, personal membership available) >http://www.outsourcing-journal.org/Special-Editions/outsourcing-journal—nearshoring-europe-edition.html