Outsourcing Customer Relationships In A Customer-Centric World
This "voice of the customer" strategy, backed by customer interaction analytics technology, has brought marketing departments closer to their customer service and contact centers counterparts. That said, consider this: What happens when customer service is outsourced to a third party? How do marketing departments gain access to the critical insights customers share if they aren't serviced in-house?
Balancing the Benefits and Risks of Outsourced Customer Service
As a result of customers sharing their experiences across the social media domain, especially when unsatisfied with the service they are provided, many organizations that outsource their contact center operations are now spearheading initiatives to bring customer interactions back in-house for greater control and visibility. Some have even questioned sacrificing the inherent operational benefits of outsourcing, including lower costs, fewer resource management issues, greater consolidation and flexibility for seasonality and growth.
For industries where differentiated service means everything, managing customer interactions can be just as effective through an outsourced program.
There are two primary drivers that marketing departments seek by accessing and mining internal and external customer experience insight -- customer intelligence and the ability to build (and protect) the company brand.
To help achieve this, marketing departments are collaborating more often than ever with the contact center, mining phone conversations -- as well as other customer service interactions -- to gain early insight into issues before they become negative commentary on the social media sphere. In addition to finding value in the data shared, they also want to ensure that agents are trained and prepared to provide the desired brand experience, and be successful in cross- and up-selling products and services, and new campaign offers.
This growing internal company trend can pose both an opportunity and threat for outsourcers that currently handle millions of customer interactions globally. I recently spoke to over a dozen global outsourcing firms and found that some leaders in this area have made it a priority to provide their clients with the visibility, feedback and customer insight associated with the customer interactions they handle.
By offering enhanced analytics capabilities, outsourcers' clients can receive greater accountability and higher quality of service. How can businesses ensure insight into and control of its customer interactions, while at the same time reaping the cost benefits and operational flexibility that comes with outsourcing? Let's look at the characteristics that define the new outsourcer.
Selecting an Outsourcing Partner
When selecting an outsourcer to assist with your customer service operations, a crucial factor to take into consideration (beyond cost) is access to customer insight. Look for visibility through the use of technology -- such as quality monitoring and speech analytics -- that offers valuable intelligence about the actual experience your customers have when dealing with the outsourcer.
Look beyond an outsourcer's ability to take calls and read scripts. These organizations are becoming much smarter about collecting and sharing customer insights with their clients. To meet such growing demands, forward-thinking outsourcers are leveraging technology to help:
- Understand why customers are calling and then packaging up these reports for clients
- Ensure that agents are adhering to scripts and holding true to the company's brand and image
- Analyze drivers of long or repeat calls in order to identify the root causes of frustration and what can become at-risk relationships
- Evaluate customer comments on vendors and competitors to gain greater market insight
- Analyze effective and ineffective sales practices and promotions
- Focus on quality by rating agents based on their handling of certain customer interaction types
- Understand changes in customer behavior as reflected by emerging trends, helping pinpoint issues before they go social
Innovative outsourcers are leveraging these capabilities as significant differentiators in the marketplace, increasing their allocation of "seats" and elevating their client relationships from a cost-driven vendor to a strategic partner. Leading outsourcers are also developing analytics expertise and achieving similar economies of scale with analytics technology as they do with human labor. Outsourcers may be able to eventually charge a premium for these services by contracting not just with the customer service departments, but also the marketing departments that seek this new source of customer intelligence and feedback.
One example of a leader in this space is a provider of telemarketing and contact center services, defacto.call center & dialog, that specializes in brand communication and the development of good customer relationships for its clients. With centers in Europe, it looks from the outside like a traditional outsourced operation, but behind the scenes is an advanced technology infrastructure that employs software for quality monitoring, needs-based agent scheduling and speech analytics.
For example, defacto.call center & dialog discovered for one of its major clients that most phone calls containing the word "cancellation" were actually a positive opportunity. Customers were calling about switching service providers and asking whether they would need to cancel service with their old provider, or whether their new provider would do this for them. From the volume of calls received on this issue, the company realized that the information could simply be added in confirmation letters to new customers, thereby reducing the number of calls and increasing satisfaction.
This is the face of the new outsourcer -- driven to establish loyal, long-term strategic relationships with end customers on behalf of their clients. Customer service is quickly becoming a critical intelligence source for marketing organizations. As this trend continues, businesses and their outsourced customer service vendors must find ways to achieve greater integration.
To your customer, the outsourced contact center -- which handles much more than just phone calls in today's multichannel world -- must look, sound and feel as seamless as your other customer touch points. Marketing departments should get involved by helping define the criteria for the outsourcer selected to manage their strategic customer relationships.