Hint: Sticking a pin on a map is not the best option
By Lance Hale, President, Transparent BPO
There is a right way to determine the best location for your outsourced contact center. And then there’s the wrong way.
The wrong way is to grab your elementary school globe atlas and stick a pin on it as it spins. Or, even worse, is to have your BPO place you:
- In a location they only have because of a previous acquisition
- In a poor-performing market…there’s a reason why they have excess capacity in that location
Obviously, none of these options work but companies fail to recognize – or appreciate – the varying factors that come into play when selecting the ideal market for their outsourced contact center.
Some companies narrow their focus on too few criteria while others wallow in analysis paralysis and weigh far too many factors that may – or may not – influence the best location to serve their customers.
The right way to determine the best location depends on what is important to you and your customers.
Initially, you have to decide what you want in a customer contact center: Do you want transactional services, one that offers a bit more operational value or a true strategic partner?
These transactional service operators have a limited scope and are great order takers, but the added value may not be there. You can expect limited visibility into your program and the services for your customers will also be limited, such as only being able to reach an agent via phone.
The next “tier” offers a little more breadth than your entry-level transactional facility. Services to your customers may only include entry-level plus added services, such as expanded hours, and the ability to contact your agents via email or chat. These providers often require you to fit in their “box” because “this is our playbook”.
Or, you can opt for the highest level of service—a strategic partner who is looking around corners for you and anticipating your needs and exploiting opportunities. This contact center provider is fully engaged with you and your customers who will notice the difference in exemplary service.
When deciding what level of service you want, there are key criteria that should come into play:
Cost: Yes, the bottom-line price is critical, but it shouldn’t be the only criterion. If you’re chasing the lowest possible denominator in this category, you will end up paying more in the long run.
Low per-agent costs may shield other costs downstream, like a poor customer experience caused by high attrition at a budget contact center. If your customers deserve quality service, the lowest price option may not be the best option. Your contact center selection should be considered an investment in your business growth.
Client Accessibility: Don’t underestimate the ability to be in your office in the morning and find yourself visiting with the agents and managers supporting your customers that afternoon. This sense of immediacy provides invaluable insight into your contact center.
Being able to walk the contact center floor and connecting with those who interact with your clients offers you the chance to gather feedback on what is and isn’t working. While the frequency of your trips to your contact center may be less frequent over time, you always know that you can be front and center quickly.
US Cultural Affinity: There’s an advantage to knowing your audience, but that has never been so true as selecting the right contact center. The agents supporting your program represent your brand to your customers. You want them to understand – and appreciate – American purchasing habits and preferences.
If your contact center is based in a country that uses the metric system, your agents should know that Americans buy in yards, feet, and inches. So, knowing how to convert from metric to imperial will be key. Particularly if a customer wants to know if the pool temperature at the resort hotel reaches a comfortable 82 F. It’s of little use to you if the agent casually mentions that it does reach 28 C.
Native English Speaking: If your customers are picking up the phone and calling your brand, they are either calling to give your business or they need help.
If they are calling about an issue, they are likely frustrated and don’t want to struggle to understand an agent with a strong non-English accent. They already have an issue with your product or service and if they have to spend additional time on the phone trying to communicate with the agent, there is a possibility you’ve lost their business.
If they are calling to buy your product or service – again, don’t make it hard for them to buy. Strong English-language services smooth the purchasing call, email, chat or text, and delights the customer.
Other criteria you may want to consider during the selection process can include:
Operational Model and Capacity: Understand the operational model, including their in-office and Work-From-Home strategy, and that you are aligned going forward. Ensure your contact center will be able to grow with your program or even scale during seasonal peaks.
Disaster Recovery: Outages occur, from weather to power failures. Review your contact center’s contingency plans for safeguard service.
Security Integrity: Markets can vary widely on the physical and digital security they can provide. A site visit can help determine that a potential provider has the physical protocols in place to keep your customer information safe, such as gated entry when entering a facility or calling floor. In addition, you also want to ensure their network is secure, so ask about their experience with phishing and ransomware attacks.
Do yourself a favor and leave your old globe on the shelf. Or better yet retire that BPO’s acquired site that never produced results and is in the wrong market, and determine what factors are important to your company, and your customers.