5 Things To Consider When Choosing A Call Center Partner

You’ve decided to outsource some component of your internal center, and now you’re on the verge of having to select WHO is going to do that outsourced work.  There are all sorts of interesting considerations that can be incorporated that we won’t touch on today: geographically close, an organization you have a history with, references/referrals, etc.  What we’re going to focus on today are arguably the 5 most critical things to consider in the selection process of a call center partner.

Competency fit

This first category is somewhat of a permission-to-play factor.  If you are looking to outsource complex customer service, the ability to talk with a potential partner about their skills in complex customer service is an easy first step.  They should be able to share details about similar programs and clients that they are currently doing work on, and hopefully the long tenure in that type of work.  Be prepared not to be able to see or hear about all details, as any potential partner should be protective of their customer’s data and processes (as you will want them to be with yours if it works out). 

Being thorough about the partner’s ability to learn, train, execute and measure a successful campaign of the specific type you’re looking at will give you the peace of mind that your customers/prospects will be well handled.  It also ensures that you won’t have to do extra development work to bring them up to speed on things other than your business’s intricacies. 

A good potential partner should also be able to articulate the type of work or programs that they turn down as not a good fit.  An organization that is mindful to do the work that can be done explicitly successfully, is an organization that probably has been and will be prosperous.

Size fit

It is good for you to understand the size of your potentially outsourced work in relation to the size of the potential partner.  If you go to a very large contact center and ask them to take on your 8-10 person seasonal campaign, you may have issues getting the responsiveness that you want.  It may be difficult to get your account manager and their operational staff to treat your campaign with the same level of importance that you do. 

Inversely, if you take your 60 FTE program to a small local contact center, there is significant risk to both organizations if you become half of their work.  The ability to onboard a program and ramp quickly can strain an organization of that size.  Long-term, it isn’t healthy for the security of either company if your campaign is an enormous portion of their revenue.

Cultural fit

A lot of outsource decision-makers overlook this component of selecting a partner.  A good call center partner should feel like an extension of your own team.  Alignment on the two organizations' values can either be seen as a high-level check, or you can embrace that the behavioral tendencies of each organization are dictated by their culture. 

If you have a culture of accountability and fast-paced continuous improvement, your team’s communication methods and priorities are going to show through in the partner relationship.  If your call center partner does not share that urgency, it will cause misalignment and ultimately contention when dealing with program changes and managing results. 

This aspect of the selection process can also provide a lot of comfort to your other stakeholders; if your team goes to visit the outsourced call center during the selection process or after implementation, they should leave feeling confident that the work is in capable hands similar to their own.

Future capacity

For some companies, the initial partner selection revolves around a relatively small, initial program.  With the selection of a good partner and solid initial results, comes the potential to expand the program or move more work to the outsource partner.  Projecting your total future potential to outsource will be critical to your selection, even if you don’t dangle that carrot in the test period.  Does the partner have the physical space, the recruiting/training processes, and the technical infrastructure to be able to take on all of your work?  Could they take on additional work with a lead-time that would be acceptable for your timeline?  You probably don’t want to choose a call center partner just to need to do it again a year because you outgrew their capabilities, systems, or capacity.

Price

We have seen selections put price as the lead deciding factor, and we have seen the opposite.  It is obviously an important consideration and one of the key points that your executive team or board will want to know about.  However, if you’ve made it through the four considerations proceeding this point and the potential partner has good marks, it may be short-sited to allow this early relationship to derail over price. 

Typically, at this point in the process, you’re down to a 5-15% spread in pricing.  But be aware that performance and the total value of the outcomes in the work can easily vary by up to 40%.  Pay-for-performance pricing can be a sign that a partner is confident in their capability and offers you some insurance.  But typically, the shared upside will also have to be shared more sizably with the partner.  Understanding the value of good and bad performance for your company can shed good light on how important price is.  For example, if you’re outsourcing even a customer service campaign, paying 10% more per hour or call, could be a small percentage of the life-time value of a customer that is handled and retained with exceptional skills by your call center partner.

Outsourcing your customer service, sales campaign, or tech support can be a difficult process.  These selection considerations will hopefully make the process more focused, and allow you to make a confident decision as effectively as possible.  Good luck!