Siobhain Goodall, Head of Business Development – Outsourcing, mplcontact, provides some pointers for choosing the right outsourcer to ensure business continuity through sudden disruptions.
The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing, as long as you take the time to put into practice whatever it is that you wish you had done in the first place. Which, let’s face it, not many of us get round to doing. But when it comes to our businesses, the weather seems to have become the equivalent of a giant yellow Post-It ‘note to self’ that we stick on our desks and then promptly forget when the daffodils come out.
“Due to severe weather conditions we are currently experiencing high call volumes and apologise for any delay in dealing with your call”. Sound familiar? Substitute ‘public transport strikes’, ‘floods’, ‘ill-health’ or ‘power outage’ for the word ‘weather’ and you start to realise that we seem to accept sudden disruption as just one of those things that our customers will tolerate and our business’s cash flow will somehow cope with.
For businesses with contact centres, any sort of disruption, be it of internal or external origins, usually results in fewer agents available to handle calls or your team trying to manage huge spikes in call volumes caused by customers checking their service availability, delivery schedule or calling back to find out why they still haven’t had a response. It’s a self-perpetuating maelstrom of queues, apologies, disgruntled customers and stressed-out agents.
But there are well-established options for keeping businesses open, staff working, customers happy and avoiding the huge cost to business when disaster strikes. Aside from the obvious solution of equipping staff to be able to work from home, albeit with the attendant costs of laptops, broadband and security issues, UK business has a tendency to forget that it has one of the most buoyant, technologically advanced outsourced contact centre industries in the world at its disposal.
So, here are our tips for choosing the right outsourcer to see you through the next UK Transport Chaos/Super-Strength Virus/Deep Freeze Britain (or whatever headline the tabloids choose to run with).
Choose an outsourcer with a wide range of industry experience
Outsourced contact centres are no longer just about high-volume, low-value media response. Agents have become experts not only in specific industries but also in the myriad of channels that customers now choose to use. The technology used in those contact centres is flexible enough to allow a bureau-based agent to handle a call for a financial services client quickly followed by a web chat request for assistance from a housing association tenant and then manage a call-out to a facilities management mobile contractor. Their desktops are designed to be intuitive, time saving and user-friendly.
Choose a provider with a track record of getting solutions up and running with the minimum of delay
The primary argument against outsourcing for business continuity is “we wouldn’t be able to set up a service fast enough”. Think again: when the UK’s leading specialist building products company had to issue a product safety warning it knew this would result in a huge spike in calls to its contact centre. The team there was worried its in-house team was going to struggle, so they got in touch with mplcontact.
Our response was not to explain that we would need several months to scope out the job, install special software and train the agents. Instead we got a solution up and running within eight days – three days before the public announcement. We know that disasters can hit out of nowhere, but news broadcasts and weather forecasts can usually be relied upon to give us a heads-up when something is afoot.
Choose an outsourcer willing to give you real-time online access to your service
Another argument heard against outsourcing is “we’d lose control of our business and customer service”. Years ago, outsourcing did involve a great deal of trust. You briefed the agents, you set up the database and then you hoped it all went according to plan.
Today it is very different. With the technology your outsourcing partner will most definitely be using, you can choose to give them access to all the same systems you are using so updates are immediate and real-time information on stock, service history, etc. is available. With online access, such as mplcontact’s iAccess, you can update your FAQs, the scripts the agents work from, and the service updates you want to give to clients, all instantaneously.
Most importantly, you get to see exactly what your outsource partner is doing for you in terms of calls handled, call-outs made, call durations, call types received. Which is probably one better than if you’re relying on the fact that your staff are diligently working from home with all that guilty-pleasure daytime TV just a remote control away…
Location, location, location – choose an outsourcer with more than one site
‘Local’ is best for lots of things: food, taxi drivers, the pub. But when it comes to an outsourced contact centre, especially one you will want to use for business continuity purposes, a local provider is probably not the best option, not unless they have a network of contact centres in geographically diverse locations, like mplcontact with 7 contact centres spread around England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
If the petrol shortage/flu outbreak/transport strike has disrupted your operations, chances are your friendly outsourcer round the corner is also suffering. mplcontact’s clients, however, carried on regardless during the recent winter weather and the network of centres managed a 50% increase in call volumes on the first day of snow alone. By selecting a provider with more than one site – not just agreements in place to overflow calls to other single-site operations – where all of those sites use the same technology – then both your and your outsourcer’s business continuity capabilities are virtually guaranteed.
Siobhain Goodall, Head of Business Development – Outsourcing, www.mplcontact.com