Nearshoring: The ‘go-to’ Solution

The last few years have been pretty rough for the outsourcing industry as it suffered at an international level: economic, social and security changes are responsible and if that wasn’t enough, nearshoring is on the rise.

Delivery Preferences

The biggest challenge in outsourcing governance has shifted towards downstream risk mitigation by choosing the best delivery location. The outsourcing world became fully aware of potential safety risks offshoring brought upon themselves.

The cost savings gap between India and other popular locations such as Central Europe and Latin America decreased to less than ten percent. Central and Easter Europe are also viewed as a safer location site to host your BPO and ITO services.

The close proximity to the main facilities made it possible for a shift in delivery preferences towards nearshore and sameshore options alike.

Having contact centres nearshore and sameshore is the current trend and there are no signs of any changes in the upcoming years.

The Growing Trend

The shift in delivery opens up new possibilities for all the countries gathered under the so-called nearshore umbrella. The number of nearshore sites themselves has grown significantly.

Managers need to be aware, everyone is gunning for that nearshore multi-billion dollar pie – you’re bound to encounter some really “exotic” places thanks to advertisement and marketing. Proven nearshoring locations include Canada, Latin America, Central Europe and Poland.

The Nearshore Zone

But what defines a nearshore location? There are two rules mostly used in the outsourcing industry. The first one is that you don’t need to cross the ocean to get your nearshore site. The second one is quite similar, up to 5 hours of flight.

We believe that nearshoring locations should be aligned along a spectrum of potential outsourcing sites. On one end of that spectrum are locations such as China and India, on the other Poland and other Central European countries that specialise in BPO and ITO services.

Geolocation should never be the determining factor when looking for a potential nearshore location. Linguistic and cultural ties are also a key factor, even education similarities and directness of communication can be a deal-breaker.

Take the above factors into consideration before you choose a nearshore location or a partner since they tend to play a far more important role than they are given credit for.

B2B Lead Generation: Quality, Quantity or Both?

Ah yes, the good ole marketing vs sales clash; quantity vs quality – where should we start to in order to solve this conundrum?

To be frank, sales reps need fewer leads, to be precise, fewer unfiltered, unrefined leads.

If a lead is properly and consistently nurtured and developed its chances of “flourishing” into a completed sale increase.

The main problem within companies is that the marketing teams are rewarded for quantity, and not lead quality. Technology also helps with generating those leads at an astounding pace at a relatively low cost. Also, the fact that more than a third of sales reps are missing the quota, doesn’t help either.

To simplify, the usual report from marketing looks like this “Great quarter in lead generation. We generated more than 1564 leads from all sources – that’s a 20% gain over last year. Despite higher PPC cost, we managed to keep our leads under the standard price.”

So when sales executives take a closer look at these not-so-awesome leads, their response is quite harsh:

  • No defined budget info? Begone!
  • Not a senior enough lead? Bye, bye!
  • Planned for next year? Toodles!

The whole mess goes back and forth, without a proper resolution. It’s quite insane, marketing teams think they are keeping their end of the bargain, and they are if you consider things from the volume only standpoint, while sales are dismissing leads, rightfully so, since they are not nurtured.

Companies are also to blame, gambling with leads is a common practice. Why pay twice the average price for a well nurtured, quality lead when you can, pay half of that and gamble a bit, while receiving double the amount of leads with a conversion rate ranging from 20% to 60%.

Lead vendors that dabble in such practices are equivalents of “sweat shops”, pumping out leads “en masse” without consideration for quality. In return, companies waste millions on low quality, poorly qualified leads. There’s also a metric to justify this sort of behaviour, ROMI (return on marketing investment) – sometimes, as little as 20% close rate is considered good. Although, the actual return is, in fact, close to zero.

Since quantity over quality, simply doesn’t cut it, what steps should companies undertake?

  • Measure the quality and cost per ACTUAL lead.
  • An “overseer” (c-level executive) that keeps sales and marketing in check, evaluating their work and making sure both departments have the companies best interest in mind, and not their own.
  • A special group whose focus is nurturing leads till they are sales ready if a particular lead can’t gain momentum this special team will “look under the hood” and diagnose.

The Real Value of First Contact Resolution

The more satisfied customers are, the more loyal they’ll become – embrace customer centricity.

It’s not a mystery that first contact resolution is one of the main drivers for customer satisfaction.

Even the smallest improvements to first contact resolution (FCR) have an impact on increasing customer satisfaction, at an astonishing rate of 1:1, which quite frankly is huge.

 

Cost Effective

First Contact resolution not only increases customer satisfaction but improving FCR in your contact centre should be the top priority, simply because it greatly reduces costs.

So there is without a shadow of a doubt a business case for improving first contact resolution, as a result, many companies are investing heavily in customer service training and analytics tools, to measure and improve this voluble metric.

But is focusing mainly on FCR sufficient in order to maintain customer loyalty?
Most certainly not.

 

Keep It Balanced

There are many vital aspects that correspond and impact customer satisfaction thus shaping customer loyalty, these “what-if’s” are:

  • What if; you encountered a poorly trained contact centre agent?
  • What if; the representative didn’t have sufficient product knowledge?
  • What if; you had to be kept on hold for 20 minutes while listening to some ungodly music track?
  • What if; the issue was resolved but the agent was rude and interrupted the conversation numerous times?

 

Diversify

Overly focusing on one metric is a sign of bad management. Embrace the balanced scorecard tactic and evaluate your employees and customer service process’s using these criteria:

  • First Contact Resolution
  • Post contact IVR survey, ask the customer how would they rate the experience
  • Customer retention metric to evaluate the likelihood of a customer leaving within 4 weeks
  • Include Average Handle Time; despite all the hate it gets if you wish you could keep it hidden from the contact centre agents
  • Cross-selling abilities
  • Average time spent on hold; waiting on hold is despised by the customers
  • Number of appropriate escalations
  • Employee satisfaction; happy staff = happy customers

 

First contact resolution is a vital metric which greatly impacts customer satisfaction and helps reducing costs, but focusing on FCR alone is simply not enough.

Take all variables into consideration when trying to increase customer loyalty and act accordingly, ask the customers what parts of the customer experience you provide do they cherish and which ones do they despise, and get to work.

Management Change in 3 Steps

Middle managers are responsible for key operations at the core of your business.

They possess the knowledge of what works best for your company versus areas which need improvement.

Thanks to their deep understanding of operational requirements it’s crucial to include them in the decision-making process when considering outsourcing the part of the business they are responsible for.

 

Engage and reassure

Engaging middle managers in all the details of the outsourcing process will be beneficial in the long run. Remember, they are “the middle-man”, and communicate with agents and other front-line employees, so it’s crucial to keep them up to speed at all times. Such actions will reassure them of how much you value their work as well as build trust.

Let’s not forget about the vast operational knowledge middle management has, it’s about time to use it.

 

Trust the management team

Capable managers realise that thanks to the operational knowledge they possess and experience in the field they are irreplaceable and will take steps to protect their position in the company if they feel their job may be at risk.

When planning for outsourcing include as many levels of mid-tier management as you would normally include in strategic planning sessions.

 

Achieving success

To achieve lasting change, you need to understand the specific “political” situation of each and every business team and department. Managers with access to corporate intelligence will be hard to replace.

Ranging from department heads and senior managers to program leads on major projects, they will contribute to the management change effort in a constructive and positive way – all you have to do is keep them in the loop.

Four Essential Qualities of a Customer Care Centre

The rise of the multi-channel approach shook the customer care landscape to its core and new channels demand a different approach – customer centricity.

Multilingual contact centres need to engage and retain every customer to be successful.

We at OpsTalent believe that these four traits are the keystones to establishing a customer centric contact centre:

Measure quality from both perspectives.

Like many of its customer oriented counterparts around the globe, OpsTalent has invested in quality monitoring tools that record and view customer experiences during each query, also post-contact surveying tools that can determine how the customer felt about each individual interaction.

This way the contact centre gathers essential information about its customer base, feedback that later can be used during coaching sessions or incorporated into each contact centre agents monitoring scores.

But that’s not all, data can be used to improve operation processes work-flows or even actual products and services.

Continuously enhance services, sales and loyalty.

Thanks to all the monitoring tools, today’s contact centres gather an overwhelming amount of data on a daily basis – this would imply that the contact centre is “The Ear” of the organisation, and while true this statement is somewhat wrong.

Customer centric contact centres are not just ear, but the brain of the organisation. They gather and process the information, and later on use it to from strategies and plans.

Thus continuously improving and enhancing the customer experience, by the means of CRM tools, dedicated analytics teams, and evaluation of post-contact surveys.

OpsTalent provides fast, personalised, proactive customer service and support.

Metrics focused on the customer, not just on efficiency.

The best customer centric contact centres, focus less on Average Handle Time, Calls per Hour and focus more on metrics such as Contact Quality, First Contact Resolution and Customer Satisfaction.

Productivity based metrics have its place, but most of the time contact centre managers over-emphasise the importance of AHT. Which only leads the agents to develop bad habits, such as rushing the customer through the call, which in the end only leads to increased number of call volumes, and a decrease in customer satisfaction.

When it comes to agent productivity, focus on things like schedule adherence, thus ensuring that agents are ready for and on time for any potential challenge.

Embrace social customer care.

Providing customer support though social media is no longer a nice bonus, it’s a necessity. Facebook and Twitter are the go-to channel for the Y-generation, and the general public also tries social customer support if they need a fast response to their request or comment.

This is why all leading contact centres have developed and implemented a comprehensive social customer care strategy, with trained agents and powerful monitoring tools they are more than ready to provide proactive customer service and engage the customers in brand new ways.

Keep in mind, that in order to be a customer centric contact centre you also need to be employee centric as well, happy staff + happy customers = exceptional customer experience!

Keep The Leadership Framework Simple

The concept of what constitutes as “high performance” isn’t new to customer care experts, unfortunately implementation methods are in need of tweaking.

Depending on the objectives set by the higher echelon of managers and the frame of reference used , the definition of high performance can vary and will have many different iterations and interpretations. Most of the time however, high performance correlates with staff engagement levels and returns on shareholder’s investments – contentment and satisfaction.

Leadership framework

We should ask ourselves if we are focusing our efforts on the tasks which provide maximum return value.

Simple and clear expectations

Make the team aware of what is expected – this is your number one priority as a leader. You don’t want your employees guessing what their goals are (and that’s the best case scenario).

Those expectations should be: clear, simple and actionable, but at the same time refined to fit each team or project separately.

Everyone needs to know exactly how they can help. Positive reinforcement is also a great morale booster – everyone’s contribution to the project is valued.

Leave no room for interpretation, this will remove confusion and will lead to greater understanding of the expectation – it will unify the team on a personal level. Working for the common goal.

Provide support

Our role isn’t complete after setting transparent expectations, we need to provide support for our staff; guide and help them gain the needed knowledge in order to complete the desired goal.

We can support our employees in multiple ways: feedback collection, coaching, training and development through courses. We need to equip our agents and managers with the best tools of the trade, to not only meet the required expectations, but to excel.

Relevant feedback provides great insight on performance, and coaching will reinforce positive behaviour.

Reinforce consequences

Positive reinforcement plays a key role in proper employee management. It might sound trivial, but it’s up you to determine what behaviour as well as corresponding consequences will be accepted or reprimanded – either directly or indirectly. If you want certain patterns replicated, you need to reward employees and the actions that led to them. At the same time manage those falling short of mark appropriately.

…and more

The points mentioned above are just a simple framework that can be used by leaders, supervisors and managers to define boundaries within which they operate.

Contact and call centres are a highly measurable environment, thanks to the metrics used to evaluate all aspects of its functions. High performance should be achievable if you: set expectations, provide support and utilise consequences to reinforce desired behaviour.

Your main role as a leader is to make the message clear.

How To Handle Customer Service Peaks

Brace yourselves, Summer is in full swing and with it arrive spikes in call volumes as well as problems with agent availability.

We at Opstalent, have prepared a guide to help you manage customer service peaks:

Seize the initiative

The best way to actually avoid “clogs” caused by demand spikes is to seize the initiative and reach out to the customers yourself. The multichannel approach is quite handy in this case.

Try to reach as many future “callers” through multiple channels, social media, email and even SMS. Each customer reached through other communication  methods is one less person held back in queue during peak time.

Prioritise

It’s a known fact that some queries are more important than others. Distinguishing which call is an emergency and which isn’t is a challenging, yet important task.

In order to pre-screen incoming calls you need to setup a solid IVR system. This solution will identify calls based of pre-set rules and will route the incoming traffic accordingly.

Highlighting and relegating calls will help your contact centre tremendously, especially during those “demand spikes” periods.

Outsource

When facing a sudden spike in demand, you should outsource. Just don’t pick the easy route that most companies choose – expensive term agency staff on a short-term basis.

Try to predict, when such spikes in demand will happen and choose a flexible outsourcing partner that will handle the spike traffic. This solution will leave your in-house staff focused on the core parts of projects.

In the long term, this will reduce training and staffing costs, just make sure that your outsourcing partner provides a scalable solution.

…and if all else fails, increase resources

In a case of extreme emergency, that “mother lode” of all demand spikes don’t be scared to relocate some of the admin staff to temporary contact centre duty.

The software is easy to use and highly customisable, it can simply be installed on all desktop computers around the office, this will enable an “on the fly” swap into contact centre agent mode if the situation is dire.

Just remember to take extreme caution, don’t train employees for tasks they might never need to perform, also it is highly counterproductive to force staff into roles they have no familiarity with.

However if done properly, such methods will make your staff and business as a whole even more customer centric.

The long term impact of such activities is highly valuable.