Customer experience management has never been as challenging for enterprises as it is today. Going forward, the capacity to win new consumers and retain existing ones will be even more confusing, with ongoing rapid changes in end-user expectations, technology, and the need for business continuity. This is why so many firms across different industries are seeking to stabilize and improve their CX functions by taking on a front-line partner that can provide the experience required to do best by their customers.
However, when selecting a front-line third-party partner, enterprise customer management professionals should realize that this choice needs to be made with a great deal of reflection. All providers are not created equal. To this end, enterprises should choose an outsourcer based on their capabilities across several criteria. Being selective in the choice of a CX partner means a better chance of driving better end-user outcomes, which should be the objective of any organization.
What makes a good CX business partner?
In an industry as mature and diversified in BPO providers as customer experience management, the selection of a potential partner can be daunting. It would be foolish for an enterprise CX manager to simply choose the first BPO they find on a web search. Rather, when selecting the outsourcing partner that will act as a brand ambassador for a product or service, the enterprise must be judicious. And, while the most important elements will vary depending on the individual enterprise in question, the following are the considerations that should be taken into account when selecting a front-line BPO provider.
Focus on data protection and best practices – in today’s front-line contact center environment, no enterprise can afford to be without a BPO partner that does not adhere to best practices. These take on several facets, including:
Data security – it is clear that the integrity of consumers’ personal details must be as locked-down as possible. This is why any enterprise CX manager should look for a BPO partner that can ensure the most watertight cybersecurity provisions, strict screening of new hires for criminal records or credit problems, and strong security around its facilities.
Compliance – CX managers cannot afford to be outside of compliance regulations, either within the scope of their own operations, or those of an outsourced partner. This is why looking for a BPO’s conformity with standards that include COPC, PCI, GDPR, and ISO27001 are more important than ever.
These elements are crucial for contact center management, and enterprise executives should consider them as table stakes when engaging with any BPO looking to win their front-line business. Indeed, in the 2020 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey of 540 enterprise contact center decision-makers, respondents rated both information security provisions and compliance management capabilities as their top two criteria when selecting an outsourcing partner.
Diversified delivery platform – the reality for enterprises moving forward is that business continuity needs to be front and center in how they manage interactions with consumers. No longer will one contact center suffice. Rather, front line delivery will need to be performed from a variety of locations, using different models. This will ensure that should a disruption occur (such as wild weather, natural disasters, societal upheavals, or pandemics), the contact center function is prepared to maintain seamless delivery to end-users. Thus, finding a partner that can drive service from domestic, nearshore, and offshore points is a must, as is one that can do so with both agents based at home alongside those working in a physical contact center.
Adaptability – any outsourcer that aims to win enterprise business needs to present a set of capabilities that reflect its ability to pivot to different CX circumstances.
Consumer demand is not consistent throughout the year and varies depending on the industry in question – just consider holiday seasons or back-to-school as two examples. CX executives need to prioritize finding a BPO partner that is agile and that has the right processes in place in order to ramp up or down quickly, so as to respond to changes in consumer demand. Reacting to new developments simply will not be enough in the current/future CX market.
Experienced management team – in customer management, clearly experience counts for enterprises that are choosing an outsourcing partner. This should come as no surprise, considering the extent to which this industry has pivoted so many times over the past several years. Having the right BPO team in place to work with an enterprise’s CX managers is crucial for two reasons; one, to incorporate their priorities into the formulation of a campaign strategy, and; while two, in order to manage sensitive situations that can impact seamless delivery. Without experience behind the wheel of an outsourcing partner, an enterprise customer management function could be vulnerable to poor performance.
Technology backbone – the era of customer management being all about agents at workstations is history. In reality, the role that technology plays in running a CX operation has never been more important, and enterprises should require a robust series of platforms from their front-line outsourcing partners. Among the most important technologies that enterprise executives should look for from BPOs are:
AI-driven automation – these solutions have proven their mettle in terms of driving strong front-end interactions with consumers, using both and digital channels. Equally, they have also been essential in pushing the right information to agents that are interacting with end-users efficiently and accurately.
Analytics – no outsourced contact center should be without a strong analytics solution to hand. From an operational perspective, these capabilities are crucial to guarantee efficiencies on the contact center floor. Equally, they are proving to be a game-changer in helping enterprises identify specific nuances about customers. Analytics can be used to build a unified view of each consumer, helping to sell better and drive long-term loyalty. But with these platforms more expensive than ever, captive operators are right to look for a BPO partner that can bring these tools to the table from the outset of an engagement.
Access to skills – any strong series of interactions with consumers is predicated on the quality of talent working on the frontlines. Yet, for many enterprises, this human resource dynamic remains a challenge. In fact, the 2020 Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey indicated that agent recruitment and attrition were among the biggest operational challenges for enterprise contact centers. Thus, working with an outsourcer that has the processes in place for finding and keeping top talent should be a priority when choosing a front-line partner. Not only will retaining quality, motivated talent ensure better outcomes, it will also reduce costs due to less pressure around hiring and training.
Vertical subject-matter expertise – the difference between a great interaction that drives loyalty from a consumer versus one that is simply mediocre can come down to how familiar an outsourcer is with the sector they are supporting for the enterprise client. Hence, many firms looking to house some or all their CX capacity with a BPO want the industry knowledge that quality providers can bring to the table. This may come with experience in a specific field, or it may be due to the outsourcer onboarding the requisite subject-matter expertise needed to excel in a particular industry. Regardless, any enterprise customer management professional should be looking for a strong intersection between their own industry and the extent to which a BPO partner understands the CX nuances of that space.
Solid track record of CX success – a final consideration for an enterprise looking to engage an outsourcer for their front-line support functions needs to be the track record of success that a provider can offer. In the current commercial environment, no company can afford to take a chance with a BPO that is unable to provide strong references or case studies. Executives cannot take for granted the base of consumers that their enterprise has built up over time. This is why prioritizing the choice of a partner that has a demonstrated level of achievement in the CX space should be paramount.
Undoubtedly, picking the right outsourcing partner to manage some or all of an enterprise’s CX operations is no easy task. Executives selecting their partner of choice have to weigh numerous factors. This process needs to take into account criteria that will directly impact how well end-users are serviced, overall operating efficiencies, business continuity, and data security. There are many options that enterprise contact center managers have to choose from, but narrowing it down to a partner with experience, a commitment to quality, and a strong record of delivering for their clients’ consumers, is essential.