What Should You Do Before Switching Call Center Providers?

Despite a lot of initial promise and your high expectations for a successful outcome, sometimes outsource call centers don’t work out as expected. What should you do if this happens? The first thought is to fire them and hire a new one. And whether you go through this arduous process yourself or tap the expertise of a call center broker to do the heavy lifting for you, there are a few items you should work through first. Seek Solutions: Before you bail on your current outsource call center, it’s always wise to seek to resolve service issues or address concerns you may have. This is important for two reasons. First, even though your existing call center is falling short of your expectations, it may be relatively easy to make adjustments and produce a different outcome. This may be as simple as a carefully worded email or scheduling a conference call with all relevant parties. Establish a dialogue to produce positive change. Second, switching call centers is an arduous task. It should be a last resort and not a first impulse. That doesn’t mean you should avoid changing call centers if they’re not up to the challenge of providing the service you need, but don’t rush to do this unless it’s necessary. Look Inside: The next item is the hardest. It involves some serious introspection. To be blunt, the problem may reside within your company and not be the fault of your outsource call center. Though this is an uncomfortable thought, it’s one that smart business managers will consider. In taking this step, explore several possibilities. One common area is call centers that receive conflicting instructions by different members of a client’s staff. Make sure everyone has aligned objectives and is aiming for the same goals. Another item is expecting impossible results. Maybe you insist every call be answered by the first ring or to never place callers on hold. Perhaps you demand that customer cancellations or order refunds be kept at zero. Or maybe you expect to receive no complaints about your call center. While these are all reasonable goals to strive for, they aren’t possible to completely achieve. A third item is expecting your call center to properly handle situations when you have not given them the needed information they need for success. Though most call centers are staffed with highly trained, professional communicators, they don’t know your industry as well as you do and lack the detailed background to handle complex scenarios. Establish Reasonable Expectations: Once you address these first two issues and conclude the relationship with your present call center cannot be salvaged and confirm you aren’t the cause of your dissatisfaction, now it’s time to move forward to establish the basis for success with your next outsource call center. To do this, set reasonable expectations of what you want your outsourcing call center to achieve. In most cases it’s unreasonable to ask them to do something your own staff is unable to accomplish. Though perfection is a worthy goal, attaining that goal with every interaction is not a reasonable expectation. Finetune Processes: Once you set realistic expectations for your call center, the next step is to give them processes that help them and don’t thwart their efforts. Look at ways to streamline your systems. This will go a long way to resolving annoying problems. If a ten-step process can be reduced to eight, then do it. If two processes are similar but not identical, look for ways to make them match. This will also help reduce errors. Document Procedures: Armed with reasonable expectations and having streamlined processes, the next step is to document your procedures. If you can’t document what you expect to happen, there is no way a call center can produce the outcomes you desire. If you can’t explain it, it’s wrong to expect them to do it. The clearer the documentation, the more likely it is for your call center to follow it. Once you have worked through these five items, you’re now in a great position to switch call centers. The more effort you apply in working through these recommendations, the greater the likelihood you will realize call center outsourcing success. Share this information with your team that handles RFPs (request for proposals) or your call center broker. By the way, most call center brokers can help you work through the above items and guide the process. Then they can find the best call center to meet the outcomes you expect. Do this and enjoy success. Janet Livingston is the president ofCall Center Sales Pro—a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry—that provides a call center matchmaking service, covering both onshore and offshore call centers and answering services. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or call 800-901-7706. Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.