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North American Outsourcers Deserve Renewed Attention 

North American Outsourcers Deserve Renewed Attention

North American Outsourcers Deserve Renewed Attention

Considering offshore outsourcing for your call centers? One expert thinks there are good reasons to look closer to home, as well.

By Donna Fluss
CallCenter Magazine

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Contact center outsourcing will be a hot topic and area of great debate again in 2006, as it is one of the few single initiatives that can reduce the expense of a major business function by 25% to 60%. Of course, when analysts and consultants give savings estimates, we should qualify them with the caveat that the outsourcing must be done properly. We also should note that when outsourcing is not managed well, it can end up being even more expensive than your current in-house operation and may cost you customers. Anyone who has ever outsourced a business function will tell you that it’s not easy to do it right. Adding to the complexity is that there are many meanings to the term “right.” For some, such as chief financial officers, “right” simply means cost reduction. For others, “right” means taking assets and head count off the books. For still others, “right” is about finding the appropriate cultural and organizational fit — partnering with a vendor that understands your business and satisfies your customers. What I’m driving at is that companies use outsourcing to meet a variety of business objectives.

Given that outsourcing has become or is quickly becoming a fact of life for many enterprises, contact center managers should focus their efforts on doing it “right” — not fighting the outsourcing decision. You may not like it, but if it’s a corporate edict, it’s going to happen with you or without you.

My definition of doing it “right” is a combination of all the considerations described above; it’s about finding an outsourcer that culturally matches the needs of your company, understands your customers’ requirements and is able to deliver services in a manner that satisfies them, speaks your customers’ language, reduces expenses by a minimum of 20% (or else it’s questionable if it’s worth the effort) and takes head count, and possibly even assets, off your books. It’s also a company that sees you as a long-term partner and is willing to do almost anything it takes to make the relationship work. Of course, you have to be a good partner as well and make fair demands on your outsourcer.

My standards for successful outsourcing partnerships go beyond the basics, as I believe that it’s risky and costly to move your activities repeatedly from one vendor to another.

At the risk of deviating from commonly accepted business wisdom, I highly recommend including outsourcers based in the US and Canada in your selection process, in addition to vendors in other geographies, such as India and the Philippines.

I also strongly suggest that when you calculate the payback and total cost of ownership of converting over to an outsourcer, you quantify soft factors, such as the risk of lost customers and the overhead cost of doing business abroad — two variables that are often overlooked.

The surviving North American outsourcers are a strong group of vendors who have come to grips with today’s realities — they understand that they cannot charge a premium for commoditized products and services, as they have in the past. Today, they are more price competitive than ever before and they make up for lost revenue by offering optional value-added services. They understand providing innovations for their customers is key to building a strong and loyal client base. Seven leaders in the North American market are ACS, arvato services, Convergys, ICT, SITEL, West and TeleTech.

This isn’t to say that there are not some great offshore outsourcers; there are. I am, however, pointing out that North American outsourcers have definite advantages and should be considered when selecting a partner. The great news is that there are more than 80 North American contact center outsourcers who are eager for your business.

The lowest cost per call should not be your primary decision point, although there are North American outsourcers with competitive pricing. Providing an outstanding customer experience is essential for building a loyal customer base. Finding an outsourcer with deep vertical expertise and experience, an understanding of your customers’ culture and the ability and willingness to help you improve your business processes is critical for ongoing success.

Outsourcing does not resolve all of your customer service and sales challenges; instead, it introduces new ones. Whether you service customers yourself or through a partner, it’s important to continuously apply the concept of business process optimization to enhance your operations. As you work to improve your business, keep in mind the convenience and added effectiveness of working with a partner closer to home.

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