This is the second article in a series on evaluating call center partners. Don’t miss the first article: “Evaluating Call Center Companies: A Baseline Test”

When evaluating call center companies, there are three main areas that mark a partner as trusted:

  1. industry and process expertise
  2. relationship strength, and
  3. operational strength.

Here are some buyer criteria and questions to ask to help you evaluate whether your potential provider hits the mark.

Industry & Process Expertise

One of the most valuable criteria for selecting a call center partner is domain knowledge, a deep understanding of your industry and business processes. Speed-to-proficiency will largely be impacted by what your partner knows about your business processes, your customers’ needs, your key performance indicators, and the practices that help companies in your space deliver the best customer experience.

For example, EPIC Connections recently assisted a healthcare records company and a transportation company in identifying potential call center partners that had experience with similar programs. With a full understanding of HIPAA compliance and business-specific requirements, it was easy for the call center partners to align with client objectives and deliver on expectations with added value.

To identify expertise, ask about your potential partner’s:

  • Industry experience and best practices
  • Productized or industry-specific offerings
  • Innovation in your industry
  • Approach for reaching specific success metrics or key performance indicators
  • Case studies or client success stories

Relationship Strength

Relationships are a key decision-making factor, because outsourcing success is driven by developing and maintaining trusting relationships at varying levels of the call center organization. So, it’s critical to get a sense of how you will work with each person or group, including the sales representative, client management representatives, operational teams and even executives. Here are specific questions you can ask to help anticipate the types of relationships the call center builds with its clients.

  • Alignment: How important is my business to the call center company’s success? Are our business goals aligned? How do we ensure our business goals are continuously aligned and recalibrated if necessary?
  • Launch & Management: Who is going to manage my account/program proactively on my behalf? Will someone be 100% focused on me and my business? How will the call center company carry out the implementation and program launch as well as the ongoing performance review and maintenance of the program? Who is going to drive day-to-day execution at the site? What is their experience level and background? You may also want to inquire about the frequency of communication and the accessibility of each person or group.

Relationship Sharing: Call centers will frequently reallocate a few top agents or key program managers from their similar, existing client programs to help kickstart your new operation. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The pros: these tenured and experienced leaders will accelerate your program success and time-to-performance. The cons: The same talent may be pulled away from your program when the next new client comes on-board. Don’t be afraid to ask about these relationship practices as well.

Right-Sized Relationships: Matching your company size to theirs can also be a factor in selecting a partner that will give you the time and attention you deserve. Buyers often forget to take into consideration how much their business will mean to their partner. Will your account be one of your partner’s top 10 accounts or will you be completely irrelevant? The answer could mean a drastic difference in the quality of the relationship. Targeting only the largest call center partners can be limiting, because these providers typically serve the world’s largest brands. For example, when a warehouse retailer partnered with EPIC Connections to accelerate its RFP process, EPIC’s industry veterans widened the retailer’s potential partner list with mid-sized, tier-2 providers who serve mostly large and mid-tier brands. This advice proved critical in the end, as it was a tier-2 partner who was ultimately selected.

Operational Excellence

Operations are everything in call center work. So, it’s important to understand how your provider turns plans into action. Management approaches, technologies, and tools play a large role in operational strength. Examine your provider in these specific areas to gauge the quality of their operations:

  • Site management including strategies and approaches to success, Six Sigma, ISO standards and other certifications
  • Workforce management including training, knowledge sharing, bonus structures, incentives, employee retention and attrition, closed feedback loops, etc.
  • Technology and innovation, including service delivery platforms, performance reporting, and how they can provide strategic insight to your business
  • Sustainability and scalability, including their ability to respond to your changing business needs
  • Delivering on key performance indicators including performance management, and most importantly continuous improvement

In the end, vendors deliver only on key performance indicators while true partners reach beyond, striving to help you lower costs, increase revenue, and gain new insights about your customers or the industry. EPIC Connections has a proven and comprehensive approach to lead companies through the partner identification, selection, contract negotiation, and service transition process. Contact us today to put an industry veteran on your RFP team.