In my last blog post, we talked about what to consider when selecting a contact center partner.
Along those same lines, I wanted to talk about the three Ps of contact center outsourcing. Below is the first of those 3 Ps and I will get the other 2 Ps out in the coming weeks. In my 20 years in the space as both an operator managing over 150 people and a $100M project annually, and being in sales the last 5-6 years, here is what it boils down to, in my experience.
The first P is People. This is one that makes a lot of sense to most of us in the space and although AI and technology have made a huge impact on the contact center world, you still win with people.
I find “People” to be broken out into two broad categories (that have lots of subcategories).
- Key personnel – This term simply refers to the people who oversee the project and the relationship. Leaders in departments like Operations, HR, Training, QC, IT, Account Manager, etc. Typically, the client will have a person(s) that each category interacts with. For example, the client trainer works with the vendor trainer. The client IT team works with the IT team of the vendor, and so on and so forth.
The main thing to look at here is experience and tenure with the company. There is no magic number when it comes to either, and it can be tricky, but typically, an experienced person who is tenured in those roles with the company is what you are looking for. For example, if a trainer is new to the company or especially new to training, that should make you a little uncomfortable. Ask if the contact center vendor has some sort of management or career development program. What is that program? Who has come through it and what are some tangible examples of its success? An example is if you see an organization that seems to have a new trainer(s) often, the client will have to spend a lot of time training and re-training a trainer. If you train the trainer for your program and then they move on, someone has to train a new one. That can put a strain on your resources and cost you “tribal knowledge” each time it happens. If the whole team of leaders in each area seems to be newer, that is probably a red flag. Again, there is no magic formula or number when it comes to this, just something worth noting. Don’t get me wrong, new ideas and new blood are great, but there needs to be a nice mix and it probably needs to lean more towards experience & tenure.
The other main thing to try and get a sense of is how responsive are these people, in real-time. When something does break or go wrong (and it will), how quickly does the vendor team member get back to you and get working on the resolution? Slow is not good. Fast and efficient is good. Is the process super bureaucratic or are people empowered to make decisions? Organizations that promote bureaucratic decision-making strategies are slower to move because you have to have 10 people in the meeting to vote on and make one decision. That usually means a lot of questions in the meetings and a lot of “I’ll get back to you on that”. Feel free to ask about this during the exploratory period of the relationship and do your best to get a feel for what it looks like when the rubber meets the road with key personnel. Also, Remember, not everyone on that team wants more business. Some do and some don’t. One good indicator is how involved are the key personnel during the relationship-building phase and during the buying cycle. Odds are, if they didn’t make a great impression during that phase by being present and being willing to attend meetings before you were a client, it won’t get much better once you are a client.
- The other category of People is more measurable (like a KPI) and easier to define. In the contact center business, people means literally the actual number of people working on the project. How many agents are taking/making calls, chat, text, AI, social, etc. This is the #1 challenge in the contact center today. Not having enough people to deliver on the promise is a very frustrating and difficult spot to be in for the vendor and the client alike. Workforce Management and all the tools in the world won’t do you much good if you need to deliver a headcount of 25 per day and only 14 are showing up. You will have a problem. You want to learn as much as possible about attrition stats, plans, training graduation rates, strategies, etc.. More importantly, though, learn about their culture. Do people like to come to work there? What is the hiring process like and what tools do they utilize? Do they basically throw it against the wall and see what sticks or is it more sophisticated than that? What career development programs are in place? Ask what pay rate they plan to hire people at and how that compares to the other offers in that area for similar contact center jobs. Those types of things will help you understand what to expect with the actual “front line” staff. Make no mistake about it though… hiring and retaining people in the contact center business is a real challenge and although it can be managed and some are better than others, it is a serious problem everyone has to deal with. Finding a partner that actually makes hiring a priority, has a good culture and leadership, and has career advancement strategies is as good as you can ask for.