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Key Points
  • Trends in the marketplace today include globalization and technology support. There are several options available, including voice calls, email, chat and mobile devices
  • There are competing objectives in customer care operations. One is to increase revenue per customer, two is balancing it with quality metrics and somehow decreasing the overall cost of contact
  • Outsourcers have a great advantage of being in different places in the market place at the same time. They are working across different verticals, with clients who have multiple challenges
  • The first thing companies that are outsourcing need to do is make sure they have senior management commitment. Another thing is to make sure there’s a cultural fit with the outsourcer

Q: Trends in customer care?
Ans: In terms of trends in the market place today. Over the past several years obviously there has been a big trend for globalization, to find the right market, to handle the transaction. I think the right market 5 years ago is not the right market today. So markets move around based on the availability of labor in the market, the price of the labor, the exchange rates, there are lots of factors that go into that.

I think when you pick a market in the globe to put the work in; you got to take all those factors into account. So you got to look at not only what things are like today, but what they are going to be in 5 years, because when you ramp up operations it is going to stay there for a while.

The second biggest trend which kind of overshadows everything is the technology support. There is continuously more ways to support the agent and what they are doing in their job, so that they are able to handle the call better. There are also technologies that are actually interfaced with the customers in different ways. These examples would be like the movement from voice, to email to chat. You move down that path and in those paths you offer more channels to work with your customers on, and you will be able to service them in the channel that they want to be contacted in.

So if they want to do voice calls you got that available, if they want email you can do that, if they want chat you can do that. I think that some of the areas in chat offers the most returns, both in customer satisfaction improvement and in cost affordability because you will be able to more efficiently handle the chat session with the customer and get the information out of them faster, they don’t have to wait in a line, in a queue typically to do that. On the outsourcer side, we can build the knowledge base for answers; we can much better manage the interchange with the customer in a written format like that.

Beyond the chat, there is accessing people on the mobile device and being proactive. So if you know there are some problem coming, it could be a problem in the network or problem in servicing your customers, things you want to get notification out, we can actually do email blast, we can do blast to the wireless phones, we can do blast to the Blackberries to tell them here is what the news is, here is where the information is and we can be proactive in getting that out. That way you will eliminate the call, you will eliminate the email, the chat sections and you take in a proactive response.

Q: Challenges faced by companies in customer care?
Ans: There are several competing objectives when you are running a customer care operation. You got to kind of balance between probably the 3 biggest ones. Number one would be to increase the revenue per customer or just to make the contact center a revenue driver for the company. You got to come up with the ways, the techniques, the training, the methodologies and the technologies to allow you to be able to do that.

The second thing is while you are trying to increase the revenue you got to balance that with your quality metrics, make sure you are achieving the service levels in doing all the things necessary to hit the quality metrics on your call.

The third thing you got to do in balancing those two is you got to somehow decrease the overall cost of the contact. It is a balancing act to try to get more revenue without sacrificing your service levels and to try to balance your service levels with maintaining the cost competitiveness in he market.

So, we find a lot of companies struggle with these three and there will be some swing back and forth depending on where the company is at, their progress down the path on those three. But I think those are the three biggest drivers.

Q: How can outsourcing help in customer care?
Ans: Outsourcers have a great advantage of being at multiple places in the market place at the same time. So they are working across different verticals, they are working with clients who have multiple challenges, where they may have challenges with service levels, they may have challenges with cost problems, they may have challenges with revenue.

We gain a lot of experience by being able to address those problems and taking kind of best practices as we gain our knowledge base across to other clients. I think in terms of achieving the basic service levels and the basics of what the center should be able to deliver, we can do that very well.

I think the biggest thing an outsourcer can do is layer on top of that the advantages we bring in terms of the latest technologies, the latest in the locations you should be in. So, in terms of the global footprints you have to choose from, which areas would offer you the optimum return and the best long term viability for the languages that you are interested in.

I think when you layer the technology and the geographic diversity across the top of that equation along with hitting the basics you pretty much got captured in what you expect from a good outsourcer.

Q: How has WNS helped improve customer care for clients?
Ans: I will use a recent example from Manila. I was just there and there was a client who came to us and wanted us to create as a special request a dedicated center just for them. And they wanted the center to be branded as the client’s center, primarily branded as theirs and secondary branded as WNS. We did all that for them. We created a center, supported by our operational team in Manila. The center is branded as the client’s center.

I think the client wanted this because they wanted the agents to feel a great loyalty to their brand name and even though the agents were outsourced, they wanted to see that the agents had a loyalty and affinity to their brand, over and above our brand alone, which was fine with us. So the center was brought up in record time, it was built from the ground up in little over 90 days from the time of the contract signing, the time of the first call, it is hitting all of its metrics in terms of service level. We just recently achieved number one in customer satisfaction among the other centers that it competes with. So I think they are doing a great job down there. This proves the efficiency of our model and what we can bring to the table when we were asked.

Another example of where we have got some great successes is where couple of clients that we had operations with in India and they were running successfully for several months and years, but we needed to implement a little bit of business disaster planning just in case there was a problem. So we moved part of the operations to Manila. Some pleasant surprises were that the operations moved to Manila not only achieved the service levels and we were on par with the operations that have been running for quite a while in India, but we beat the customer service and customer satisfaction levels that we had experienced out of India. So I think for an operation to come up like that in a new market, with being able to beat customer satisfaction score from an established operation is a testament again in the operational skills we got there.

Q: Factors to consider when outsourcing customer care?
Ans: I think the first thing companies got to make sure they have is senior management commitment because they are fundamentally adding direction to the company that may be a little bit different than what they have done in the past. They want to make sure that the senior management is behind the move and is supportive of the move, and gets the word out of their organization that this is the way the ship is going.

I think the second thing behind that is to make sure that there is a good cultural fit with the outsourcer that you pick. Most companies go through an RFP process and they figure out who is the best fit, everybody answers the questions right and got the pricing right. All those things are quantitative things you can look at, but then you got to look at the qualitative items as to how well do we mesh up with our outsourcing partner. Do we have similar cultures, do we have similar values or people work together well because this is something that over the long term that we are going to be able to sustain and be a successful act together. That’s a very important part of the equation. After you run through the RFP you find out that you got your choice of 4-5 different choices out there that are all very good. One of the differentiating factors is we better look for the fit in the culture between the two companies and is the right move for you.

After that you want to take a look and see, one thing you want to look for in your outsourcing partner is the ability to not just do the work you are tasked with today that statement of work, you are supposed to do this exact boundary of services. But you want to have that outsourcing partner lead you into the future. So you want them to tell you where is the future or the direction that I need to go and work as a partner with the client company to lead them and to say here is what we need to go in the future, here is what you need to do to keep abreast of changes in the market place, to keep abreast of new technology developments and to really work with the client to implement those things.

Managing through a change process is always stressful on an organization, so people are going to have to may be do different jobs, some people may have expanded jobs, some people’s jobs may not exist after it is done. So I think both teams need to be aware of the fact to try to move through the process quickly. Not only does it saves money to move faster, transition plans take a long time, cost more, the more duplicate work you have involved there is a the cost for the company, lot of times it can be eliminated.

Plus, the biggest thing is the string on the organization. So anytime you implement change, you got to kind of move through it quickly, get people to let go of what they had before, get them to focus on the to-be-process and get them to move over there. That’s some of the most successful ones I have seen that move through that process pretty quickly.

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