The current climate of customer service demands flexibility and adaptability. To put it mildly, we’re living through one of the weirdest periods in modern history. Entire industries have been unceremoniously ushered into remote working conditions they never planned for, and a palpable pandemic-fueled FOMO has led to “The Great Resignation.” Everywhere you look these days, you see churn and uncertainty, and the customer service arena is far from immune.
In a climate like this, where most contact centers have evolved to deliver effective work-at-home models, we’re forced to ask, does location still matter? When you’re reading this article from the comfort of your home with a dog under your desk and dinner on the stove, do you really need to consider contact center location strategy in your evaluation of new vendors?
It’s tempting to blow it off. Remote is king! On-prem is outdated! We live in a global business economy! But is that the full story? At Blue Ocean, we firmly believe that location is still an integral piece of the puzzle. And trust us, we love our dogs and their places under our home office desks—but the fact remains that contact center location strategy is not obsolete but it sure is conceptually different. Here’s why.
Even with the success and proliferation of remote work, some on-premises work is likely and beneficial. This is particularly when you have complex training requirements for tech hardware, for example, or have to meet specific security certifications that include dedicated secure space. In this case, you need on-site agents who can work in a secure location, at least some of the time—and you need a local labor market that can fulfill this requirement.
Second, having a balance of both remote and on-prem teams guarantees greater protection against unexpected downtime due to natural disasters, power outages, inclement weather, and even pandemics. Hybrid, therefore, can be a real enhancement for your BCP.
In fact, this intersection between business continuity and location is one reason location may be a critical component in decision-making for your new contact center partner. The pandemic showed us when everything needs to go unexpectedly remote, infrastructure and agents must be able to adapt quickly— knowing that the regional infrastructure and internet speeds support at home is relevant to your geographical choice of partner.
The quality and availability within labor markets are still important considerations to support a highly effective customer care program. Again, this is where hybrid brings literally the best of both worlds. If there is an on-premises piece to your solution, you need to be tapping into a robust and affordable labor market that is rich with skilled candidates for your complex care.
The right talent market has a great education rate—often in proximity to higher education institutions—as well as a high labor force participation rate and low unemployment rate.
Beyond that, having a partner that is a recognized presence in the community with a reputation as an employer of choice can be a real asset in sourcing a partner. It’s worth investigating that in your RFP process. There are tangible benefits to staffing your program when your partner already enjoys high brand visibility and a reputation as a solid corporate citizen.
At Blue Ocean, we’re huge proponents of on-site visits, both before you make a final decision and throughout your partnership with your outsourcer. It’s truly the best way to build a collaborative relationship.
The pandemic obviously threw a wrench in things as far as site visits were concerned. It forced us to get creative and build relationships virtually. But as things slowly return to normal, we’re incredibly excited to get more site visits back on the books. Sitting down together and rolling up your sleeves in strategic planning sessions is a worthwhile exercise in any. And with that, it’s critical to note that once again location strategy matters in your outsourcing decision.
How easy is it to get to your partner’s office? What kind of logistics are involved? How far is the center from the nearest airport? It sounds trivial on paper, but we have had clients come to us who went to RFP because the travel logistics to visit the incumbent were just too much to deal with on a quarterly basis. Long-distance relationships only work if it’s convenient to visit on a regular basis. That means decent flights from major centers and an easy commute from airport to office. (And yes, Halifax, NS, checks the box on both those factors.)
The remote world of work is still in the spotlight (and introverts everywhere are rejoicing), but it doesn’t mean that your contact center partner’s physical location no longer matters. As a strategic partner to your business, an outsourcer’s location can be an advantage or it can be an added challenge. It’s worth considering how your business might be impacted when you head to RFP.