For many organizations, in-house customer care feels like the right choice. It keeps you close to your customers and ready to serve them with your exhaustive knowledge of your products or services. But doing it all in-house also comes with its challenges. The newest publication from the Ryan Strategic Advisory reports on these challenges, which we explore below. We also took a look at how outsourcing your customer care to the right contact center partner may enable your organization to circumvent these obstacles without sacrificing commitment to your customers.
Business continuity made the top of the list of pressure points for in-house contact centers this year—but that’s not altogether surprising on account of the pandemic. Customer care is often a 24/7/365 job, and the slightest disruption has the potential to impact your reputation and brand loyalty. COVID-19 was a disruption at an unbelievable scale, opening the eyes of business leaders everywhere to the fact that a robust business continuity plan isn’t just a formality; it’s a critical part of your business operations.
The challenging part of business continuity in the contact center is just how many variables there are. From power outages to natural disasters to pandemics and much more—and there’s no predicting the length of time that your business continuity measures might need to be enacted: from mere hours to weeks to months. Ensuring your customer support center is up and running, no matter what, is a daunting task and the pandemic of 2020 made that clearer than ever before.
Ensuring robust business continuity is in place for customer care is one way an outsourcer can help relieve the burden. Between their redundancy measures, technical infrastructure, remote-ready workforce, and built-in scalability, an strategic outsourced partner can help you mitigate the risks of disruption. One interesting highlight of the past year was the ability of onshore and nearshore providers to maintain contact center readiness versus offshore providers. If the pandemic proved one thing it is that, while we were all in the same storm, we were not all in the same boat. Because of the more robust and stable infrastructure pivoting to a largely at-home model proved more manageable in North America than some other long-standing top BPO destinations.
Staffing for exceptional service agents represents another pain point for the in-house center. We have often written about the challenge of hiring for in-house contact center agents. Over our 27 years in business, we know that having a talent acquisition team whose primary responsibility is hiring for contact center roles is a value-add. Your in-house talent acquisition team is probably hiring for the whole organization, with staffing your customer care roles somewhere on the list of necessary tasks but perhaps not the priority task. As customer expectations and habits evolve, so does the contact center itself, making it harder to nail down the right agent profile for your workforce. This has been a consistent concern for in-house contact centers, particularly because they are often limited by their local talent pools or by the bandwidths of their in-house recruitment team. (The theme of 2021 in many major U.S. cities seems to be “Available Labor Shortage.”)
It’s a challenge because although in many cases the contact center agent role may not require extensive experience or skill levels, it does require the right personality traits and attitudes to thoughtfully manage the customer experience—and this can be harder to measure in the hiring process.
An outsourced partner can offer a number of benefits in this scenario. It’s likely they’ve analyzed and optimized their local talent pools to help deepen the candidate network from which they’re hiring—not to mention the flexibility they have if they have a strong remote workforce. Additionally, their recruiters are focused solely on customer care agents—they know what to look for, how to measure and compare, and even what to train for given each unique client profile. In short, 100% of their job is finding the right agents, which can take the burden off your shoulders entirely.
With a tight labor market, staffing struggles are not limited to hiring – the perennial challenge of retention takes on greater significance. it’s interesting to note that, in the Ryan Report, contact center executives identified agent attrition as one of this year’s top pressure point for U.S. in-house contact centers. While it’s hard to pinpoint the reasons why, we can certainly speculate that it may be a result of pandemic-related turbulence in the employment market. No matter the root cause, agent attrition can wreak havoc on customer care, impacting their ability to meet the needs of their customers as well as the expected KPIs of the contact center—and even the overall morale of their contact center workforce.
Contact center attrition is actually a tricky thing to measure, and there is wide variance in how companies, and even geographic regions, differ in their measurement and reporting of attrition, making it difficult to establish a baseline. That said, the right outsourced partner should be able to clearly articulate the state of attrition in their own contact center as well as implement strategic retention initiatives to prevent against it. As a client, acceptable attrition levels can be built into your SoW with your partner – protecting you against unexpected costs associated with replacement hiring and training. Furthermore, you may be surprised to find out that despite attrition being a top challenge for in-house centers, many outsourcers, including ourselves at Blue Ocean, have watched attrition decline over the last year, giving us a confident and positive outlook for the future.
When is budget never a pain point? Hardly ever but the unfortunate reality following the pandemic is that the vast majority of enterprise contact centers are reporting flat or declining budgets for 2022. That makes it extremely difficult to prioritize investments in equipping and evolving your contact center.
Common areas of investment in coming months and years include data protection and security, cloud technology, remote infrastructure, diversity initiatives, and more. These are all essentials areas of focus as the world, the business landscape, and customers themselves continue to evolve and reprioritize with shifting values and markets. But making these investments and scaling your contact center accordingly slows or stalls when budgets are tight.
(For more info about the cost of in-house contact centers, check out this article.)
In contrast, investing with an outsourced contact center partner kills many birds with one stone. The right partner is future-focused with tangible plans to stay ahead of the market and tuned in to trends and changes in the industry. Most contracts are founded on a three-year horizon with predicted and capped annual increases. As a result, you can stretch your budget much further than may otherwise be possible, helping you achieve your priorities without burdening your bottom line.
This is an ever-present challenge for in-house contact centers. Data protection continues to be top-of-mind for business leaders as the amount of data seems to exponentially increase every year—and as consumers become ever more cautious in the wake of regular data breaches splayed across the news.
From GDPR to PCI compliance and everything in between, risk mitigation and data security covers a wide landscape that in-house contact center must cover to protect their customers—and themselves.
Once again, the beauty of an outsourced customer care partner is that their success in the industry is by and large incumbent on their ability to meet this challenge with dedicated resources, expertise, and experience to tackle it and proactively protect their clients and their clients’ customer.