How to Select an Outsourcing Partner
By Donna Loyle
Before Sherry Comes outsourced contact center duties for her online business, she tried to keep operations in house, with reps answering customer calls only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"But customers started saying, 'Come on. You're an Internet company. You should have longer call center hours,'" recalls Comes, president and founder of CoffeeCakes.com, a purveyor of gourmet baked goods.
So Comes decided to outsource all of her contact center operations, including 24-hour order-taking, customer service, outbound telemarketing and conference calling. The outcome, she says, is that her business has been able to grow without adding staffers to the payroll.
Outsourcing your contact center operations — whether it's for overflow/after-hours or 24/7 — is a decision that should be made with great care and after much research. Comes, for example, used what she terms "the standard selection criteria."
"We documented all requirements. Then we did a broad market scan — using some Internet research — of available contact center services," recalls the Castle Rock, Colo.-based merchant. "Then I short-listed the top 10 companies that looked suitable. Next, I did a 'deep dive,' talking with those companies, checking references, doing my research. Then I narrowed the field to the top three companies and created a matrix, slotting in how each of the three fared given our requirements."
In summer 2002, Comes selected AnswerNet, a contact center outsource provider. "We've been happy with them ever since," she notes.
If you're thinking about outsourcing all or only a portion of your contact center operations — or if you already do this but are less than thrilled with your current provider — here are some strategies that can help you select a partner that's right for you.
What to Look For
1. Experience: Ideally, the provider should have experience with catalog and/or e-commerce companies, says Erv Magram, managing director, catalog division of offshore contact center provider Cyber City Teleservices, and the former CEO of Lew Magram catalog.