How to Select an Outsourcing Partner
2. Technology: The provider also should have technology that's compatible with your order-management system for easy flow of data between your companies, says Marc Klein, director of sales at SC Fulfillment Services, an outsource provider.
Magram agrees, adding, "Is the outsourcer willing to have its agents key orders directly into your system, so you can offer real-time inventory availability to your callers — something that's especially important in the holiday selling season?"
Some outsourcers, he says, don't want their agents to switch computer screens to take orders for various catalog clients or to have to learn different screen prompts. "They'd rather use just one order-management system, their own, and send your orders in batches, say, once or twice a day.
But that's not the best solution for catalogers, especially during the holiday crunch," Magram notes.
3. Commitment to quality service: Many merchants who keep all contact center operations in house say they do so out of fear that the customer service an outsourcer would offer won't be at the high level they expect. When shopping for a provider, methodically investigate service quality. For example:
- Insist on monitoring a few customer calls. Are the reps polite, efficient and obviously qualified? Is there too much background noise?
- Call the provider and do a little mystery shopping to see how the company handles your queries. And don't throw any softballs — make them work, then document their responses and how they handle your call.
- Call companies currently using the provider — and not just those the provider offers up as references.
- Visit the contact center. "Look at the environment," Klein suggests. "Is the place clean? Do the reps have enough privacy and sound barriers so there isn't much background chatter?" Also while at the site, interview a few reps, he continues. "Are they happy in their jobs? If not, that bad tone may come through in their voices.