Many companies are facing the toughest economic landscape in generations. Driven by the housing market landslide and seizure of the global credit markets, economies the world over have slipped into retrenchment and recession. Even the most positive economic forecasts predict continued retraction through 2009, with best-case scenarios describing a slow-but-steady recovery for 2010 and beyond.
In the face of these realities, many organizations are tightening capital and expense budgets, closing locations, shortening hours or reducing staff. Still others are tempted to reduce the level of service and support they extend to customers in stores and through contact centers.
The simple fact is this: Reducing customer service is the last thing companies should do in a recession, given that it is a buyer’s market. Customers are receiving multiple offers from aggressive competitors and switching suppliers at the first sign of poor service.
Companies need paying customers to survive and succeed in a shrinking economy. For that reason, astute executives recognize the need to make prudent, strategic investments in customer service — even, and especially, in a down market.
What Outsourcers Can Offer
There are proven and cost-effective solutions, including a workable outsourcing model, that enable companies to reduce costs and increase efficiency — while improving the overall customer experience.
Organizations can get results faster and create a more manageable and predictable cost structure while improving the customer experience by partnering with outsourcers that specialize in customer management.
A reliable outsourcing partner can provide the following:
- Consolidation. Many organizations struggle with duplicated and suboptimal management of contact centers, technologies, processes and suppliers. Outsourcers can help consolidate and streamline a contact center’s footprint while ensuring customers are served by agents with the right languages, skills and cost points.
- Modernization. Traditionally, contact centers were built with distributed, costly and difficult-to-manage technologies and applications. Today, many organizations are turning to outsourcers so they can leverage their technology, network and data center investments to quickly and economically deliver a standardized, consolidated contact center operating environment.
- Technology. Organizations can now rely on outsourcers for a broad range of contact center technology services such as customer identification and authentication, multichannel self-service, call management and routing, call recording, and quality management. By leveraging these managed services, organizations can reduce capital, create a variable cost structure and obtain significant service improvements.
- Software. Many organizations can now buy Software as a Service to quickly and economically deploy new applications, manage sales and satisfy customers.
- Automation. Organizations can reduce costs and drive increased revenue by automating many customer interactions. “Click-to-talk,” for example, enables Web site visitors to bypass IVR (interactive voice response) menus to reach an agent when required. A well-equipped outsourcer has the expertise, technologies and applications needed to deliver rapid, cost-effective automation services.
- High value. Forward-looking organizations are now successfully applying outsourcing and self-service to serve their highest-value customers. Airlines use advanced speech recognition to conduct brief, efficient transactions with frequent flyers. Wireless companies increasingly route their most complex technical support to specialized and highly skilled outsourced agents.
- Multichannel. Consumers increasingly want to communicate with companies via the channel of their choice, requiring organizations to accelerate service delivery, reduce costs and integrate Web and contact center capabilities. An experienced outsourcing partner can help build, implement and manage a multichannel customer service capability.
- Proactive. Outbound communications can be an effective and satisfying way to interact with customers. An outsourcer can provide the technology and applications needed to deliver proactive communications such as status updates, reminders and other outbound messages.
- Virtual. Organizations are now moving toward a “virtual contact center” model capable of linking customers to resources in contact centers, elsewhere in the enterprise, in a remote home/office or at an outsourced partner location.
- Home. Many companies want to tap into the broad pool of well-educated, well-trained workers willing to work flexible schedules from home. However, they are unsure about how to best hire, train and manage home-based agents, and they have concerns over privacy and security. Many organizations are turning to outsourcers who are well versed in these issues and have examples of how to make the home agent option deliver results.
- Multivendor. Many organizations rely on multiple vendors to deliver customer services; however, this multivendor approach can make it hard to control costs and maintain quality in a large, complex CRM program. Turning to outsourcers that specialize in multivendor management can help streamline their supplier network while delivering better results at lower costs.
- Analytics. To connect customers to the best resources, organizations must gather detailed data about customers and then apply advanced analytics and decision support solutions. Many organizations are turning to outsourcing companies who specialize in these areas either as standalone applications or embedded in services that combine analytics applications and agents to deliver improved customer outcomes.
- Visibility. To better manage and optimize the customer experience, organizations must capture, report and analyze performance data across many different systems, channels, functions and business units. The solution is to establish strong, centralized data management, integrated technologies and applications, and reports and dashboards that are usable by agents, managers and executives. Organizations are turning to outsourcers with skills in data management and integration of disparate contact center technologies and applications to help rapidly deploy these capabilities.
By outsourcing selected customer-oriented technologies and business processes, companies can reduce both capital and operating expenses and develop predictable cost models that can quickly scale up or down, as needed.
This outsourced approach also provides access to today’s most advanced customer contact, multichannel, automation and analytics technologies.
Forward-looking organizations can apply this approach to weather the current economic downturn, retain their customers, and position themselves to succeed in the projected recovery.
Steve Ditto is a leader in the EDS Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Services group. Ditto has spent more than 20 years selling and delivering transformational CRM solutions to Fortune 500 companies and has extensive experience helping companies grow their sales and profitability by improving their customer relationships.