Outsourcing – the grass is always greener…isn’t it!?

Most of us, at one time or another in our corporate lives, will have been involved in a meeting or project where outsourcing to an external provider works its way to the fore, and becomes the desired option for the business, and for all the right reasons (you convince yourself).

Such a seductive idea – ‘we can rationalise FTE’, ‘we can make efficiency gains’, ‘we can reduce bad demand’ – after all, ‘they’re the experts at this stuff!’. The most tempting of the potential upsides though, will always remain cost.

Don’t get me wrong, in the right circumstances, for the right reasons, and executed in the right way, outsourcing is a hugely effective option, and can deliver great benefits.

  1. The first benefit is flexibility; the insurer who can lean on an outsourcer through a weather event to increase their capacity is an insurer who will save money, and be able to offer assistance to customers in their hour of need.
  2. The second is speed; the bank who wants to move in to a new international market can do it a lot quicker by situating themselves in the interim with an outsourcer with local market access and erudition, already set up with access to and knowledge of how to use their systems.
  3. The third (and most alluring) is cost; the aforementioned bank and insurer are able to start up their new operations with very little cost compared to a totally new call centre based in the UK or abroad – a positive nod from the board would surely ensue.

Adding flexibility and speed to a business while reducing cost makes for a fantastic set of KPI’s, but this won’t happen if a focus on quality is lost – this is where Lexden come in as CX consultants. We ensure the customer experience isn’t impacted. We cover a broad church in CX, but cost rationalisation can kick-start freeing budget to fuel the CX programme. Our studies show over 50% of CX investment has little to no impact on customer commitment.

In May 2013, O2 extended its existing contract and outsourced all of its customer facing operation to Capita (yes, all), with the aim of saving a billion (yes, a billion) pounds over the next ten (yes, ten) years. This was a huge strategic move from O2 – they had lost direct contact with their customers, had committed to the board and shareholders to save £1bn, and were committed to one partner for ten long years in an environment of constant, accelerating change alongside ever expanding customer expectations.

2

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it?

Well, three years on it hasn’t gone too badly. In 2015, the partnership won three major industry awards dished out by the National Outsourcing Association: the Telecommunications, Utilities and High-Tech Outsourcing Project of the Year, BPO Contract of the Year and the CCA Excellence Award for Best Outsourcing Partnership. While not quite running at the £1bn run-rate, efficiency savings are being made, along with improved incident resolution speeds for O2 customers.

The positives aside, I can’t help but think about the lost opportunity cost of not having O2 culturally ingratiated staff, living and breathing the brand, cross selling and upselling to deliver the best results for the company they are a part of is unknown – we will save that for another day though.

We at Lexden interacted with two major outsourcers when researching a new UK call centre for one of our clients, who wanted to rationalise their customer service offering, to realise synergies in both sites and roles. An interim move to a call centre elsewhere in the UK, while they found their feet and set themselves up in the area for the long term was a very appealing option to them.

Having Programme Managed similar projects in the past, it sounded to me like the kind of project that any outsourcer would bite our hands off for, but the difference in appetite was simply stunning. I’ll get to the punch line later, but a very helpful member of staff from one organisation acted quickly upon my email inquiry.

Within a few hours, I was on a conference call with her, and two of her colleagues, so they could understand my requirements (an understanding of their bespoke offering, some case studies, and an analysis of the best place to establish a call centre in the UK). Both were delivered in the next few days, and we were able to confidently go back to our clients and present them tangible tactical and strategic options.

As a result, whether it’s on this project or the next, we now have a healthy relationship with them, and would have no hesitation to recommend their services to our clients going forwards.

3

The next outsourcer however beggared belief. An off day maybe, but I emailed them, and didn’t hear back. I then rang them three times, on the number on their website, at 9.06, 9.23 and 9.45, and on all three occasions they failed to answer the phone, and didn’t get back to me when I left a message on their answerphone.

The one thing I would have expected them to be able to do would be respond to a customer over the phone or on email!

To be able to value something you need to experience it first. On this encounter, it’s fallen short. While my experience may not consistent with the standards they set, it has left an impression. These human interactions along with the business capability score-card is what we will use to assess suitability at this stage.

As independents, at the outset we have no allegiance to any vendor. But the experience delivered through engagements which lead to appointment are critical contributors leading to preference.

Posted by James Edmonds, Senior Consultant, Lexden

Lexden helps deliver effective customer experience strategy and solutions for clients seeking sustainable profit from customer experience.

If you like what you’ve read please sign-up to Lexden’s ‘Customer Experience’ Update for monthly ideas, inspiration and insights to improve your customer strategy endeavours. 

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