Six Gates Your Call Center Outsourcer Must Pass Through to Improve the Customer Experience



John Hall
01/19/2010

A good customer experience makes it easier for a customer to do business with the call center, but what’s the definition of a "branded" customer experience? It’s one that is consistent over time and irrespective of location; one that is intentional, specifically designed to support brand values; one that is differentiated from competing brands; and one that makes it easier for a customer to do business.



A company's brand is one of the most important elements of a customer-facing business or organization. Projecting it accurately and succinctly across the ever-growing range of contact channels is vital to a business’ success. This requires all channels—be they face–to-face, by phone, via the Internet or through the mail (and others)—to reflect how customer needs and values are understood. Not doing this will damage the brand, impact customer satisfaction and ultimately hurt sales.

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that many organizations view the outsourcing of any call center to third parties with suspicion. This suspicion can be overcome—and real value achieved—if the businesses are reassured that the call center outsourcing provider can convey their brands effectively while delivering an appropriate customer experience.

There are six gates that a business and its outsourcing provider must pass through to provide a successfully branded customer experience:

1. You can’t "set and forget." The best outsourcing call center partners are experienced in brand projection and delivering a successfully branded call center customer experience; the outsourced call center knows it cannot deliver this on its own. It’s a two-way street that requires a time investment and commitment from both the provider and the outsourced call center. This means that the company must remain closely involved throughout the call center outsourcing process to ensure that the program is a success.

2. There has to be brand immersion in the call center. A third party call center outsourcer or contact management provider can only convey its client’s brand effectively with a deep understanding of the client company’s organizational history, culture and values, as well as its market and competitors. The call center provider should invest time to develop deep knowledge of all company products or services as well as all of the company’s customer groups, how they typically purchase products and/or services and how they engage with the company.

3. Evidence of prior success is a must. Vertex ensures that its clients benefit from the scale and experience of its wider operations. Vertex adopted this strategy for the National Trust, Europe’s largest conservation charity based in the UK. With 3.7 million members, the National Trust cares for areas of coastline, landscapes, ancient monuments, historic buildings and gardens across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to look after special places, forever, for everyone.

The organization built a four-pronged strategy to accomplishing its mission: improving conservation and environmental performance, investing in its people, financing its future and engaging supporters. Working in close partnership with the National Trust, Vertex invested time in learning about its "big idea" (the essence of the brand and the heart of the company). We discussed the organization’s overall values and vision, and helped to articulate its personality so that we could project this to its members. From those—and continuing—discussions, we were able to determine how best to communicate the brand and support the National Trust’s overall strategic objectives, as well as identify the right kinds of people to maximize member interactions.

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4. The people have to have the right values, attitudes, motivation and emotional intelligence; without these attributes there can be no positive customer experience. The provider must have a thorough recruitment process supported by ongoing training and development. Call center representatives should always be matched demographically and empathetically to customer values and the client company’s target audiences, and key phrases and tone should be emphasized in call center representative’s scripts. Call center representatives need to also be equipped with a level of insight from the company that enables the call center to connect with customers in a way that makes it easy and enjoyable for customers to do business.

The language used during National Trust member interactions is aligned directly with its strategic objectives in order to ensure a maintained focus on overall goals and communicate a consistent brand message. Call center staff are supported throughout, particularly when they are newer to their roles, to ensure the call center team is displaying appropriate behaviors and attitudes (e.g., is the call center reflecting the brand values in call center interactions with customers, are they relating effectively and empathizing with customer needs, etc.).

5. The environment of the outsourcing provider should enable its call center representatives to "see" everything through the eyes of a company’s customers. This can be further supported through physical representation of a company’s brand in the working environment. It can include the use of a company’s color schemes, logos, posters, product examples, branded mouse pads or even mugs or clothing. The National Trust call centers are fully branded, reflecting the stunning coast lines and properties that the Trust seeks to protect. Call center representatives are even provided with the branded shirts that all National Trust workers wear, helping to keep the brand top of mind and subtly reinforce brand projection efforts.

6. Using proven, innovative and "smart" technologies in the call center is a must. A clever use of technology alongside good practice will allow providers to enhance the customer experience. Technology can assist with call center training, enabling detailed capturing and analysis of customer feedback. For example, we leverage a variety of call center technologies, including call recording, to ensure that call center representatives are effective in their interactions with members, and if additional call center training is appropriate it can be quickly provided. In addition, National Trust members are encouraged to provide their feedback through the use of survey tools. This helps to determine member satisfaction with the quality of service delivered and how brand values are resonating.

Getting the best from an outsourcing experience is about making sure that both parties pass the six gate test, but at the heart of that success is a true partnership. It is essential that everyone understands that there is a cost and time commitment required on both sides. It can’t be an "it’s your problem now" approach. Both sides have a role to play to deliver an effective solution.

The company and the call center outsourcing provider must share risk and reward—sitting on the same side of the table with the same goals and a clear vision of the desired customer experience. If this is in place from the outset and supported by clear, intelligent and effective operational ability, the customer wins and the business benefits.

First published on
Call Center IQ.