Outsourced contact centres: 7 challenges and solutions

Nick Brook at Teleopti explores the challenges faced by outsourcers today and how to solve them.

The outsourcing sector is on the up, with recent research indicating that the global contact centre outsourcing market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 9 per cent during the period of 2017-2021. Indeed, it is the sheer number of outsourced agents being scheduled using Teleopti Workforce Management (WFM), over 80,000, that led me to take a look at some of the challenges that the majority of outsourcing contact centres face and how these challenges can be solved.

Having been involved in planning more than 8000 agents and multiple work streams during my time at an international outsourcer, it became clear that while outsourcing offers great potential for increased efficiencies in time, cost and customer service, contact centers providing this service face a fresh set of challenges. Here is an outline of the key hurdles outsourcers face and how to overcome them using the latest WFM technology.

1. The need for speed – the biggest channel for many outsourcing contact centres is the constant call for operational and technical efficiency. From setting up new agents to accessing relevant and accurate client data, speed leads to cost savings, healthier profit margins and happier customers. However, manual forecasting or scheduling is slow and prone to error. Automated WFM solutions can import large volumes of data from previous systems to set up new team structures quickly and efficiently. Automation provides a single, clear view of past, present and future activities, removing the time-consuming triple effect of manual workload management while making the most of one-time data inputting such as agent profiles and shift preferences.

2. Keeping cost conscious – according to Deloitte Consulting, 59 per cent of companies said the primary driver for using outsourcers is as a cost-cutting tool. This is a challenge that will never go away. The contact centre is under pressure to make operational savings and satisfy client demand to bring the greatest results for the lowest price. The main cost in a contact centre is people, therefore resource planning must be accurate and efficient. The rise in cloud-based WFM provides the opportunity for companies to only pay for what they use while reducing investment in IT infrastructure. For example, Teleopti customer FEXCO has achieved 20% savings in annual license and maintenance costs by moving to cloud WFM. Every saving helps to strengthen the bottom line.

3. The mobile age – mobility is everywhere from smartphones, tablets and laptops to TVs and even cars. The challenge is to turn mobility into an advantage. It is now possible to set up self-service portals that allow agents to view their latest schedules, swap shifts and request time off from anywhere, using any device. At the same time agents can log-in to cloud-based contact center technology from any location and provide the same excellent levels of customer service even when they are away from the office.

4. Agent attrition – contact centres are notorious for high agent turnover with some reports revealing rates as high as 30 per cent. This puts enormous cost and time pressures on recruiting and training new staff quickly (allowing for a lag in productivity while they settle in). Capturing agent skills alongside contract types and using these profiles to schedule people for their best activities can keep agents motivated. At the same time, identifying individual or team skills gaps to support effective training programs will reduce attrition rates and ensure agent engagement.

5. Internationalisation – managing global projects, with different languages and time zones, is challenging. Comprehensive profiling and scheduling will mean that the agent with the right language skill is available to communicate with the customer. The WFM should also offer time-zone insights to prevent less efficient situations, such as an agent in Dubai being given a shift at midnight by a team leader in the US. Team leaders and planners should have access to international overviews.

6. Engaging expectations – rising customer expectations have transformed the skill sets required by agents. They need to be experts in customer relations as well as the products and services they represent. Therefore, it is important to avoid irritating the most productive agents, so take into account agent shift preferences, make absence requests a smooth process and let agents easily trade shifts. Boredom is another danger, so be sure to provide flexible breaks and varied, mixed activities to keep it at bay.

7.Things go wrong – expect the unexpected, because even the best laid plans can go wrong as a result of freak events, system bugs and human error. The challenge is to be prepared rather than live in fear of things going wrong. Ensure there is access to a strong support team with a dedicated service desk staffed by engineers and technical consultants with the ability to troubleshoot at a moment’s notice. Then back this up with a continual evaluation program to assess the performance of the WFM solution and adjust it as circumstances demand.

Nick Brook is Project Manager & Consultant UK and Ireland at TELEOPTI.

Jon Sumner

Jon Sumner

Experienced director of digital media with a demonstrated history of working in the publishing industry. Strong media and communication professional skilled in media sales, digital strategy, web development,...