Consistently delivering quality customer interactions involves more than having the right support processes, training materials, and coaching. After all, it’s difficult to guarantee a smooth customer experience when you’re struggling to find enough agents to get the job done.
As part of our MaestroQA community series, we recently discussed some best practices for working with call center BPOs. This blog post recaps key learnings shared by our customers and Mel Bilge, Director of Customer Success, Strategic at MaestroQA.
The abbreviation “BPO” is short for “business process outsourcing,” which is a general term that refers to supplementing an organization’s operations with outsourced talent. However, many people use the term “BPO” as a catch-all when speaking about one or more specific contractors.
For example, you might hear someone say, “We brought on a BPO to help us solve a difficult problem” or “We struggled to be successful with BPOs.” (This article uses “BPO” interchangeably with the word “contractor” and “BPO call center.”)
Organizations rely on BPOs to support several essential functions, ranging from back-office work to accounting and finance. Customer experience teams use BPO call centers to handle customer phone calls, respond to support tickets, answer live chat inquiries, and assist with quality assurance (QA).
CX teams use BPOs to achieve many important goals, including:
New product launches and seasonal shifts in demand can lead to dramatic ticket volume fluctuations. A reliable BPO can help the organization ramp up while ensuring consistent customer experiences.
Asking existing team members to work nights and weekends may create unnecessary internal friction that ultimately erodes CSAT. Partnering with BPOs in a specific time zone can be a better approach.
We live in an increasingly global marketplace. Bringing on BPOs from international markets can help an organization reduce miscommunication and elevate customer satisfaction. Although many international customers are at least proficient in English, providing native language support would be ideal.
Recruiting and retaining experienced talent is challenging in today’s tight labor market. BPOs can help CX leaders mitigate risk and control costs by making it easier to quickly backfill roles and efficiently reshuffle talent.
Working as a support agent can be incredibly fast-paced and mentally draining. Customers always seem to need assistance, but your agents are human beings who need to recharge, take time off, go on vacations, enjoy holidays, and generally enjoy life. BPOs can help CX leaders avoid overscheduling agents and, as a result, ensure a more sustainable work-life balance for everyone.
Unlike employees, BPOs are independent companies with objectives, processes, and systems. Working with a BPO call center can come with its challenges. Here are a few common roadblocks to working with BPOs—and tips for overcoming them.
Bringing together two separate companies is bound to surface noticeable differences in how things are done—even among organizations in the same country. Mix in differences in language, time zone, and customs, and the complexity becomes even more significant.
Tip: Seek opportunities to align around shared CX processes rather than designing one method for the BPO and one for in-house staff. A deep dive into the BPO’s existing processes can help identify gaps and opportunities for alignment. Maintain a consistent brand voice by setting clear expectations for the BPO, offering plenty of training opportunities, and providing specific examples.
Aligning around shared CX processes is a good start, but fostering camaraderie between in-house staff and BPO agents requires a proactive commitment to team building.
Tip: Creating shared Slack channels and hosting on-site or virtual team-building events can be quick wins. It’s also essential to ensure that, at a minimum, the BPO’s managers go through your training program and understand the material.
An online search for “BPO call centers'' returns an infinite number of options. Understanding your actual needs, asking for referrals from trusted colleagues, and evaluating multiple vendors are essential, but it may still be hard to know if you’re selecting the right BPO.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions of the BPO’s leadership team. Does the BPO treat its employees in a way that aligns with your organization’s values? Which tool(s) does the BPO use for coaching and QA? Are they willing to switch to the same tools used by your team? How will the BPO handle adjustments to process and performance expectations? For example, what if you increase your QA benchmark score from 70 to 85? You might even do an on-site visit to confirm your assumptions.
The BPO, not your organization, compensates a BPO’s agents. This can cause motivational issues, especially if the BPO fails to develop the proper compensation structure for agents.
Tip: Consider developing an incentive program that goes above and beyond the basic terms of your contract. An effective program would drive additional loyalty and productivity from BPO agents.
CX teams often work with multiple BPOs—one to support a particular time zone and language, another to support a specific product line, and so on. Contract terms, documentation, and requirements will likely differ from one relationship to the next.
Tip: Dedicate one person from your organization to serve as the “owner” of each BPO relationship. This will help reduce the likelihood of oversights and ensure that the BPO is meeting its obligations.
Quality assurance is another challenging aspect of working with a BPO. How can you ensure customers receive high-quality interactions when the BPO manages its own QA? Trust but verify!
At MaestroQA, we recommend integrating BPOs into your QA program to ensure they represent your brand correctly. BPO Management can be a method to ensure this happens smoothly. Here are five steps for doing that:
Step 1. Know Your Contracts: Start deep diving into your BPO contract(s). What, if any, QA obligations have the BPO committed to? For example, is there a specific number of tickets that must be QA’d weekly? Are there QA benchmarks or performance requirements that must be met? Is your QA team obligated to provide coaching, training, or QA support?
Step 2. Appoint a CX Advocate for the BPO: Depending on your team’s size, this role could be filled by the person who manages the BPO relationship. The primary objective should be fostering open and consistent communication, answering questions, providing new training materials, and disseminating process changes to support the customer experience.
Step 3. Standardize QA Processes: Leveraging a tool like MaestroQA can make it easier to standardize internal and external QA processes. Our Team Calibrations and Grader QA features can prove valuable for helping BPO’s graders understand your brand voice and expectations for customer interactions.
Step 4. Use Data to Evaluate BPO Performance: MaestroQA can make it easier to understand performance across multiple BPOs. For example, our DSAT Dashboard tracks DSAT by agent group, which could help identify coaching opportunities and evaluate BPO contract renewals.
Step 5. Provide Useful Training & Enablement: Anyone tasked with grading interactions (including graders at the BPO) should be well-versed in your brand’s voice, processes, and products. That’s why it’s essential to ensure internal and external graders have access to the latest training and enablement resources.
MaestroQA provides QA software that CX teams can use to ensure quality customer interactions. Quickly grade support tickets, track key performance metrics, and seamlessly provide coaching for in-house and BPO teams.
Request a demo to learn more about using MaestroQA for BPO relationships.