Customer service teams are facing a perfect storm: delivering exceptional support experiences at scale without sacrificing quality. As customer demands continue to rise, businesses are turning to multiple BPO partners (offshore and onshore) to create a seamless support experience. But how can you ensure that your outsourced customer service agents are performing at their peak?
In this blog, we'll uncover four essential strategies to help drive better BPO performance. Drawing on insights from a recent discussion with Justin Evans, Senior Strategist for Salesforce and CX expert with 15+ years of experience designing and delivering exceptional customer experiences for brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, HBC, and Hertz, we'll explore how the Champion-Challenger model can be leveraged to reward the best-performing BPOs with more support volume – the result is higher-performing agents and happier customers.
Let’s get started.
For companies looking to optimize their business process outsourcing (BPO) partnerships, the Champion-Challenger model is quickly becoming the go-to strategy. This model allows companies to ensure that their BPOs meet the highest standards.
For Evans, the decision to outsource their contact center operations was driven by high attrition and turnover within their internal customer support call center. While outsourcing provided a cost-effective solution, Evans recognized the risk of relying on a single BPO. “If you have all of your volume with one vendor, that vendor controls you,” said Evans. To mitigate this risk, they adopted the Champion-Challenger model and leveraged multiple BPOs to ensure maximum efficiency and performance. This approach allowed Evans to benefit from the advantages of outsourcing while still protecting the organization from potential vulnerabilities, such as unforeseen technology issues or challenges with the weather.
“Being able to space the volume out is really important, and it gives you a fighting chance; if that particular site goes down, the other sites can pick up that volume. You might not make service level that day, but you're not completely shut down,” said Evans.
The Champion-Challenger model is based on creating a “competitive environment” between BPOs in terms of volume and quality. This ensures that companies are not simply measuring their BPOs against predetermined KPIs such as service level, average handle time, and first contact resolution but rather comparing the performance of one BPO against another. “It gave us that extra opportunity within the contract to say: It's not just good enough to hit the metrics,” said Evans.
This form of competition pushes both BPOs to strive for excellence, as the “champion” BPO is the one with the highest performance. The “challenger” BPO must strive to be better than the champion to secure the volume.
The Champion-Challenger model allows much more flexibility in choosing the best BPOs for the job, as well as allowing you to reassess the performance of your BPO partners continually.
Furthermore, by providing the incentive of competition, the model encourages BPOs to go above and beyond what is expected. This, in turn, results in better value for money and greater customer satisfaction.
To implement the Champion-Challenger Model, it is essential to engage in conversations with each BPO. The dynamic of these conversations should focus on how the Champion-Challenger model can be adjusted to benefit the team and improve customer experience. Evans suggested writing clauses into the contracts that give the team the ability to move volume, and that includes bonuses and penalties for hitting any agreed-upon KPIs. Additionally, Evans recommended including a clause that allows the team to move volume without justification up to a certain percentage. This clause should also focus on performance as well as cost.
That being said, when it comes to workforce management teams, it is critical to be careful and strategic in order to ensure proper ramp-up. “Having a locked forecast is not enough; you also need to have a flash forecast in place and be able to communicate it,” said Evans. This will help you to be proactive and make changes in certain periods, such as the beginning of the quarter. By communicating the percentage of the volume that will be moved, the BPOs will understand the timeline (30 or 60-day advanced notice) and can have an opportunity to pursue the volume back. “When you create a little bit of a window, it gives hope and a reason to make an adjustment. And it is more collaborative when you have that mindset. And so that it's not a devastating blow when you give them an opportunity to improve, which is significantly more morale boosting,” said Vasu Prathipati, CEO and Co-Founder of MaestroQA. Therefore, Evans suggested having consistent conversations with the BPOs on a weekly or monthly basis.
Creating a collaborative culture between your BPO partners can be challenging but far from impossible. Collaboration is essential to a successful partnership, and it all starts with a willingness to give and receive feedback between the two parties.
Evans shared an excellent example of a customer that “had a whole day dedicated to bringing their BPO partners in and creating a “one team, one dream” mentality. This was a great way to foster collaboration and break down any competitive walls that may have been there. Once the two parties saw how their collaboration could help their customers and each other, it was a game-changer.
So, what should a collaborative culture look like? The best way to know if you have a culture of collaboration in place is “when your BPO partners are quick to identify customer friction points and suggest process changes. When they come to you regularly with ideas on how to improve policies, such as those related to merchandise not received or shipping delays,” said Evans, that’s when you know you have a successful collaborative culture.
It’s also important to give your BPO partners the resources and autonomy they need to do their jobs effectively. This may mean giving them the freedom to make decisions and offering flexible working arrangements. By doing this, you’re showing your BPO partners that you trust them and respect their expertise.
Finally, it’s important to keep communication lines open. Regular check-ins, feedback sessions, and clear goals and expectations can go a long way in maintaining a healthy collaboration. “I constantly reminded our BPOs that they represent our brand, so we have to work together as a team. That helps bring a lot of comradery amongst the BPOs,” said Evans.
When a BPO becomes a part of your brand, your customers win.
When optimizing BPO performance, quality assurance metrics are key. But what metrics do you use? As it turns out, the answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.
“We were leaning heavily on our net promoter score. And what we noticed in our NPS scores was that when we looked at the detractors, we could break it down into three buckets: people, process, and technology. And so when we were going through the implementation with MaestroQA, our QA score form was into those three categories,” said Evans.
These three buckets allowed the company to evaluate its performance against each BPO and decide where to shift volume. This deep dive into QA metrics via the MaestroQA platform provided a valuable means of evaluating the performance and effectiveness of their BPOs. “We could rate interactions on a few people-related factors, like how well agents were greeting the customer, their sentiment and attitude, and whether they were following the process. We also looked at whether they understood the policies well and whether they could correctly use the technology we had put in place.”
Evan and his team were also able to look at the number of customer escalations, customer satisfaction scores, customer retention rates, and other key indicators. These QA metrics are essential for companies to have in place to ensure their BPOs deliver optimal performance.
Speaking about QA…
Before using MaestroQA, the quality assurance process was largely manual for Evans and their team. They relied heavily on Excel spreadsheets, which made it difficult to track how their BPOs were adhering to their contractual agreement regarding the number of interactions an agent was to be scored on. As their business scaled, this lack of oversight caused further problems. “We really didn't have a good system in place that helped us better understand our agent population,” said Evans. For example, “Jason might be performing really well on what he was QA'd on, but he may not have the knowledge of post-purchase interactions. On the other hand, Mary might be a star at merchandise not received claims, but Jason might be failing at that, yet very good in product inquiry. We wanted to build this insight into a dashboard so that we could better understand how our agents were growing and where to focus our coaching opportunities, as well as build the right agent base for the contacts our company was receiving.”
Leveraging MaestroQA’s reporting platform, Evans and his team were able to gain valuable insights into the performance of each BPO. This granular level of detail allowed them to make informed decisions on where to affect changes and optimize their processes.
Customer service and support are critical components of any successful business. As customers become more demanding, companies increasingly turn to technology to provide a better customer experience.
Watch the video to learn more about utilizing a fully integrated Salesforce + MaestroQA tech stack to centrally manage and report on quality assurance to optimize the customer support experience.
If you would like to learn more about MaestroQA, request a demo today.