Call Centers and Customer Relationship Management
Thanks to Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) software and low-cost, high-speed international telecommunications, a call center can be located anywhere in the world. While the legal issues in offshoring of any outsourced service can be complicated, the business issues are generally the same.
Who Should Outsource Call Center or CRM Functions?
Call centers connect your enterprise, its goodwill and operations, to your prospects and customers and, if you wish, even influencers of consumer behavior. Any high-volume consumer industry can benefit by outsourcing call center functions. These might include, for example:
- health care
- services to the household, such as oil and gas deliveries, electrical utilities and telecom providers
- consumer electronics
- wireless communications
- financial services, including banking and brokerage
- travel and hospitality
Scope of Services:
Since a call center can deliver any type of services that are capable of being done by telephone, enterprise customers need to classify the possible scope of services. This classification will suggest the key parameters for defining and achieving the intended goals of the call center. The following list is only an indication of some basic classes of outsourced call center services.
Customer Service and Support.
This type of service can be as simple as advising your customer about the information he needs from your data base, such as account balance, unpaid amounts, deadlines and credit balances. Or customer service can involve a complex decision tree involving a script that you prepare to determine your customer’s needs, complete an application or request for change of information, and execute your customer’s orders.
Technical Support / Warranty:
In helping your customers solve problems relating to your products or services, you want to be able to resolve all problems in the first call. Achieving high first-call resolution rates with lower per-call handle times can make a significant cost difference. To some degree, you remain responsible for success because of the way in which you plan the interaction based on manuals, scripts and decision trees. Technical support (or “telephone help desk”) can provide invaluable in retaining customer loyalty and avoiding costly product returns or service cancellations.
Sales, Bookings (travel reservations) and Customer Retention:
Your telesales department needs to convert inquiries into sales, and to retain customers upon expiration of subscriptions or upon other termination events in your customer relationship. Telesales are useful both at the beginning and the end of your customer relationship life cycle. As a tool for proactive outreach, customer retention programs can help sustain your bottom line.
Marketing Surveys and Research:
Outbound calling can identify potential customers, identify an existing customer’s interest in possible new products or services from your company and conduct inquiries about consumer preferences as to pricing and features of existing and new products. This can help your market positioning, promotional campaigns, product design, pricing and sales approaches. Outbound calling can also be used to clean up duplicates or stale information in your “old” data bases, validate existing information, for “data base scrubbing.”
We would welcome any suggestions to make our list more complete, and to identify any special needs that are suggested in the following list.
Ownership and Control Issues: Outsourcing vs. Captive (or “Shared Service Center”).
Call centers come in various shapes and types. You can outsource, or you can create your own foreign call center. Outsourcing is probably cheaper and faster to get started, but establishment of captive call centers can be achieved using external service providers to create the infrastructure, train the employees according to your requirements and help you manage the entire operation.
Criteria for Selecting a Call Center / CRM Service Provider.
Enterprise customers shopping for a call center or CRM service provider should identify key performance indicators (“KPI”) relevant to their industry. On a generic basis, enterprise customers should consider whether prospective CRM service providers offer any unique strategic insights that streamline operations, the strength of any IT-enabled data-driven relationships to your customers and, over time, the degree of continuous process improvement.
Effective call centers are in Philippines, India, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico and Canada, are the typical suspects. Many foreign call centers will be integrated with domestic call centers for backup, problem escalation and culture-sensitive situations.
Legal Issues Affecting Enterprise Customers for Call Center Operations
Outbound Calls (from the Call Center to the Customer):
Outbound calls can be intrusive. For public policy reasons, such intrusions should be limited and targeted, as well as complying with applicable restrictions on calling. Legal issues in outbound calls include:
- privacy of data and data protection
- fair trade practices, including invasion of privacy, consumer protection and other local laws and regulations restricting access to the target customer or prospect
- Force majeure, including terrorism, act of war and natural catastrophes
- Currency exchange fluctuation
- Termination conditions
Inbound Calls (from the Customer to the Call Center):
Any contact with a customer could build or harm your goodwill. Call centers needs to comply with the rules of etiquette as well as laws relating to abusive relationships.
Offshore outsourcing contains a suite of unique risks. International risk management needs to be planned into the outsourcing contract and the methods of service delivery.
If you need any coaching, planning or legal advice, please let us know.