Can You Outsource Customer Experience?

Employee Engagement Strategies
Employee Engagement
Sure, most every company would like to handle customer service themselves. For some, let's just say, it's not their core competency.

Sure, most every company would like to handle customer service themselves. For some, let's just say, it's not their core competency. These companies look to outsourcers for assistance--but can you really outsource customer experience? Not if you think of it as getting the lowest price for cheeks in seats."It's possible to outsource customer experience when you make customer experience the centerpiece of your strategy," Jeffrey Puritt, president of TELUS International, told me during a recent conversation on the topic. "You don't gain a sustainable customer advantage by cost cutting; you gain it by putting customers first."

Puritt offered insight on several aspects of customer experience that companies need to consider when collaborating with an outsourcer on customer service:

Employee engagement:
An outsourcer has to have an employee-centric approach to their own staff. This means providing training and development that allows them to be informed and engaged, which helps to ensure their success in responding to customers. Hiring right is essential to this. Reps should have a predisposition to serve and delight customers. Additionally, rewarding and recognizing agents for their accomplishments should be part of the culture.

Agents as brand ambassadors:
Outsourcers must ensure that their reps "bleed the color blood of their customers," Puritt said. He suggests co-branding or customer-only branding of clothes, IDs, signage, and even areas of the contact center facilities. Also, clients should treat outsource agents like their own employees; for example, using telepresence to include them in product rollouts or recognition events.

Transactions versus insight:
Most interactions are complaints or concerns. Outsourcers can simply answer calls or can use analytics and trending to find underlying issues their customers can resolve to reduce interactions. A short-term loss in call volume will translate to a long-term gain in business because driving a better customer experience builds trust.

Keeping pace with change:
Security, scalability, reliability, availability--these are table stakes. Continuously evolving to keep pace with consumer' changing preference and expectations, while offering core service channels, is what changes the game. Provide an IVR, but allow customers to zero out. Offer real-time text support via mobile, online chat, even within games. Integrate email and social into the service queue. Outsourcers should go to their clients with options and advices on how to support their customers in new channels.

Customer-centric metrics:
Efficiency metrics like average handle time are important for staffing and the like, but they shouldn't be the main focus. Metrics like Net Promoter Score, customer satisfaction, and first-contact resolution that emphasize customer experience are better measures of success. "If takes longer to help a customer, then do it, it will create a loyal customer," Puritt said. "Efficiency targets cause churn."

Live and breathe customer experience:
More and more organizations are recognizing that the only sustainable competitive advantage is customer experience. "Customers aren't willing to tolerate chronic underperformance, so everyone has to up the quality of the game," Puritt said. "Companies that recognize the importance of this will thrive, and the others will suffer the consequences when consumers choose to buy elsewhere."

According to Puritt, there's nothing more important than interactions with consumers at a time that they want or need something. "The future success of the relationship is the outcome at that moment."