BIO: When not ‘on duty’ with PDS, Bruce Lyngaas enjoys cooking, reading technical articles, and playing with his two dogs. He loves traveling with his wife and getting together for family visits. They are always on the lookout for quality restaurants when travel- ing. He loves to laugh and finds humor everywhere. Bruce has three children and five grandchildren. His youngest son and oldest granddaughter are both in college and close to the same age (go figure). “Life is always a challenge and re- mains very interesting.”
Growing companies often reach a predictable crossroad: As a company grows, they often find that some functions such as call center operations and management take time and effort that would be better spent on the core business. If you’ve reached this stage, outsourcing this function is a valid option. Outsourcing should still give you the ability to maintain control of this vital part of your operations, yet add the help you need to get the job done without adding head count. This is significantly different than outsourcing whereby you turn over your staff and control and then pay much more for the privilege.
Core Competencies vs. Business Functions
As a first step, you have already identified your company’s core competencies and the call center business functions that would be better handled by an outsourcing provider.
Now, keep control of those functions in-house that are part of who you are and what you are in the marketplace. By choosing a professional facility solution call center service as your outsource company, you will be able to provide call center services at an increased quality level with greater cost effectiveness.
A professional facility solution call center service provides education and training for their Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) on work order management, vendor backlog management, targeted completions, and facility maintenance requirements specific to your industry, and your company. You may never have the resources to do this kind of targeted education and enrollment in the course of a year.
The outsourcing arrangement saves the cost of providing training and educating employees about the various operational changes. While there is a hard cost of transitioning for outsourcing, there will be a tremendous payback because the company doesn’t have to make huge investments in personnel, tools, hardware, equipment, software, and training.
Key Business Drivers
Your company’s key business drivers also dictate the selection of a outsourcing partner. If one of your key business drivers is the need to respond quickly to the changes in market conditions, then you’ll require the same from a professional facility solutions call center service. That company should work with a flexible contract, and the ability to quickly change the scope of work as your business requirements change.
Finding the Right Outsource Provider
First, identify the call center functions you want to outsource, then find the right outsource partner that fits your needs. Look for a company that will:
- complete a due diligence checklist to determine your needs
- offer flexibility with a diverse menu of services
- provide professional, well trained staff with facility maintenance experience
- manage your service contract administration issues
- manage your equipment warranties
- quickly respond to accepted changes within your business (e.g. adding facilities or significant changes in the number of users)
The call center services contract should include language about length of service, response times, service levels, vendor dispute resolution, and reporting requirements.
Most outsourcing companies typically charge per seat in a help desk arrangement. Look for a call center that charges per work order created which is the most equitable. You will also want to specify a service level agreement (SLA) that includes average time to answer metrics. This gets you out of managing this process and puts that responsibility with the outsourcing company, where it should be.
The contract will also specify that you, the client, own all the data generated. Your personnel should have web browser access to all of the data and reports that they have permission to access. This part of the agreement prohibits the call center service from using the data in market comparisons for other clients. If for some reason you changed the call center service provider, the data would be returned to you along with any files and reports.
In addition, the contract should address altering the scope of the work completed based on significant increases or decreases in procedures, processes, locations, or contractors in the system. The acquisition or sale of a significant number of locations could trigger an automatic review of the contract.
Finally, after you’ve chosen the outsource provider and signed the contract, you will want to make sure you maintain a healthy relationship that company. I recommend the following:
- approach the outsourcing relationship as hired staff that is an extension of your organization
- expect all subsequent agreements in writing
- periodically seek advise on any other service items that you really need
- expect the company to learn about your business on a go forward basis
- ask to stay informed about the management and issues concerning your service provider
- provide and expect a single point of contact within your organization who can serve as a conduit between your business, end users, and the call center – this is usually your facility manager(s)
- ensure your call center contact person understands your evolving business climate and the needs of the end users rather than focusing solely on contract administration issues
- meet often during the first quarter to review any problems, discuss performance, and explore expectations
- schedule quarterly reviews after the first quarter to discuss performance, changes in the business climate, any innovations to services and the potential costs of those innovations
Following these simple guidelines should lead to a successful and rewarding relationship with your outsourced facility solutions call center service provider.