By Stephen Ferber
Although my wife and I have been in the car-buying market before, this time is different. The car is not for us. It is for our soon to be sixteen-year-old daughter. For the first time, so many new factors have been part of our decision-making process: Buy or lease? New or “pre-owned?” How much to spend? How does cost play into safety concerns? What do we do with the car when she goes to college? Does our thirteen-year-old son acquire primary rights to the keys when he turns sixteen during the middle of our daughter’s freshman year in college? I could go on, but you get the point.
So, after we made our automobile decision, the complex (or dysfunctional) circuits in my brain, no doubt affected by my years in the call center industry, sent the following question to the front of my mind: Can we draw parallels between buying or leasing a car with making an informed decision about picking the right outsource call center solution?
I found an article on Edmunds.com, the self-proclaimed “US Online Resource for Automotive Information.” The article is called “10 Steps to Finding the Right Car for You.” It was comprehensive and well-structured, yet simple as well.
I took Edmunds’s ten steps for acquiring a new car and applied them to selecting the best outsource call center solution. This is not meant to be something formal – just something you can add to your file of call center resources.
There is nothing super-mystical about this. As with most strategic business decisions and transactions, there are three steps to take: 1) sound planning as to what you want to achieve; 2) a well thought-out and implemented process to get there; and 3) trusting your experience, your advisors or teammates, and your gut instincts to make a selection.
Step #1: Consider Your Needs Rather Than Your Wants.
Automobile Needs: How many passengers do you want to carry? What type of driving do you want to do? Is fuel economy a priority? Which is more important, functionality or styling?
Call Center Needs: How many call center agents do you currently need? How many do you anticipate needing at any seasonal or other peak periods? What about permanent ramping down the road? Do you require customer service, technical support, sales, inbound, outbound, back-office, social media support, or a combination of capabilities? How important are the economics to you? Can you evaluate your call center options based on a healthy balance between quality and cost? Or is cost the driving factor? How much weight do you assign to operational processes, company culture, results, and management versus the beauty of the building, furniture, flooring, layout, overall appearance of the facility, and desirability of the geographical destination?
Step #2: How Much Can You Afford?
Automobile: What is your budget?
Call Center: What is your budget?
Step #3: Should You Lease or Own?
Automobile Lease Pros: You can drive a more expensive car for less money. You can drive a new car every few years. There are no trade-in hassles at the end of the lease.
Call Center Outsourcing Pros: You can save capital expenditures, not carry fixed costs, and avoid underutilization of resources. Your outsourced provider is responsible for hiring, training and management, facility and technology maintenance, and upgrades. At the end of your outsourcing agreement, you do not have any hard assets to sell or try to re-allocate.
Automobile Ownership Pros: There are no mileage penalties for increased driving. In the long term, your car expenses will be lower. You have the right to modify your car to your tastes.
Call Center Ownership Pros: To the extent your available capacity exists, you can leverage your fixed costs and investment. If you can run your call center efficiently and at full capacity, in the long term you could save money after covering your initial capital expenditures, continued fixed costs, and ongoing maintenance and upgrade requirements. You have the ability to modify anything you want in the call center to your tastes. Step #4: Have You Considered All of the Costs of Ownership?
Automobile: Depreciation, insurance, maintenance, financing, banking fees, repairs, fuel costs, and more.
Call Center: Capital investment, depreciation, amortization, salaries and wages, benefits, payroll and other taxes, healthcare, utilities, technology licenses, maintenance, fixed costs (selling, general, and administrative costs), disposition costs, and more.
Step #5: Have You Considered Comparable Options?
Automobile: Have you evaluated similar cars in your class (based on your analysis in Steps 1-4)?
Call Center: Have you evaluated call centers with similar capabilities (based on your analysis in Steps 1-4)?
Step #6: Check Availability.
Automobile: What dealers have the car you want in stock?
Call Center: What specific locations, geographies, and call center providers have the capabilities to meet the above conclusions?
Step #7: Schedule a Test Drive (“Kick the Tires”).
Automobile: Take a test drive.
Call Center: Conduct a site a visit and perform due diligence.
Step #8: Take Your Test Drive.
Automobile: Drive it the way you would use the car if you bought it. Spend enough time to look it over. Consider your intuition and follow your instincts.
Call Center: During your site visit, evaluate the call center’s capabilities based on the criteria that motivated you to go there. Consider whether the people who work for and manage the call center operation are people you trust, who are qualified, and who you would enjoy working with each day. Spend enough time at the call center so you can really digest what makes it tick, and see it for what it truly is. Then, consider your intuition and follow your instincts.
Step #9: Make Your Decision.
Automobile: Sleep on it. If you need to, take several steps back and drive more cars. Realize there isn’t one perfect answer. There could be several good choices, and it’s really a matter of individual taste and intuition.
Call Center: Sleep on it, but maybe for more than one night. If you need to, take several steps back in order to determine if there are other call centers you should visit. Realize there isn’t one perfect answer. There could be several good choices, and it’s really a matter of you and your team’s taste and intuition.
Step #10: Complete the Deal.
Automobile: Make sure the agreement for the car you choose matches the deal and specifications; make sure it is the exact car you acquired. Then drive it off the lot.
Call Center: Make sure the agreement reflects what you wanted, contains all the important business terms, and matches the expectations set between the parties. Then begin the implementation.
As for my daughter, we bought her a new four-door Honda Accord.
Stephen Ferber is the managing partner for Golden Gate BPO Solutions.
[From Connection Magazine – December 2013]