Contact center implementation is an art and a science, and over 24 years in business, we’ve learned exactly what it takes to make the smoothest transition possible. Every milestone and every moving part is integral to a controlled acceleration towards a seamless transition that results in a positive customer experience. On top of that, the implementation phase – where collaboration is key – is what sets the tone for the duration of your strategic partnership. No one wants a rocky start to jeopardize the whole thing.
If you’re getting ready to outsource or to launch a customer service RFP process, here are critical factors for a successful launch. (And brace yourself, it’s not a “sign the agreement and watch from the sidelines” situation. Every one of the critical factors requires the investment of time and resources on both sides of the client/outsourcer equation.)
A Comprehensive, Clearly Articulated SLA and SoW
Our SVP of Corporate Services frequently reminds us that stress and discord in business relationships (or more generally… in life) almost always emanates from misplaced expectations. Basically, “It’s not what you got. It’s what you thought you were going to get.” From a spouse not knowing they were supposed to make your coffee this morning (shouldn’t they be able to read your mind?!) to your customer care partner not knowing you expected a zero percent abandon rate (let’s get realistic, folks), successful relationships are founded on clear expectations.
Understanding with complete clarity which measures of success are most important to your organization is the most important aspect of the contact center transition. If we don’t know what success looks like to you before we get out of the gate, we’re guaranteed to fail. It’s that simple.
We need to be on the same page about KPIs and metrics, call volumes and forecasts, training, scheduling, and more well before that magical go-live date.
A Structured Launch Plan
A successful contact center launch isn’t as simple as flipping the switch and 3-2-1 blast off. It begins with a carefully constructed implementation plan that identifies deliverables, owners, dependencies, and timelines. All milestones and objectives need to be clearly defined and assigned to accountable resources. (In your RFP process, when you ask for an implementation timeline, Milestone #1 should be “Build the Implementation Plan.” Don’t mistake the proposed plan included in your RFP response to be the firm and final plan. That comes after you’ve awarded the business.)
Adherence to Communication Plans
“Houston, we have a problem.” You never want to hear words like that in the middle of your new customer service program launch, but the famous scenario does emphasize how important communication is. Frequent – and transparent – communication is essential to a smooth takeoff.
Who should be communicating with whom? In our experience, a frequent cadence of communication between leadership on both sides of the equation, as well as between functional area managers on both teams, is critical. Implementation meetings should occur at least weekly, if not several times a week or daily.
Smart Resource Allocation
A successful program launch cannot happen in a vacuum. Implementation often depends upon the unhindered efforts of different functional resources from both teams. Key resources simply must be able to make the customer care program transition their top priority to ensure success. If executive buy-in is needed to clear the way to meet milestones, a reorganization of priorities has to happen in advance. If your tech team is too caught up in other deliverables to meet with your partner’s tech team, for example, the launch is likely to be negatively impacted.
Overall, launching your outsourced contact center for long-term success requires a highly strategic partnership with your outsourcer. Two critical factors behind this partnership are, simply, trust and cultural alignment. You must be able to trust your contact center partner, their experience, and their processes. Of course, to have that confidence, you need a partner that is transparent in their capabilities, expectations, and track record. Once established, trust will facilitate effective communication throughout the implementation process.
For example, we always tell our prospective clients, we’re going to drop the ball at some point. It is inevitable that something will go wrong, however slightly, along the way. How we handle that with our clients is the important part, and our approach is to resolve issues through transparency, proactive communication, ownership, and action.
Cultural alignment is equally important. When the mission and values of both organizations align, it is much easier for the outsourcer to embody your brand when interacting with your customers. Strategic agent hiring and training is also key here, so that your brand experience is delivered seamlessly to customers from the moment your outsourced contact center goes live.
Will Your Contact Center Launch Be Successful?
A smooth launch is paramount to the long-term success of your outsourced contact center program. If a solid foundation isn’t in place, things will fall apart quickly. Clear expectations, frequent communication, detailed plans, dedicated resources, and strategic partnership are all must-have elements – on both sides of the table.