Posted On September 5th, 2013
Over the years, I've been involved in a huge number of deals to outsource call centres & whenever the question 'why should we choose you?' comes up, it's normally met with either a prolonged silence or a general rambling about the quality of their people. The difficulty is that when asked why they are able to recruit (and retain) better people than the other bidding companies, the silence becomes longer or the vendor gives a number of reasons which are basically the same as the other vendors. In the age of so many outsourced call centre vendors, it's simply incomprehensible that the majority can't articulate why their people are so good. In domestic UK call centres, this failure is regular but offshore, almost every single vendor makes this mistake. Offshore, it should be even more important to differentiate on people because there are so many vendors in the same cities competing for exactly the same labour pool. The prime example of this is in Manila which must have more different vendors than anywhere else on the planet. As the Chairman of The British Philippine Outsourcing Council, I receive a lot of emails from Philippine based call centres asking me to find them clients. Over the past few days, I've asked some to explain to me why their people are so good. This is one response I received:
'As we are in the business for a very long time now we keep people with talents in doing sales as we also do credit card pulls and lead generations which is survey for charities in UK and Australia. We do constant training to make sure that we meet our client's expectations at all time which one of the secret of success.'
Even if we excuse the poor grammar and English, this is a poor response but by no way, the worst I've received. They seem to believe that the reason their people are so good is because they've been in business a long time and that they do regular training. Amazingly as it may seem, this is the extent of the response. Do the people writing this kind of thing expect to sway a client based on this? I suspect that some do. If there were only 1 vendor in the client's preferred location, it may be that it does but not when there are 1000's.
However, this isn't simply a matter of marketing or the way in which the outsourcer communicates their offering. Many outsourced vendors have become so focused on telling potential clients how great their entire 'getting & keeping good people' process is that they fail to realise that it's actually pretty poor. If you examine an average call centre operator, they will have a recruitment process which does little more than advertise roles and take potential candidates through a screening process. Sometimes, there will be a degree of creativity involved in the staff attraction process. Poor call centres don't even do this part effectively. They don't know how to attract or assess staff and believe me, there are plenty of vendors who meet this description especially offshore. Good clients aren't interested in poor call centres nor in average call centres. They want call centres which have a real process to attract, develop and keep the best people. There are a few (and I mean a few) call centres which genuinely do have a superb people process. They are the kind of company that potential candidates fall in love with the idea of working for. Their reputation within the local employment environment is strong. They don't necessarily pay the best salaries (but their salaries definitely won't be poor). They aren't the companies who offer the big incentives. They are companies who offer quality training, who respect their staff and empower them to grow. This culture comes from the top and runs throughout the company. These companies continually evaluate how they do things and look at ways to improve them. These companies value their staff and their input. Their input doesn't simply involve a suggestion or some funky internet based version of a suggestion box. Instead, their culture genuinely encourages the creativity of all their staff. It may seem like common sense but in these quality outsourcers, results are higher, customers are happier and attrition is much, much lower.
As I will be involved in helping a number of clients to select outsourced vendors in the next month, I expect a number of vendors to change their sales pitches to me to include some of the things I've listed above. Unfortunately, I doubt that this will be matched by a genuine change in culture towards becoming 'the employer of choice'.
This article was written by Rob O'Malley. He can be contacted on 077400 96598