Outsourcing is nothing new. For years, centers have allocated certain inbound call types and/or percentages of calls to third party service partners using relatively simple technology. In such cases, the outsourcer supplies people as well as the technology for contact routing, management, and reporting. While this model offers ease of implementation with simple, proven technology, centers have little visibility into, or control over, service levels and other performance parameters for the calls routed to the outsourcer. Further, it can result in an imbalance of contact handling between the outsourcer location and the internal center.
Voice over IP changes the way companies integrate with their outsourcing partners. The new service model treats outsourced agents as remote positions off the company’s VoIP platform, typically using dedicated agent positions. For voice, these positions use softphones or a remote gateway with hard phones. Connectivity is provided through public or private networking using TDM or VoIP with cost and voice quality being key considerations. Often, centers will connect to their outsourcer as they would to their own remote sites, using a private MPLS network connection with voice compression. For additional resiliency, some companies will terminate a portion of their toll free trunks at the outsourcer site.
Placing in-house and outsourced agents on the same platform offers economies of scale for labor while increasing flexibility and visibility in labor management and at the same time ensuring customers get routed to the best available agent, regardless of where they are, at any time. The more complex and rich the technology environment (e.g., including CTI screen pops, quality monitoring, and workforce management), the greater the benefit in resource utilization and service quality and consistency.
VoIP-based outsourcing has a significant effect on the business relationship between the client company and the outsourcer. Because the contact center client controls forecasting, scheduling, call routing, management, and reporting, it bears responsibility for the planning and delivery of service level for all contacts. The outsourcer is primarily responsible for staffing according to the prescribed schedules, schedule adherence, and service quality. Account management remains a key success factor to ensure effective communication and coordination between the center’s support staff and the outsourcer’s management team.
When the outsourcer positions are offshore, communications costs play a significant role in the economics of outsourcing. VoIP with voice compression can render offshore solutions cost competitive, and many such outsourcers provide access points in the US to their private networks. However, these networks may require multiple “hops” to connect callers with their distant agents. This routing could introduce delays that impact the customer experience. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand how your end-to-end connectivity will be managed to ensure performance with tolerable delays.
Beyond voice quality, the main caution with the VoIP-based model is the need for business continuity and resiliency planning in the architecture as the outsourced agents are supported by the same platform as the in-house agents. VoIP architectures offer ample options for such resiliency through redundant and survivable options and data center diversity.
The full article on this subject (Technology For Outsourcing Agents) provides a detailed comparison of the traditional outsourcing model and VoIP-based outsourcing including descriptions, pros, and cons. Download the article now.