Whether you’re looking for a new call vendor that better meets your business needs or you’re reaching out for assistance with a new service or process, asking the right questions can set you up for satisfaction down the line. Not all third-party vendors are created equal, and these five questions help you understand whether a company has the right resources and tools to support you and your goals.
1. Where are your outsourcing centers located?
Don’t be afraid to ask where outsourcing centers are located. You may want to ensure that anyone answering the line is fluent in the language your customers are likely to speak, but geographic location relates to numerous business concerns outside of language.
- Ability to staff appropriately. One reason you might work with an outsourcing provider is that you’re short on staff in your own office for whatever reason. If scaling up is a concern, ensure you’re choosing a third-party partner that has access to appropriate numbers of employees. Centers located in rural or even suburban environments may be unable to meet scaling demands as well as those located in or near cities.
- Avoiding extra costs. Call centers may have to pay premiums for individuals to work night shifts, and those expenses may be passed on to you in some situations. If you want someone to answer overflow calls during business hours, choosing outsourcing locations within your time zone may work best. Some businesses choose to work with a third-party company in different time zones when covering after-hours calls for the same reason. Make sure you understand how shift times will impact overall costs before you make a final decision.
- Protecting existing contracts. In some cases, your existing contracts may necessitate choosing partners in specific geographic locations. For example, in healthcare, it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to mandate providers choose domestic call centers for patient-facing processes; providers who have managed contacts with these payers have to be careful about outsourcing provider locations or they could lose valuable in-network statuses.
- Creating viable redundancy. In the event of an emergency at your location, such as a natural disaster, your service provider may be able to pick up calls and provide some services to customers. Choosing a partner that’s far enough from you geographically that they’re unlikely to experience the same event at the same time can be important for this reason.
2. What redundancies do you have in place for emergency situations?
If constant service is critical to your business, ask about disaster planning and redundancies. The third-party vendor might be your backup but do they have multiple locations, house data off-site or employ other emergency response plans? The goal with this question is to ascertain whether your potential partnership will be able to get back to answering lines quickly after an unplanned event.
3. Are you compliant with specific industry standards?
Depending on your industry, you may only be able to work with business partners that meet specific standards. For example, healthcare organizations that deal with patient information must ensure that any outsourcing vendors that also access patient data follow HIPAA-compliant processes. In short, the call center company must abide by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act as it pertains to protecting patient confidentiality. Another critical compliance factor for before making a choice may be PCI DSS. This is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. If you accept credit or debit card payments, the way you manage data related to those transactions must be PCI-compliant. And if you allow third-party vendors to take payments, they must also be PCI-compliant. Make a list of any compliance or regulatory concerns unique to your industry and ask potential outsourcing companies about them. Remember, if your current vendor isn’t compliant with necessary regulations, that puts you at risk of fines, sanctions or other negative actions.
4. What services do you provide?
Not all outsourcing vendors provide the same services. Ask for a list of potential services and information on how additional services may change fee structures or costs. Some common types of services provided might include but aren’t limited to:
- Answering and directing phone calls
- Taking and placing orders in your systems
- Providing answers to basic customer queries
- Troubleshooting account or service issues
- Assisting with returns processes
- Answering questions about bills
If you find that your existing call center partner is not able to provide the appropriate level of service for your business needs and you’re looking for a new provider, make sure to spend plenty of time on this question. Don’t just ensure that the outsource vendor can meet today’s process needs; consider what you might need in the near future and whether your third-party partner can adapt and support your growth. Consider the quality of service as well as quantity. Ask about metrics, such as average time to answer, and don’t be afraid to negotiate specific service-level agreements to ensure the call vendor continues to meet your needs. High-level telecommunications companies are typically happy to agree to realistic SLAs.
5. Can you integrate with existing or proprietary systems?
Finally, ensure that your outsourced vendor is prepared to work within or integrate with existing or proprietary systems. For example, if you manage orders and other customer processes via a single CSR, it’s important that the outsourced vendor is able to work within the same solution or integrate with it so you can pass information seamlessly between workflows. Some items to discuss with potential third-party vendors related to this topic include:
- What systems they use and how they integrate with yours
- What security measures they have in place to protect data and networks
- How they typically handle implementation and rollouts, including how involved you can be in testing and approval
Choose an Outsourcing Partner That Works Best for You
The above five questions help you understand whether a third-party service provider is the right choice for your business. If you’re ready to have a serious discussion with a qualified outsourcing partner about some of these topics, contact Ameridial for a quote or via phone at 888-480-8700 today.