5 Things to Consider Before You Go to RFP in 2022
In a world where the customer experience matters more than ever, the decision to outsource your customer care has significant impact on your brand and its reputation. In 2022, the RFP process holds even greater weight. But it’s also a process that has evolved in the wake of the pandemic. Are you dreading it? Let us lighten the burden. Here are a few things to consider before you dive in.
Most contact centers evolved to be able to deliver effective, scalable work-at-home models over the past two years, which begs the question: does location still matter? We say yes. At the very least, you should consider how cost-effectiveness, business continuity, and the local talent market intersect in your contact center location strategy.
When it comes to cost-effectiveness, consider the economics of outsourcing to a Canadian contact center as a US-based business. We might be biased, but we’ve long seen the advantages of a strong US Dollar and its stable ratio to the Canadian Dollar (regardless of the pandemic). Simply put, your buck goes further when you choose a nearshore outsourcing model.
Location also plays a role in business continuity, which we discuss in further detail below. Having a balance of both remote and on-site agents ensures a higher degree of protection against unexpected downtime due to natural disasters, power outages, inclement weather, and yes, even pandemics. As such, you can see how this dovetails with the consideration of the local job market. You need a partner whose regional talent pool is robust ensure the on-site portion of your program is fully staffed at all times, regardless of inevitable fluctuations in the job market.
The cherry on top of these considerations is the cultural alignment between your organization and your customer base. We regularly partner with brands who like to be able to connect with their customers at a personal level. Sometimes that looks like half a minute of small talk about weather, pop culture or sports — and that’s only possible when you have an intentional location strategy driving your outsourcing decision.
Business Continuity Plans
The pandemic was a disruption at a scale no one could have predicted and has consequently made the topic of business continuity the number one priority among business leaders. This is especially true in the contact center world, where customer care is often a 24/7/365 program. Suddenly, BCPs are no longer just a formality protecting against “what ifs” — they’re a necessity and the RFP needs to reflect that.
In preparing to find a new outsourcer, it’s critical to understand the nuances of your organization’s business continuity strategies and how an outsourcer acts as a true partner in these efforts. What BCP elements do you need your outsourcer to own in order to mitigate the risk of disruption? How do they ensure redundancy measures, robust infrastructure/cloud solutions, a remote-ready workforce, and built-in scalability? There’s also the discussion of onshore, near-shore, and offshore, and how each scenario plays a role in business continuity.
Data and Forecasting
Customer care programs are one of the biggest sources of incoming data across an organization. Traditionally, this data has been the most important factor behind call volume forecasting. But it’s likely that 2020 and 2021 spiked your data in unusual and unpredictable ways. As we move forward, accurate forecasting will require a level of creativity — from you and from your outsourcer.
In preparing to go to RFP, it is time to ask what can the last two years of data tell you about future trends, if anything? Do pre-pandemic 2019 data hold any value? What other factors and data do you have at your fingertips to provide your outsourcer? Additionally, what insights can potential partners provide about best practices in this situation? How have they adapted and evolved in response?
We have long touted the importance of partnering with an outsourcer who can both provide the technology solutions that make sense for you today and be prepared to evolve quickly and efficiently in light of ongoing technical updates and emerging technologies.
Nearly every industry has seen some level of digital transformation impacting their operations, services or products, and communications, especially in the customer care sector. And in some ways, the pandemic has accelerated the expectations of your customers.
In light of this reality, it’s essential to consider exactly what you need in a strategic partner. How can your outsourcer help you position your customer care efforts for the future? Are they in tune with your customers and their evolving expectations? What are their best practices in updating their technology platforms and tools?
Timelines and Stakeholder Buy-In
The RFP timeline has shifted substantially since COVID showed up on the scene. While it was once possible to condense the RFP process down to as little as 45 days, the reality is it usually takes longer than that, especially in today’s landscape. Working through each of the above considerations internally and crafting a unique RFP in response is a task that takes time and collaboration between all your teams. A generic RFP template has never worked well for a strategic contact center partner, and now even a custom pre-COVID template won’t cut it. The conversation has changed, and your RFP with it.
A key factor that underlies the RFP timeline is the site visit. Sites visits are one of the most important parts of the decision-making process — and we’re not quiet about recommending them even before the RFP process. But obviously the pandemic has forced us to get creative until travel restrictions loosen up and people are once again comfortable with hopping on a plane and getting face-to-face with potential partners. In the meantime, virtual visits and video chats will have to make-do, but getting them all scheduled with the right stakeholders can be challenge. Adjust your timeline accordingly.
At the end of the day, choosing the right outsourced contact center partner is a huge decision — as much today as it was before the pandemic. It requires a thoughtful, thorough RFP process to accurately narrow down the shortlist of vendors — keeping in mind how location strategy, business continuity, data, digital transformation, and timelines have shifted and continue to evolve.