The process of selecting the right customer service outsourcing partner can be long and grueling.
But now you think you've identified a provider that is capable of meeting all of your customer service requirements and improving call center performance. So it's a done deal, right?
Not so fast, cowboy. Before your start forwarding calls to your outsourcing provider, you need to carefully define the parameters of your relationship. Although your partner seems like a great fit, outsourcing carries tremendous risks and the potential for problems is overwhelming. To protect your company, you need a legally binding document that defines everything from your expectations to consequences for poor performance.
The document you need is a Service Level Agreement (SLA). SLAs transfer everything you have discussed with your outsourcing partner to written form. But more than that, SLAs serve as a contractual agreement that defines the nature of your partnership and mitigates the risk to your company. When it's time to outsource customer service, here are some of the things your SLA will need to address.
- Define responsibilities. Your SLA has to specify responsibilities to have any meaningful impact. Although it's helpful to differentiate your responsibilities from those of your partner, it's even more useful to identify the individuals or departments that will be accountable for each task.
- Articulate expected outcomes. Customer service SLAs provide the perfect opportunity to document the expected outcomes you discussed during the selection process. Without documentation, it can be hard to prove under-performance later on.
- Include metrics. The expected outcomes described in your SLA should emphasize metrics – quantifiable outcomes that don't leave any room for interpretation.
- Clarify reporting processes. Your outsourcing partner is responsible for delivering accurate and consistent reporting about call center activities. Reporting content and frequency should be clearly described in the SLA.
- Include performance ranges. Performance is a moving target. You can build flexibility into your SLA by including performance ranges rather than single metric outcomes.
- Describe penalties for failure. Customer service failures will result in a cost to your company. As a deterrence, the SLA should identify the penalties that will be imposed on the provider for underperformance.