Making the Case for Outsourcing Call Centers

Hiring out the call center is an increasingly viable option for growing midmarket firms. Are you ready?

A few years ago, 1-800-Flowers.com needed to ramp up its call center capacity for one of its biggest revenue-generating holidays of the year, so it contracted with an outside call center to provide 800 additional operators.

"That was a mistake," recalls Lou Orsi, vice president for vendor and service center relations. "They got in a little over their head. They struggled meeting the hiring numbers. They were taking in anyone off the street they could. Quality suffered."

The experience didn't sour Orsi on outsourcing, but it did teach him a couple of lessons: Make sure the vendor understands your expectations, and make sure you don't depend on a single vendor at a revenue-critical moment.

"One of the first conversations I have with vendors is that I tell them, 'I'd rather you undercommit and overperform instead of overcommit and underperform,'" Orsi says.

There comes a time in the life of many midmarket companies when they're enjoying rapid growth and they have to start thinking about how to take the business to the next level.

And since a company's greatest asset is its customers, managing the contact center is a vital task. Yet it's often peripheral to the core business, so increasingly, businesses are deciding that outsourcing is the way to go. The market for call center outsourcing hit $19.5 billion in 2005 and could reach $20.1 billion by 2012, according to Frost & Sullivan, an international consulting firm based in San Antonio.

This was first published in December 2006

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