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Keeping Customer Service Available During Natural Disasters

Minimize damage to your call center operations in the face of disaster

With Hurricane Sandy on everyone’s mind we would like to take a moment to provide some helpful information on disaster preparation from a contact center standpoint.

Safety is everyone’s first concern, both for employees and customers, and an abundance of resources exist to reference in the face of a natural disaster.  See the CDC’s Hurricane Readiness Tips

But what can you do to minimize the impact of a natural disaster on your business?

Here are a couple of suggestions.

  1. Have operational centers in a wide variety of geographical locations.  Clearly this is difficult to do in a short time frame or if you are a single location operation. Still, you may be able to quickly outsource some of your work and in the long-term, you can certainly contract for contingency capacity with other contact center service providers during a disaster.  For example, one of our northeastern clients has exercised a previous agreement with us to shift some of their in-house work to one of our western centers during the Hurricane window. Because plans were in place, this was done quickly and without disruption for their customers. This will ensure our clients can deliver quality customer service no matter what the storm’s outcome is in their region.Just having a small percentage of seats available can be a real benefit for the customers and the company. Natural disasters can disrupt power, phones, internet and other communication tools for a long time.You can work with outsource providers like us, or maybe even find geographically diverse friendly competitors to work out an agreement. GCS has the added benefit of off-shore locations in the event of a larger national disaster or emergency.
  2. Additional Support and Overflow.  Even if you do not have to close an entire center it is often difficult to maintain a full staff during a natural disaster. Employees have families to care for, communication can be spotty and transportation dangerous. Some critical organizations will experience a much higher contact volume during disasters. Having an outsource provider handle overflow or non-critical issues can provide needed customer support and free your key staff to tackle the bigger challenges. Look for a provider to handle overflow calls so you don’t miss an opportunity to continue operation or satisfy a customer.
  3. Use a recording, IVR or rerouted calls.  You may have to rely on a recording to communicate valuable information to customers and employees alike. This is a great way to make sure everyone is informed and up-to-date about the latest changes for the site and does not require someone to man the phones. Likewise an outsource provider can be contracted to retrieve and handle messages, refer customers and communicate with employees.
  4. Mobilize Fast.  In any emergency, down time will impact your bottom line. A professional and unexpectedly solid response in a crisis can win and keep customers far after the event. This is one of the huge benefits to being prepared ahead of time with an emergency plan and working with a flexible company.  If you mobilize fast, you minimize the bottom-line impact.
  5. Communicate via social media.  When the power goes out, people will be turning to their smart phones, tablets and laptop PCs to stay in touch more than ever.  Let employees and customers know what’s going on and how they can remain in touch during an emergency. Contact centers like GCS can turn the social channel into a positive response channel by monitoring email, chat and text, or providing critical moderation of on-line content.
  6. Be sure everyone is aware of a disaster preparedness plan. Your organization should have plans and policies in place to approach a natural disaster: the steps before, during and after it occurs. All members of management should know what their role is if something were to happen in their local area and they should know how to respond according to your company’s policy and procedure. Be sure to keep this plan updated, review it with all employees and to always communicate its importance.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to respond during a natural disaster but the more prepared you are, the less damage you must undo once it’s over. If you have a solid plan in place to tackle what may come, you can get operations back in place faster, easier and safer.

And once it’s over, always reflect on what your company did right, the tasks that need improvement and the new plans/ideas you can implement the next time something strikes.

We would be glad to discuss ways GCS could help with your contingency planning. Give us a call 704.624.9621 ext 1

 

10 Reasons to Outsource with GCS

There are many reasons why someone should look to GCS as their source for outsource. Here are 10 solid reasons:

We keep the customer #1.

We are committed to serving as a professional extension of our client’s company to their valued customers. We perform outstanding customer service with zero defects. GCS has less than a .0022% complaint rate.

We have first-class agents at your service.

We invest in ongoing training and development of communication and presentation skills for our agents to ensure they can create positive dialogue with our clients’ customers. We are capable of over 2,000 FTE per day.

We provide multi-channel integration.

We can engage customers through most channels, including voice, text, IVR, and chat. GCS meets customers in their preferred channel, during the time of their choosing. As an example, we’ve delivered over 46,000 hours of wireless calling that generated fee income for some of the US’ largest banks.

We know how to sell.

Due to our roots in entrepreneurial business practices, GCS is nimble at creating a unique strategy in a timely manner to drive sales for our clients. If “coffee is for closers,” we should buy Starbucks stock at GCS. On average, we engage 70,000 dialogues with customers on behalf of our clients – every day.

Our business provides on shore and off shore options, including bilingual associates.

We offer centers in 4 states across the continental US, in a 200 seat location in Eastwood, Philippines and have bilingual English/Hispanic associates. 70% percent of our workstations are domestic and 30% are off-shore.

You’ll benefit from a blended contact center model.

A blended center environment affords our clients such benefits as saving time, money and resources, more agent utilization (up to 30%), and better coverage for their programs.

High quality program implementation delivered on time.

We meet our commitments and work “backwards” to outline all dependencies, milestones, and major tasks to meet goals on time. We can bring a new client on-board in as little as two weeks. As we work through the program implementation phase, we demonstrate our expertise and show how we enhance the client’s investment in our team. Our goal is to create a relationship where there’s mutual trust, respect, and benefit.

Insurance niche.

Our team includes insurance agents, licensed in 50 states, in both L&H and P&C. We hold over 20,000 licenses and appointments. Our track record of enrolling more than 30,000 insurance policies per month generates over $90 million in annual premiums for our clients.

We follow the rules of compliance.

A recent independent audit of 3,000 interactions found zero infractions by the GCS team. We are 100% compliant!

GCS has big company capabilities, with small company access.

Partnering with GCS gives our clients big company capabilities, with small company access. Each day we have thousands of conversations with the customers of Fortune 25 clients who have never heard of GCS. But our clients trust us to protect the customer-client relationship. The one-on-one attention we provide to our clients helps make OUR relationship stronger.

Now that is real value.

 Download a PDF version of our service highlights. 

 

Credit Card Growth Case Study

Building a Relationship to Spur Long-Term Success in Credit Card Sales

Download the Full Study!

Over the years, we have had the opportunity to service our clients and exceed their expectations, even beyond what they originally anticipated.

One example comes from a large US bank, seeking assistance with credit card acquisition and fulfillment. Several years ago the client sought an outsource provider to help fulfill credit card acquisitions in a way both cost-effective and revenue-generating. The organization’s goal was to develop a substantial number of new client relationships using both inbound and outbound voice services.

Read the full Case Study…

Download the Full Study!

 

Come Find Me at the 2012 DMA Convention!

I will have the pleasure of attending the 2012 DMA (Direct Marketer’s Association) convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 15th and 16th.  This is a huge event with over 10,000 marketers attending across all industries.   The event also has hundreds of exhibitors as well spanning from ad agencies to email marketing agencies and fulfillment services.

Attendees include: American Express, Nissan, Coca Cola, DirecTV, Spring, Staples and HP.

The conference is built around major tracks including customer acquisition and lead generation,  cross-channel strategies, connected customer strategies, retention and loyalty in addition to creative, brand, social and content marketing.

While attending a conference with 10,000 attendees is outstanding, the challenge is speaking with the right prospects.  I have been proactively reaching out to fellow attendees as well as current contacts I know who have marketing responsibilities prior to the event.    With this diligent effort, I have been successful in obtaining multiple meetings during the event and an invitation to an invite only networking event after the first day of the conference.

While there is a lot of buzz around social marketing, I still strongly believe that a contact center outsource provider can strengthen your marketing, customer engagement, and retention with supporting voice, email and chat channels.  Unfortunately contact services has a bad reputation as of late, but I still see it as an outstanding opportunity for an organization to proactively reach out to prospective customers, educate them on their offerings and learn more about their potential and current customers during the process.

I’d love to meet you, as well! Come find me at the 2012 DMA Convention and let me tell you about some of the ways GCS can be the solution to your customer interaction needs.

If you’d like to connect with Jason at the DMA Convention, send him an email to link up: jason.sterns@gcsagents.com.

Outsourcing Tips for Everyone

When you think of outsourcing, you probably conjure up images of corporations, contact centers and business people. But the truth is, everyone outsources tasks, every day.

Have you ever hired a babysitter? Have you ever offered to bake a cake for someone? Did you mow someone’s yard or blow leaves in the fall? Believe it or not, but those are forms of outsourcing. You’re performing a task on behalf of someone else.

What are some other ways people can outsource work, either to help them out or to make extra money?

  • Turn a hobby into an income stream. Avid photographer? Aspiring cake decorator? Whatever the talent or interest, turn it into a hobby. There are people every single day looking for folks who are great and passionate about what they do and can offer a great deal. You can purchase affordable business cards and print materials through Vistaprint.com to advertise your work at half the price.
  • Take Fido for a walk. People enjoy taking care of their pets, but not always the hefty pet-sitting fees that come along with it. If you know someone who has dogs that need some extra attention, offer your assistance in walking or caring for them in their absence. This is especially great for the older population who may have a hard time getting out with their pets on a regular basis. This can be an ideal responsibility for an older, responsible teen looking for some extra pocket cash, as well. You can use websites like Craiglist.org to advertise your service (just know the difference between a legitimate customer and a scammer).
  • Become a personal shopper. Some people just have a knack for buying awesome gifts. If you know someone who has a flair for shopping, tap them the next time you’re in need of a great gift. Give them a budget and some ideas and let them work their magic. (Great idea for guys who loathe shopping malls).
  • via Mint Design Blog

    And gifts have to be wrapped, right? Too busy to wrap all those holiday gifts? Find someone to wrap them all for you! It saves time and it helps them out, too. (I know someone who did this every year and he was incredibly grateful.)

  • Be a promoter. There are many businesses and venues that need promoters for various products and events. If you know someone who has a business or lives near a large venue, offer your assistance promoting their company. It’s usually a lot fun and a way to make quick, easy cash.
  • Get crafty. If you have a craft a lot of people love, try selling them. Advertise your work and you might get a request to make larger quantities for company gifts, church events or local festivals. Create an account on Etsy.com to advertise and sell your items!

Never underestimate what people need help with.

Just like in our industry, there are people out there who are experts at anything. Outsourcing stretches far-beyond the global business world.

Get Right to the Source

If you search the term “right-sourcing” in Google, you get nearly 46 million results. Margaret Rouse from searchcio.com helps define right-sourcing as “a way to get the best results by using specialists to complete parts of a larger project.” It reminds me of the Express. Our objective for this publication is to provide employees with useful and interesting content about our company, our people and our industry – along with a few fun things. Doing that requires content sourcing from many places.

The majority of our content is insourced. Original work is written by our talented editor, Laura Jollay, along with items from other GCS employees. In addition, we rely on the centers, both onshore and offshore, along with the company support groups, to keep us all informed about what is happening in our company. Even some crossword puzzles are created by Adam Haynes.
But Laura turns to outside sources for news and ideas about our industry and for helpful items like tips, recipes, and games. She gets these items from websites, articles and even live events. In these cases, the content has already been created and she adapts it for our benefit.

It has always been our objective to provide the Express through many channels and to as many people as possible.

To help with distribution, we have set up an email subscription service. Now you can have the Express delivered to your home or smartphone every day. We are in the process of collecting email addresses of those interested. Find out what’s going on, even if you aren’t at work. It also makes it easier for you to comment and contribute to our daily newsletter!

With everyone’s help, the Express is right-sourced.

If you have an idea for an Express story or topic, let us know. Email us at gcsexpress@gcsagents.com

Outsourcing, Insourcing, Off-Shoring and More

The term “outsourcing” has become a scapegoat this political season. But beyond the political hype, it is important to understand the long term benefits of outsourcing.

Just about every company outsources. From trash collection, to cleaning crews, to entire contact centers, no one does it all. In fact, outsourcing helps most companies remain competitive and in business. The U.S. is, for the most part, a service economy. We are a nation working for each other. So let’s understand what these “sourcing” terms mean:

  • Outsourcing - Any function or task performed by a non-company employee. It is what GCS typically does.
  • Insourcing – Choosing to do the work with company employees. Typically work that would have been outsourced.
  • Offshoring - Any outsourcing done outside the United States, like the business we do in our facility in Eastwood.
  • Inshoring - Moving an overseas business to the local country. For instance, Toyota, a Japanese company, builds cars in the U.S.
  • Onshoring – Bringing work back to the domestic country.
  • Nearshoring – Any outsourcing done in countries adjacent or near to the U.S. For example: Mexico, Puerto Rico or Jamaica.

In reality, smart companies engage in strategic right-sourcing. Right-sourcing is simply the process of choosing the best means to complete a task or service, either with direct employees or outsourced ones.

Outside of the political arena, none of these words should be seen as “dirty words.” Businesses survive by generating profits and they use outsource providers to help them increase revenue and lower costs – really to compete and grow. That growth often leads to more jobs both in the client and outsourced communities. Specialization allows companies to focus on doing one thing really well and often at a lower cost.

Even work that is off- or nearshored is beneficial. When a company outsources tasks, it typically lowers the overall costs for their products and services, which in turn reduces the price to the consumer. Lower prices mean more money in the consumer’s pocket for other products, which helps the economy grow. In turn, it creates consumers in other countries who want similar products and services for their families. That demand means more job growth.

Each company chooses the best rightsourcing strategy for their business model. Outsourcing business-related services helps companies get their work done faster and at a lower cost while freeing up other resources to focus on more strategic tasks. The benefits don’t just stop at the door of the business. They find their way back to the consumer.

For outsource providers like GCS, it means we have to recruit, train and perform those skills that are most valued in the marketplace. Good sales presentations, outstanding customer service and top quality, efficient back office processes require a dedicated and focused workforce that brings value to our clients.

Some people will continue to construe “outsourcing” as a negative thing. But the truth is outsourcing is taking place and it is generating meaningful economic activity, both in the U.S. and offshore – and you are a big part of it!

Domestic Help or Work Abroad? Deciding where to Outsource Your Business Services

Businesses wanting to outsource interaction center and BPO processes face a complex set of decisions as they design an approach to customer care and communication. Once a business has decided to outsource portions of their business, they must choose whether to use a domestic, near-shore or off-shore BPO provider. Each of these options has there own pros and cons and ultimately each business will require a unique solution suited to its industry, character, and clientele. Even political pressure and social opinions can influence the decision. While this choice may seem daunting, you can determine the optimal model for your business by working with outsource providers like GCS, who can provide guidance, options and expertise in finding the best solution for your situation.

Off-shore BPO and Interaction Centers, such as our operations in the Philippines, offer significant strategic and financial advantages. By off-shoring, your company could achieve unprecedented efficiency and attention to customer concerns. International contact centers abroad are typically available at a much lower cost, largely due to the strength of the U.S. dollar and differences in the labor laws. With GCS, in addition to financial viability, you can be assured that your client center abroad will be staffed with dedicated, well-informed, and educated individuals who will make customer satisfaction their top priority. By investing in the communities we work with, providing comprehensive benefits, opportunities for career development, and a positive work environment, our team of representatives will naturally reflect the positive values of your company. With all of these benefits available at such a reduced cost, off-shoring might very well be an investment that your company cannot afford to pass up.

However, the optimal location of your company’s contact center will depend not only on overhead cost. Even if the service at a foreign contact center is of the highest quality and the price is unbeatable, some sectors or businesses will benefit in the long run by investing in a domestic communications site. Many individuals and companies have had frustrating experiences in the past with foreign contact centers, primarily due to language barriers or cultural misunderstandings, and would prefer to communicate with a native English speaker at a domestic center. This preference differs from one industry to the next; while the high-tech sector has very successfully utilized international call centers to manage their customer relations, other industries and business that rely more heavily on cultural factors unique to their home countries might benefit more from expensive domestic call centers.

Many businesses have found the most success utilizing a combination of off-shoring and domestic call centers. This combination of diversified resources enables a company to refer their customers to an international call center after domestic business hours, a service that many clients will be grateful for when they need it most. A call center abroad also allows companies to handle higher volumes of communications during peak hours at a lower cost than a team of exclusively domestic agents could offer.

GCS and our team of experienced representatives can accommodate each of these possible business plans. For many years, we have worked with businesses to determine the optimal approach to maximize customer satisfaction at a refreshingly manageable cost. Your continued success is our primary concern, and for this reason, we consistently and faithfully place the concerns of your client as our foremost priority.

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How to Decide What to Outsource. If anything.

Are you having trouble deciding what your company should outsource?  Here’s one really quick way to decide.

Decide What Functions Your Company Should Outsource

10 minutes will help you decide what business functions to outsource.

  1.  Make a list of your business functions.
  2. Reorder your list of business functions in order of “Most Critical“.  (i.e. Item number 1 is most critical to your company’s success, item number 10 or 20 is least critical to your success).
  3. Now make a second list, again reordering your business functions, but order them from Most Complex to Least Complex.  (How complex is it to complete this business function? More complex functions might not be suitable for outsourcing.)
  4. Now you can, theoretically, draw a line through your lists where the most Critical and most Complex items end.  Any business functions below those lines are good candidates for outsourcing.
Here’s a VERY simple example.
My business’s most critical core functions

  1. Client Account Management
  2. Customer Service
  3. Accounting
  4. Payroll
  5. Business Development
  6. Human Resources
  7. Staffing
My business’s most complex core functions

  1. Client Account Management
  2. Business Development
  3. Accounting
  4. Customer Service
  5. Payroll
  6. Human Resource
  7. Staffing

 Now I’ll draw line between the third and fourth items on each list.  Anything above that line is something I want to keep in house, while the items below that line (especially if they are below the line on both lists) may be functions more suited to outsourcing.
My business’s most critical core functions

  1. Client Account Management
  2. Customer Service
  3. Accounting
  4. Payroll
  5. Business Development
  6. Human Resources
  7. Staffing
My business’s most complex core functions

  1. Client Account Management
  2. Business Development
  3. Accounting
  4. Customer Service
  5. Payroll
  6. Human Resource
  7. Staffing

From these lists I might decide Payroll, HR and Staffing are business functions my company should try outsourcing.

If you’re still hazy on which core business functions to outsource, give GCS a call and we can help you figure out what function(s) might improve your bottom line.

Ge a Courtesy Consultation

 

 

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5 Benefits to Outsourcing Your Contact Center

For businesses spanning all ranges of products and services, outsourcing works. A major area in which it works quite effectively is the two-way communication between your business and your customer contacts. Although there are other reasons for this type of outsourcing, here are five major reasons why contact center outsourcing works so effectively:

1. Cost Reduction

This is one of the primary reasons for any outsourcing. You are trusting another entity to provide exceptional communication. Although some fail, most are able to provide quick and effective services in a friendly manner and leave the client well satisfied. Their records are kept impeccably so that you have immediate access to information when you need it without high, on-site expense.

2. Volume Flexibility

Because of their single focus, contact centers are able to react more quickly with human staffing when your contact volume increases or falls. Through their technology and manpower, they can scale up or down as needed with virtual overnight flexibility.

3. Brand Loyalty

An effective contact center reacting quickly to satisfy customer needs removes obstacles to your brand loyalty. Quick, effective and pleasant resolutions increase confidence in your business.

4. Privacy Compliance

Outsourced calling companies realize the need for meeting regulatory compliance when it comes to your contact base. From background checks to internal security measures, they probably are more aware than your own internal staff of the critical need for keeping your and your customer’s information discreet and guarded.

5. Enhanced Revenue

By quickly resolving issues, a commitment to quick one-call resolution of issues or providing information, customer retention is increased. Cross-selling is another area where outsourced call centers are effectively utilized. Rapid resolution and cross or add-on sales are increasing the bottom line for many businesses using this type of outsourcing.

Business success depends on keeping clients, suppliers and your customer contacts satisfied with the information they seek and the service they expect. Outsource centers focus on this aspect of your business to keep your business. When they deliver, you deliver. Outsourcing then builds a bridge of trust linking you, the center and your customer contacts which increases your reputation of excellence in this critical aspect of your company’s function.

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