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Call Center RFP: How And Why It Can Benefit Your Business
There are several critical areas the RFP process will help you in your search for a call center that you should know about. As industry insiders, we wanted to share with you our experiences, helpful tips and "gotchas" you might not be aware of.
Once you have made the decision to outsource your customer support to a call center, you'll find that there are a number of options to choose from: domestic, nearshore, and onshore. How do you pick a call center that performs well? Remember that customers will mention positive experiences to an average of nine people and negative experiences to an average of 16 people!
This is where a request for proposal (RFP) comes handy (and also lets you outsource some of your work to them right off the bat). An RFP is a document that announces a project (for example, providing third-party customer support services), details the requirements of the project, and solicits bids from suppliers via call center contract bids.
RFPs are key to finding great call center services for your organization's customer service needs.
Why Write an RFP?
One benefit to using an RFP is that it forces you to sit down and write out exactly what you are looking for in your ideal call center. A good RFP will help you avoid the regrettable situation in which, down the road, you discover that the call center you have selected is riddled with fixed costs and staffing inefficiencies.
Another benefit is that call center RFPs save you time. Instead of going over your requirements with each potential call center, you only need to write them down once. Potential call center suppliers can then review your RFP requirements at their convenience and remove themselves from the running if they aren't suitable.
Important: the standardization of an RFP makes it easier to compare your different options and select the supplier that objectively makes the most sense for your customer service needs.
A great (not good) RFP will go a long way in helping you with call center outsourcing.
Where to Find Call Centers that Can Respond to Your RFP?
Posting your RFP to your website, as well as to social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, is a good start and can attract bids from call center vendors that you may not have discovered otherwise.
But don't depend on suppliers to just stumble across your RFP. Instead, seek out the suppliers that appear to be your most viable options, and send them your proposal directly. A simple Google search should reveal some suppliers that meet the requirements listed in your RFP (e.g., location, industry experience, specialty compliance, etc.)
You can also refer to the Clutch directory of call center services to find suppliers. Over 2,000 firms providing call center services are featured in this resource, and you can review information such as minimum project size, number of employees, and reviews from current clients.
How to Kick Off the RFP Call Center Process
Writing your RFP and sending it out is just the first step in the process.
After that, don't forget these next items:
- The deadline for the written proposal, including the final cost of the project, should be set roughly five weeks out from the start of the process.
- After sending out your RFP, you can expect some suppliers to follow up with clarifying questions over the next couple weeks. Make sure to answer these questions in full detail to expedite the search process.
- Three weeks after your deadline for the written proposals in your RFP, you should have narrowed down the applicants to your top options and invited each one to give you a presentation on why they should be chosen.
- After sending out your invitations, schedule the presentations over the next three weeks — this gives the suppliers enough time to prepare and provides some wiggle room for avoiding scheduling conflicts.
- Within the two weeks after all your shortlisted suppliers have made their presentations, choose the one that most impressed you with their call center services and let them bid on call center contracts for your organization. Note: don't just judge a company objectively based on their services and stats. Make sure you actually like the people you talk with and feel comfortable with them.
Now if you have made a decision, the final step is of course to produce a scope of work (SOW) document that details exactly what is expected from the call center (training practices, hours of availability, monitoring capability and call center software specifics, etc.), in greater detail than the initial RFP.
5 Tough-ish Questions to Ask Every Supplier
To figure out which supplier is the best fit for your business, you must ask the right questions. Do not make your decision until you get answers to the following five questions first:
- Who are the call center's five largest clients and what's their customer service reputation? If the supplier has not handled a company as big as yours before, they may not have the capacity to effectively handle your volume. On the other hand, if they mostly deal with clients that are much bigger than your company, you should be concerned about whether your customer service tickets will be treated as a priority.
- Have you made any changes or improvements since the COVID-19 pandemic? Please describe. Call centers were notoriously under prepared at the onset of COVID-19. It's not unreasonable to ask for a synopsis of how they handled the crisis and lessons they've learned.
- How quickly can you scale your support? If this past year's taught us anything, it's that it's impossible to predict customer service volume surges. And just because demand has increased, it doesn't mean a customer's expectation for response time has as well. Many contact centers require a few days notice to staff up for a surge, which is way too long. Businesses risk losing customers and revenue if they can't staff up quickly enough.
- What is their agent attrition rate? If agents are often leaving the place, that may indicates a dysfunctional work environment, and performance may be suffering as a result. Conversely, agents who stick around for long periods of time are likely satisfied with their job, which should improve performance.
- Can they meet an 80/30 service level? An 80/30 service level means that a call center's agents answer at least 80% of inquiries within 30 seconds. This is the industry standard, and it's a good detail to include in your RFP and SOW.
In addition to these how-to items, you may need to ask questions that are more specific to your needs, such as whether the supplier's call center services include agents who speak Spanish.
Call center outsourcing is the one of the best moves you can make for your business. A strongly-written RFP will significantly improve your chances of finding a supplier whose contact center services are right for you. Write and submit your proposal with the help of this article, and get your business' productivity up!