13.08.2021

Creating an Outsourcing Contact Center: First Steps (Part 2)

How to open your outsourcing contact center and not burn out. A step-by-step action plan is already in the Oki-Toki blog.

Creating an Outsourcing Contact Center: First Steps (Part 2)

In the previous part, we detailed the correct sequence of actions when setting up an outsourced contact center.

Brief step-by-step list:

  1. Determine why you need it. The industry is complicated with plenty of problems to tackle. It might be best to consider opening a kebab joint instead!
  2. It’s extremely challenging to acquire serious new clients as the market has already consolidated and competition is fierce.
  3. You’ll have to handle the company’s sales personally. No contact centre has achieved significant success without the proprietor being involved in sales.
  4. Packaging, auto funnels and other kinds of online marketing don’t usually work in our industry. They might operate, but they would attract the wrong type of clientele.
  5. In the beginning, you don’t need a business plan. Buy Alexandra Samolyubova’s book “Call centre 100%” and study it thoroughly.
  6. Find a job at a call centre. Work as an agent. Ideally, experience both corporate and smaller environments. You’ll witness many wonders.
  7. If you decide to proceed, avoid launching in spring. Instead, launch in July. By fall, you will have some flow of clients, albeit modest.

Let us continue. Tip number eight:

Don’t even start if you’re initially planning to build something small. On less than 20 agent seats, the economics will surely not work out, even if you don’t pay taxes (which I strongly advise against). The only exception is if you have a stable external source of funding, but something decent starts from 50 seats, basic but adequate from 80, financially sustainable from 120. Hence, the expansion stage 20 => 120, you need to pass through as quick as light on a photon spaceship. Like “Moscow-Cassiopeia”, got it?

This leads to an intriguing implication, which I have been leading to since the midway of the first part. You don’t need any financial plan until you understand if you can sell. Therefore, start a self-employment business, make a business card website as if you had an outsourcing contact center, rent a phone number and post it on your website. Then try to test your marketing strategies. Of course, I am by no means urging to deceive potential clients, if you start receiving a good share of “yes, deal” – turn down by technical reasons. A classy approach is to find an outsourcing contact center, negotiate with them and, rejecting a client, recommend them as a partner. Only the SIP-provider should be good, better ask for partner assessment from a knowledgeable person. Besides that – it’s okay, you’ll be receiving the agent commission. In terms of numbers – if the conversion of the successfully held negotiations into potential deals with you is less than 15%, then the deal is a dud, if it’s less than 10% – don’t go for it, you won’t be able to ensure the economy stability, 25% – is a great miracle. Plus or minus a few, but on average like that.

 

Also, conduct another experiment, it is always very interesting to observe it.

Imagine a client, believe that he already exists. Find a company with a similar profile, just change the name to avoid real one. Collect a database of this company’s clients as if you were gathering it for a real client, and make a proposition on their behalf. Track the reaction, if you’ll be the one making the calls personally, your agents will do it with roughly half the efficiency. This is a story about the future, never deceiving. And by the way, it follows that you should desire and be able to sell, because who else will teach your subordinates to do it well, and how otherwise will they teach their agents? If you think you’ll be servicing inbound lines, I assure you, it’s a utopian dream. The peculiarity of small groups is that it is unpredictable not to lose calls on them, this is told by the theory of mass service, it’s a branch of mathematics. And you can’t argue with mathematics. You’ll have to take on outbound calls, or else clients will get very upset. 

Remember, if you want to start in a single month, customers should be sought earlier – 2-3 months out. By the time they are found, you will manage to finish the build and staff up. If asked why you’re getting in touch so early, tell the pure truth: “We’re completing a new site, looking into the future, will have power from …month”

Another point that is usually overlooked is staffing.

In contact centers, this is always a challenge, there is forever a lack of agents. But this is often overlooked when launching. Only to later discover that while there are premises and even customers, there is no one to do the work. At the same time, even the people who are there are idle, because customers often do not divide the volume of work into parts and don’t want to get started “step by step”: for example, 5 positions at first, another 5 a month later, and so on. Therefore, this issue also needs to be worked out: post an advertisement on some kind of job site like any headhunter and see the ratio of views, calls and job interviews (you can meet in a coworking space or cafe, that’s okay). At the same time, please remember that a lot depends on how the job advertisement is compiled and presented. Sometimes it is enough to change a couple of words around and the flow of candidates noticeably increases.

By the time you have gone through all this, you will need a financial plan.

It should take into account the following: it’s necessary to have a “safety cushion” calculated for 3 months’ salary for the entire staff and infrastructure rental. A small company’s growing pains are extremely likely. If this doesn’t stop you, go ahead and start, it might just work out. 

Oh, by the way, don’t even think about subcontracting. It’s contraindicated for you, it will irreversibly damage the economy of a budding contact center.

 

Dmitry Galkin,
independent consultant on the creation and management of contact centers

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