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Companies that can't keep pace with social media conversations and mobile applications should consider outsourcing the monitoring of those channels before getting lost in the shuffle, according to Elizabeth Herrell, an analyst who studies customers and communications.
But a business shouldn't trust just any third party when contact center outsourcing, she cautioned. Many customer-support outsourcers also haven't adapted to the new technologies. They offer help only with traditional channels, such as phone calls and email, she said.
With the right knowledge, though, companies can find innovative outsourcers that have caught up to the times by offering social and mobile support across all channels, she said.
"The dynamics have shifted even more," said Herrell, an analyst at Constellation Research Inc. in Monte Vista, Calif. "Customers now say, 'I don't want to call. I want to send an email, a text. I'm going to tweet, and go on Facebook.' "
With more than 4,000 contact center outsourcers in North America, finding one that can adeptly handle a company's social and mobile needs would seem nearly impossible, Herrell said. But she studied six outsourcers that she says have the proper turnkey programs to handle the new technologies.
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Four of them are large outsourcers -- Convergys, Sitel, Teleperformance and LiveOps. The other two -- 24-7 Intouch and West Corp. -- are smaller but rapidly growing outsourcers, she said.
It is accepted wisdom that if a business hasn't integrated social media and mobile platforms into its existing customer relationship management (CRM) systems, it will see its customers moving to competitors that use the newer communication channels.
According to Herrell, contact center outsourcers will also lose if they don't start implementing these new offerings.
"I had traditional outsourcers say, 'My clients just started asking for [social and mobile].' These outsourcers don't realize they need to be leading with the technology and services," she said.
An outsourcer that offers unified, cross-channel customer support provides the needed technical infrastructure, Herrell said. It would take months, if not years, for a company to implement the new technologies, she said. Qualified outsourcers also have trained staff that understands how to handle customer traffic from mobile applications and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, she said.
An outsourcer should be able to integrate social and mobile technologies with existing CRM tools and other databases. It should provide details on what the company's customers are saying on social channels, deliver personalized and contextual information to customers through social messages and alerts on mobile devices, and demonstrate expertise in the company's field, Herrell said.
Recommending contact center outsourcers
The outsourcers that Herrell recommends "stand apart from the many others," she said. They all support voice, IVR, Web, chat, email and social media, and differ with other offerings, she said. Here is her analysis of the six outsourcers:
- Convergys Corp. is a well-known global outsourcer with annual revenues of more than $2 billion. The company's Dynamic Decisioning Solutions software provides customer insight and creates opportunities to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. Convergys offers a formal interaction solution on Twitter and Facebook, and supports all mobile device messaging and smartphone apps.
- LiveOps Inc. is the largest on-demand, cloud-based customer support operator in the industry. Its pay-for-performance model gives assurance that calls go to the right agent. It can take Twitter responses private and public, and its system extends to Facebook. LiveOps' mobile product enables cross-sell and up-sell, lead generation and customer acquisition, retention, remarketing and support.
- A large outsourcer with about $1.5 billion in annual revenues, Sitel Worldwide Corp. delivers multichannel customer engagements and analytically driven systems for on-premises and cloud. Its Twitter cloud monitoring program can respond publicly and privately, but its most common response is on Facebook. Sitel supports text messages from mobile devices, SMS notifications, Web chat and mobile customer satisfaction surveys.
- Teleperformance leads the market with roughly $2.7 billion in yearly revenues and provides wide coverage across all channels. It has a strong presence in vertical industries, and its e-Performance portfolio offers extensive social media services. Teleperformance supports private and public Twitter responses, and Facebook capability is part of its e-Performance suite. It also supports all elements of mobile device messaging and mobile apps.
- West Corp. is a private company with annual revenues of about $2.65 billion. It supports all channels of customer engagement. It provides private and public responses on Facebook and responds directly on Facebook. It supports text, chat and live agent mobile connections and can build and support mobile applications.
- 24-7 Intouch, a boutique contact center outsourcer, delivers advanced social capabilities and markets its own social brand (Social Herd) to support a wide range of functionality and customer care. It provides flexible social offerings using data and agent workflow. It responds to tweets privately and publicly and offers community moderation and direct responses on Facebook.
No matter what a company decides, it should feel comfortable with an outsourcer, Herrell said. The outsourcer needs to anticipate further changes in the way customers contact a business, not to mention anticipate expected changes in the technologies that deliver the communications, she said.