6 Ways to Outsource Customer Communications successfully

Bryan Baker

Not surprisingly, customers expect companies to be responsive and communicate with them in meaningful ways. Yet shrinking budgets and mounting pressure to produce more with less can take a toll on the way companies service and communicate with customers. To help companies complete and deliver the personalized, effective communications that they need to keep customers happy, many are outsourcing this business critical function.

Six ways to create outsourcing success

Step One: The first question to ask is "what problems are we trying to solve, or what opportunity are we trying to capture?" Beyond volume, timeline and unit cost goals, a good customer communications outsourcing relationship will set goals for:

  • optimizing the communications infrastructure for employees company-wide
  • improving customer retention through improved communications
  • reducing call center costs
  • complying with laws and regulations
  • maintaining consistent brand messaging

Step Two: Before your outsourcing partner can help take your customer communications to the next level, both parties must first have a clear understanding of the current state of affairs by performing a rigorous assessment. During this step, a blueprint for a successful future relationship is built. All technical considerations, cultural impacts, financial analyses, and external factors should be discussed. Projects where the due diligence efforts are cut short and assumptions are made are prone to fail.

Step Three: A change management strategy is essential for obtaining employee buy-in. New procedures typically cross multiple lines of business and various populations and it is important for all sides to understand the additional or different support requirements. For example, if the organization’s IT department decides to make significant changes to the applications that generate or impact customer communications, the changes could have a dramatic impact. Understanding upstream changes that can impact the scope of work being outsourced is crucial.

Step Four: The success rate for outsourcing customer communications dramatically increases when the plan is backed by highlevel executives.

Step Five: Basing a decision solely on cost will fail to produce optimal results, as you run the risk of missing out on the innovative thinking that providers may be hesitant to include given cost pressures. A balance between short term cost reductions and investing in innovation to drive long term business results define strategic partnerships.

Step Six: After goals are set, the tendency is to track top-line milestones such as deadlines being met and unit costs, while the work of collecting and analyzing the data falls short. The right metrics and regular reporting help to sustain the relationship. However, the focus needs to be on the business outcome of the communications. Are calls to the call center being reduced? Are customer responses increasing? How
are employees reacting to the new system? Without facts to guide future decisions, refinements and improvements are impossible. Even worse is when a relationship is measured using a bad metric. For example, if the unit cost is the only item looked at, you may be able to squeeze fractions of pennies out of the cost of a single communication and think you’re on track. However, if this communication is increasing calls to the customer service center, at a cost of $15-$20 per call, the savings are non-existent.

The science of communication engineering

There is an evolving science of communication engineering to consider when planning a communications overhaul. One of the most powerful ways to improve customer communications is to reengineer them. It is not enough to simply redesign documents to achieve a fresh look. Reengineering can take client communication to a new, more focused level with behavioral science modeling. This technique has traditionally been used by clinical psychologists who have known for decades that structuring a conversation with a person
in a specific way, makes it easier for them to absorb and act on complex information. It turns out these structures apply to all communication—verbal or written.

Specifically, the structure of the document is used as an active agent to elicit a more beneficial response from the reader, not to trick or manipulate, but to clearly drive more effective business behavior. For example, one of the modeling tools developed by psychotherapist Stephen Lankton is called the Anatomy of an Interface.

The Anatomy of an Interface is built upon the premise that there are eight key elements in every effective communication. These include:

  1. Syntax
  2. Framing Cues
  3. Information Chunk Size
  4. Multiple Channel Information
  5. Focal Information
  6. Punctuation
  7. Feedback
  8. Protocol

When these eight elements are strategically considered in a communication, document effectiveness is maximized and changing the document structure alters the experience, thereby impacting results.