Outsourcing: The Challenge of Agent Engagement

By John Billings posted 09-18-2019 09:25 AM


In a follow-up to the #Outsourcing Briefing held this past June in Richmond, VA, @Leanne Crocker and I moderated Monday's Outsourcing interest group session at Customer Response Summit – Denver. Armed with key questions distilled from the Richmond event, we asked attendees to gather together in small groups to discuss a wide variety of topics from the changing role of the BPO to the impact of #GigEconomy on talent sourcing.

Agent Engagement

By far the hottest topic proved to be agent engagement at partner sites, with key challenges and opportunities dominating the bulk of discussion.

When asked, “How do we collectively ensure that agents excel at partner sites?” some attendees led off by questioning the reasons why captive sites routinely outperform outsourced ones. What role does tenure play in agent performance? And how does geography impact the agent learning curve in understanding everything they need to know about a brand and its products?

“You 100% get what you pay for in outsourcing. The highest paid tend to perform best.”
“Site directors need to be highly engaged with their agents; being a leader and a coach is job #1.”
“Agent involvement with the brand is key. They need to ‘be the brand.’”


Attendees offered a range of ideas for assisting in agent success:

  • Invest in relationships
  • Agent and leadership development plans
  • Brand engagement = agent engagement
  • Aligned/integrated scorecards
  • Competitive collaboration – “Champion/Challenger Model”
  • Diverse capability
  • Penalty/bonus structure

Identifying/assessing cultural alignment – key factors:

  • Account management/corporate leadership
  • Organizational culture
  • Accountability/ownership

Hiring partner leader/managers – key factors:

  • Culture
  • Quality
  • Cost
  • Brand affinity


The Evolving BPO

The changing role of the BPO was also discussed, especially as it relates to the changing technological landscape and multichannel servicing.

Key challenges cited in managing BPO relationships include:

  • Cultural differences
  • Money vs. Experience
  • Partnership vs. Contract
  • Creating true, healthy competition
  • Empowerment
  • BPO Leadership
  • Work-from-Home Culture
  • Saturation


The Biggest Obstacle

When asked, “What is the single biggest obstacle clients face with outsourcing?” attendees arrived at a wide range of answers:

  • Maintaining/improving performance
  • Talent consistency
  • Attrition management and retention
  • Maintaining consistent CX across multiple centers
  • Employee experience
  • Open communication between brand and BPO at all levels


The Gig Factor

How is Gig affecting outsourcing?

  • Unlocks a latent workforce
  • Cost-effective
  • On demand/seasonality
  • Recruiting/lower unemployment
  • No shrinkage


Vendor Diversification

What are the pros and cons of diversifying across multiple vendors?



  • Friendly Competition
  • Mitigates Risk
  • Growth Options
  • Workforce optimization – optimize channel types
  • Consistent CX results
  • Consistent technology
  • Opportunity for A-B testing of new processes, tech


  • Supplier/travel management


Use Cases for AI in Outsourcing

How is AI influencing how you operate with your sites with partners?

  • Robotic process automation (RPA)
  • Virtual assist
  • Reduced training time
  • Optimize performance
  • Intelligent voice response (IVR) automation
  • Gathering insights


Are You a CX Leader at a Consumer Brand?

Join our online community for more great discussion, and to take advantage of a members-only special offer of 50% off registration for our next Customer Response Summit in Hollywood, FL, March 2-4, 2020.

#Employee Engagement
#Employee Retraining
1 comment



02-06-2020 09:59 AM

In my humble opinion I have to agree with the 2nd and 3rd statement. “Site directors need to be highly engaged with their agents; being a leader and a coach is job #1.”
“Agent involvement with the brand is key. They need to ‘be the brand.’”

In my current role as vendor manager, I've pushed on both the leaders and the reps at the vendor sites to be engaged with each other and with the brand. When I first took this role, the biggest complaint I had from my leaders is that the leaders at the vendor sites were not engaged and the reps felt that we the client didn't care. I took this as challenge and today (after 9 months) the vendor sites are exceeding the proprietary sites in all KPIs. 

For these two reasons, I don't subscribe to the number 1 statement. 
“You 100% get what you pay for in outsourcing. The highest paid tend to perform best.”
You as the vendor manager need to be engage and have clear expectations outline for the vendors. Give them the right directions and a little competition does not hurt. Also don't forget to bring the brand with you every time you visit the centers and bring other leaders with you. This will show the reps that you care about them and that you want them to be part of your business.