Smart Outsourcing for Hard Times

Keith Dawson
26 Mar 2009

Call center outsourcing is more than just hiring a company to handle your overflow. It's a complex and intimate relationship. The core of that relationship is the tension that exists inside a lot of companies who come to realize that though their customers are their most important asset, handling their interactions is way beyond their core competency. That's when you bring someone else in, preferably an expert with robust infrastructure Relevant Products/Services and solid experience. In recent years, outsourcers have been growing larger. The biggest ones sport broader geographic footprints, many more agent stations, and a wider range of services offered beyond simple call handling. Of late there is also a new collaborative model emerging that brings outsourcers even closer to their clients: asset acquisition.

Asset acquisition is simply the purchase of one company's non-core functions by another. In the outsourcing world, that means that a large and well-financed outsourcer would literally buy part of its client: the call handling infrastructure, including facilities, technology and staff. In an asset acquisition scenario, that means that the outsourcing partner buys a company's call center, wherever it is located, and then operates it as an on-site adjunct to the client's business. It may seem extreme, but it has several advantages for both parties.

On the client side, the primary benefit is cost savings. Not only are they offloading the process of the interaction, as they would in a traditional outsourcing relationship, but here they are offloading an entire cost-structure, complete with salaries, benefits and site costs. And on top of that, the asset is actually monetized: the outsourcer is paying for the call center. In difficult economic times, that injection of cash can be very useful.

Dallas-based ACS has been a pioneer of asset acquisition as a strategy for growth. Darin Wright of ACS told me that his company has engaged in asset acquisition projects with some major clients, including Motorola, GM and GE. In Motorola's case, ACS took on more than 700 employees and about 16 global locations from that company. It monetized some HR functions that were outside the tech company's core focus and made process improvements.

He says that one of the advantages for Motorola was that they could eliminate those functions and see the benefits from Day One, because they were getting paid by someone who would run the facilities, instead of having to pay to shut the units down

The second major benefit is what many companies look for in the first place from an outsourcer -- relief from the cycle of buying and upgrading technology to stay competitive. Outsourcers, by definition, have a greater investment in having leading edge tools at their disposal. For them, since handling customer interactions is their core business, it's a competitive necessity. And the scale on which they buy that technology across multiple centers and thousands of agents means that they can support a higher level of tools than their clients can. For the clients, asset acquisition represents a serious CapEx avoidance.

The outsourcer benefits just as firmly. Outsourcers need capacity, but they don't need the uncertainty and risk of having to build greenfield capacity in hopes that there will be business to support it.

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