A charity’s guide on how to make outsourcing work for you

My last blog looked at how outsourcing contact services can help protect a charity’s reputation. This time here is my advice on what every charity needs to consider outsourcing services to external organisations.
shutterstock_111469742When it comes to outsourcing their services, charities often have concerns. And it’s understandable why. Most charities work with very sensitive data, and more often than not, work with vulnerable people who completely rely on them. Fears around losing the all-important personal interaction with service users and dilution expertise are common.

The experience of service users must always be prioritised above anything, and protecting sensitive data is paramount. There are a number of reasons why outsourcing can benefit a charity but beyond improving efficiency and productivity, the reasons for choosing to outsource will be unique to every organisation.

For example, take Txtm8 – a health text message advice service for young people. The service was introduced to give 16-24 year olds a channel where they can communicate anonymously and receive information in a language they can relate to. For time-poor charities, responding to enquiries 24/7 can be difficult, so Living Well outsourced the service to us. The service is highly effective as real people reply to users around the clock, providing a highly personalised and responsive service to those who may be embarrassed to discuss sensitive issues over the phone or in person.

Textm8 is an example of where an outsourcing relationship really works.

However, before establishing a partnership with an external organisation there’ are a number of points that charities need to consider:

Perfect pairing?

It is important organisations understand the opportunity that outsourcing represents, and how resources can be tailored to fit their needs. The concept of outsourcing services suggests that an integral part of the charity will be given away to a third party.

This doesn’t have to be the case; a well-designed partnership should add value and free up internal resources to focus on delivering often more in-depth services. At Connect Assist we don’t see ourselves as a third party, we work closely with charities to become an extension of their team rather than a remote workforce. When considering an outsourced provider, make sure you that they share your values. Be sure to get a sense for how well they understand your organisation, processes and priorities. And find out what communication and reporting methodology they have in place.

Ensuring frontline delivery

When considering outsourcing, ask prospective providers what measures they put in place to immerse themselves in your culture and way of communicating.

Our contact centre staff are hired for their expert skills in dealing with vulnerable service users, and they are fully trained to meet the needs of every charity we work with. We understand that charity helplines are often real lifelines for many people, and handing the running of this over to someone independent is an extremely daunting prospect.

For instance, at the start of a new partnership with an organisation, our contact staff undergo a period of intense training, during which they immerse themselves in the charity in order to gain as much first-hand insight as possible. During this time, each operator is paired with an experienced member of the charity’s own team, where they are able to listen in on calls and learn how best to work with and support service users. This makes a real difference to the experience users receive when they pick up the phone.

Our Royal British Legion team is 50% made up of people who have served in the armed forces – ensuring strong empathy and expertise as well supporting the mission of the charity

A strong support system

shutterstock_111165887[1]We understand how important it is for a service user to receive support whenever they need it. For this reason, a service user should never be able to differentiate between whether they are speaking to a charity staff member or an outsourced contact centre. That consistency in communication style, attitude and empathy is crucial if outsourcing is to work for your organisation. Ask your prospective supplier what measures they take to ensure consistency of service.

Benefits for internal team

Outsourcing to a contact centre is more than just a simple transfer of services. Extending the capacity of an organisation by using an external company can increase flexibility and opportunities for wider service development.

We have seen how well this can work for charities. Back in 2010 we partnered with the food industry’s charity, Grocery Aid, to set up their first 24/7 helpline. We then developed this service across several multi-channel platforms, including responsive email contact, ‘ask a question’ and live chat. With the support of our contact centre staff, the burden of handling the technical aspects of service user contact was relieved, and the organisation was able to focus on targeting the wider needs of their audience.

Through this partnership, Grocery Aid has since launched a brand new support service for supermarket employees which has given rise to a 120% increase in the number of calls received. From our contact centre base, we took on the management of these extra calls, enabling the charity to significantly increase their outreach of services and support at no extra cost.

Our partnership with Grocery Aid and similar examples illustrate that outsourcing doesn’t have to be a one-way transaction. Although the risks associated with handing over data and internal processes are very real, charities should know what they are able to achieve through a successful partnership.

By relieving the burden of contact management, organisations have the flexibility to identify new service opportunities and ultimately improve their overall user experience.

Critical to the success of outsourcing is ensuring that service users are able to access the support they need as easily as possible – and that the service they receive is consistent with your brand values.

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Case Study

Case Study: Grocery Aid

1.1.          Grocery Aid

1.1.1.      About our customer

Grocery Aid, the trading name of the National Grocers' Benevolent Fund, is the charity for the grocery industry. Grocery Aid helps people all over the UK who have worked, or are working, in the grocery industry and have now found that they need some extra support to get by. The help that Grocery Aid provides can make a very real difference and it provides not only monetary support, but also appliances and everyday items that many take for granted.

1.1.2.      The service we provide

The helpline was a new service for Grocery Aid. We set about improving the reach of their valuable service and sought to reach out to the people needing the help and support that they provide. In early 2010, Connect Assist successfully helped Grocery Aid launch their first helpline via our 24/7 Contact Centre. Today we offer multi-channel solutions via phone, e-mail, knowledgebase, ask a question and live chat.   The multi-channel helpline provides information and support to people and business owners working in the trade – from large supermarkets to corner shops. This includes an innovative ‘incident support’ service following attacks, arson and other incidents that are prevalent within the industry.

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