Asset Management Outsourcing, Inc. (AMO) is a mid-sized collection firm that provides services to credit grantors throughout the entire life cycle of an account. "Year after year, our clients demand more services at a lower fee," says Mike Sands, Senior Director of Operations at AMO's Cleveland, Tennessee facility. So the service provider "is constantly searching" for a more cost-efficient way to contact debtors and recover the money.
For years the accounts receivable outsourcer did things the old-fashioned way: its staffers picked up the phone and dialed the number. The company purchased automatic dialers, but it had to wade through a lot of busy signals, disconnected numbers, and answering machines.
Then the outsourcer turned to technology outsourcing to solve its business challenge: it outsourced much of its contact strategy to LiveVox, an application service provider (ASP) and the industry's first contact center carrier, specializing in inbound and outbound voice dialing services. "Instantly, we had a more rapid way to contact the right party," reports Sands. "Outsourcing is faster, less expensive, and more efficient. It's made us more competitive." Specifically, outsourcing increased AMO's collections by 18 percent while costs fell 15 percent.
One portion of the LiveVox system is able to launch a high volume of calls at one time. When the automatic system connects to a live party, it sends the call to AMO's call center. "Now our reps spend all their time talking to the right party instead of trying to find the right party," Sands says.
Selecting a Supplier
As an outsourcing supplier, AMO knew how to conduct an outsourcing supplier search. "As a supplier, we knew how to discern between the weak and strong players," says Sands. "We were skeptical of some of their claims."
In addition, the company did not want to send the work to offshore agents, given the sensitivity surrounding the tricky task of collections. "We felt that potential negative reactions to offshore agents would have a negative impact on revenue-generation," says Chamberlain. The company wanted a supplier whose contact strategy was culturally and linguistically similar to the people they were calling. We knew we were in perfect alignment with Live Vox after a series of live demonstrations."
AMO was able to afford domestic agents by outsourcing; it did not have to purchase equipment, it had no upfront costs and saved money with LiveVox's pay-as-you-go pricing. The company was able to save money and increase value, leading to an improved return on its investment, which made it possible to keep its agents domestic.
AMO looked at a number of suppliers. Then it set up a 60-day champion/challenger test: who could collect more money?AMO's dialer or the supplier's system? "We wanted to test their situations under combat conditions," says Michael Chamberlain, AMO's President and CEO. Four providers accepted the challenge.
LiveVox won the battle. AMO signed a 12-month contract in April 2006. Renewal is automatic.
Louis Summe, CEO, LiveVox, says the supplier routinely participates in champion challenges. "We welcome the opportunity," he says. "Our technology allows us to let our prospects road-test our services for free as a pilot."
In previous iterations of the technology, pilots would have been prohibitively expensive. He says LiveVox is benefiting from the application developers who are writing code to have cell-phone users play games and video clips. "We seized the day. Creating better call centers is one unintended consequence," he says with a laugh.
During the contest, AMO discovered LiveVox also had the best call quality. It liked LiveVox's quick turnaround to AMO requests; "they were willing to show up at the drop of a hat," Chamberlain continues. Finally, the supplier was impressed with LiveVox's "talented research-and-development team. We noticed they had a high spirit of continuous improvement."
Summe says LiveVox provides a return on investment (ROI) guarantee. The supplier asks its buyers to describe their existing situation. Together they determine the optimal solution. "We create an ROI model and then deliver against it. At the end of the day, our prospects don't have to rely on our words. They can see the results," says Summe.
Why This Relationship Works
When it comes to call quality, Summe says every AMO agent is free to speak if they are unhappy. "We have 300 AMO agents monitoring us every day," he says.
When minor billing disputes arose, Sands says "LiveVox was willing to compromise." He was impressed the two parties "didn't get tangled up over nickel and dimes. They were more interested in protecting the long view," he explains.
Chamberlain adds "it was refreshing to see their vision. They have a day-to-day willingness to provide solutions for us. Everyone on the LiveVox team showed they were willing to be true partners with us."
And that's the instructive lesson. Most suppliers have technology that solves the buyers' business challenges. But in outsourcing, the most important thing is a commitment to making the relationship work. Once a buyer finds a true partner, business benefits are sure to follow.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- Having a challenge competition allows buyers to road-test the technology solution before signing an outsourcing contract. It also allows the buyer to see how the supplier reacts under combat conditions.
- AMO specializes in debt collection. It felt offshoring would negatively impact its collections because the agents would not be able to establish the necessary personal connection required due to linguistic and cultural differences.
- The popularity of cell phones has driven creation of applications that also improve call center technology.
- Outsourcing relationships work when both parties keep the big picture in mind when handling disputes.