Olympians don’t just “happen.” There are a lot of factors that contribute to Olympic success. Genetics, financial resources, access to top coaching, and exposure to the sport at a young age are all virtual requirements for a decorated athletic career. A country’s topography and climate don’t just impact its chances of performing well in a sport; they often dictate whether the country bothers to compete at all. (With a few notable exceptions, of course.)
But these universal truths aren’t what make the Olympics compelling to the masses. It’s the individual stories found within each sport, event, and athlete. Maybe it’s an athlete overcoming adversity, maybe it’s a country winning its first medal…maybe it’s the surprising discovery that an event exists at all.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten that this is an outsourcing blog.
So what do the Olympics have to do with outsource call centers? The global nature of each is an obvious similarity, as is a shared goal to outperform the competition. But when you look a little closer at some of the narratives surrounding Olympic competition, you’ll find that many of them mirror those you encounter when you’re selecting an outsource call center partner.
The All Arounds
When it comes to Olympic hardware, it’s a two-country competition. Over 20% of all medals ever awarded belong to either the United States or the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union never finished below 2nd in the total medal count, and the United States has finished 1st or 2nd in 34 out of 50 appearances.
Certainly, there are events where these countries are especially dominant, but the only way to put up those numbers is to be competitive in a myriad of events. The United States has medaled in 50 different sports, and the Soviet Union brought home hardware from over 30. They’re powerhouses, and they do just about everything well. This is a clear win for the countries themselves, but many of their athletes get lost in the crowd and overshadowed by teammates in more popular sports.
The outsource call center industry has its own select group of powerhouses. These enterprise BPO providers have dozens of locations, hundreds of clients, and over ten thousand agents. They can provide any service in any language, and in many cases, they do it extremely well. Collectively, they put up numbers that can’t be touched by smaller providers, but on an individual basis, they can often leave something to be desired for their smaller clients. A powerhouse may always be a safe bet, but it’s not necessarily your best bet – especially if you’re looking for lower costs, flexibility, and high-touch service.
There’s no such thing as a sure thing. But when it comes to table tennis and rhythmic gymnastics, China and Russia, respectively, are pretty close. There have been 32 Olympic gold medals awarded for table tennis, and all but four of them have been awarded to Chinese athletes. In 32 medal ceremonies, only one failed to see the Chinese flag raised. Starting in 2000, Russian athletes have been at the top of the podium for every single rhythmic gymnastics event, usually with a teammate standing next to them receiving silver or bronze.
These countries aren’t just great, they’re exceptional. While this is mostly due to superior training programs and dedicated competitors, it’s partially because most countries don’t meaningfully participate in these sports. If you’re searching for the best of the best, only a handful of countries are worth consideration.
Sometimes, it’s easy to narrow down your BPO search. If you need support in a highly localized language like Swedish or Vietnamese, you’re probably wasting your time looking outside of Sweden or Vietnam. Enormous outsource call center organizations often pride themselves on their ability to provide support in almost any language, but a smaller, dedicated call center in your language’s epicenter will undoubtedly outperform them (and undercut their pricing) at every turn.
Small But Mighty
Globally, Norway ranks 119th in population and 69th in area. It’s in the middle of the pack in both size and citizenship. But when the torch is lit at the Winter Olympics, Norway becomes the country to beat. This mid-sized Scandinavian nation is the all-time leader in gold, silver, and bronze medals, and has finished 1st or 2nd in the total medal count in 12 of its 23 appearances.
Casual Olympic fans who only follow the marquee events like figure skating and hockey may be surprised by those stats. In the last 50 years, Norway has only sent one figure skater to the Olympics. Their hockey team has never placed higher than eighth – when they qualify at all. Instead, Norway quietly scoops up medal after medal in events like cross country skiing, speed skating, and biathlon. The numbers speak for themselves: this otherwise average country knows how to dominate at the Winter Olympics.
Some of the best outsource call centers in the world take the Norwegian approach. Middle market call centers are dwarfed by their competitors in terms of size, but they make up for it by providing exceptional service and top performance to their clients. They leave the flashy advertising to their competitors, passing the savings along to their customers for exceptional ROI. They know how to get the job done, and they do it better than anyone else.
As a general rule, Olympic athletes are the embodiment of excellence in their sport, and the final placements tend to be a fairly accurate representation of abilities. But every once in a while, the system breaks down. A series of qualification loopholes can grant an Olympic berth to an athlete whose abilities are downright comical compared to her competitors, or a fluke series of events can lead to a gold medal for an athlete who’d been a little surprised to find himself in the championship heat at all.
These athletes didn’t break the rules. They rightfully earned what they received. But a smart gambler probably wouldn’t wager much on the possibility of either of them going on to dominate their sports. Sticking with a poorly-performing outsource call center partner because of a previous win is akin to putting all of your money on Elizabeth Swaney to win gold in Beijing next year.
Your outsource call center needs to produce consistent, repeatable results. Your clients don’t care about the way your BPO exceeded its KPIs in 2015, or put up impressive CSAT numbers last April. Sometimes a call center gets lucky, and the stars align for massive success. But the right BPO knows how to do it consistently, and if you’re accepting mediocrity because you believe they’ll soon return to their glory days, you’re cheating your customers out of the support they deserve – and expect.
The Tide Turners
Ice dancing has been an Olympic sport since the ‘76 Games in Innsbruck, and the majority of the medals have been awarded to Eastern European teams. The Soviet Union or its former members have traditionally occupied at least two of the available podium positions. But the last three gold medals have gone to North American teams, along with two silver medals and a bronze. At the very least, the playing field has been leveled.
Over the past decade, suburban Detroit has quietly become the world’s ice dance epicenter. World-class skaters, coaches, choreographers, and trainers have flocked to the area, creating an intensive, competitive training program that consistently produces champions who represent the United States and Canada. In turn, the success of these athletes has elevated the sport’s profile and caused a surge in popularity among younger skaters who are developing ice dancing skills at an accelerated rate. North American ice dancing has created the infrastructure, investment, and talent pipeline to maintain dominance – or at least be a serious competitor – for years to come.
For decades, outsourcing was synonymous with offshore locations like India and the Philippines. The region had everything it needed to be successful: infrastructure, investment, and a steady labor supply. It also benefited from a relative lack of competition, as other countries were relatively slow to develop their outsourcing industries. But over the past decade, Central and South America have been creating their own Detroit, so to speak. Nearshore outsourcing has become everything that offshore outsourcing ever was, and then some. It offers top-quality service, professional talent, and competitive pricing, along with the convenience of a shared hemisphere and greater cultural affinity. That’s not to say that offshore outsourcing has fallen off the map. Far from it. But the playing field has been irreversibly leveled.
The United States is good at Olympic softball. Really good at Olympic softball. When the decision was made in 2005 to eliminate softball from the Olympics, just 10 years after its initial inclusion, there was speculation the decision may have been partially meant to serve as a mercy rule of sorts after the US team outscored opponents 51-1 in Athens in 2004. The US team had won three out of three gold medals heading into the 2008 Games in Beijing and were the heavy favorite to pull off a four-peat in the sport’s Olympic finale.* They blew through the qualifying round, outscoring opponents 53-1. They beat Japan by three runs in the semifinal to advance to the gold medal game.
But as the overall no. 2 seed, Japan’s medal hopes were still very much alive. The Japanese team went on to play in the bronze medal game, where the loser receives the medal and the winner gets a shot at gold. Japan edged Australia (in extras) and found themselves once again suiting up against the Americans in the marquee game of the series. And for the first and only time in Olympic history, the Americans had to settle for silver after Japan beat them 3-1.
This isn’t an underdog story. Japan has a strong softball program; their team had medaled in two of the three previous games. But even though they had a solid team with an impressive track record, the outcome was still a bit of a shock. There are plenty of outsource call centers that mirror the Japanese softball team’s experience. They’re solid performers. They have a history of success. But they (almost) always find themselves in the shadow of a competitor. If you’re looking for a new BPO partner, make sure you’re considering all available options. There may be a top contender just waiting for its chance to shine for your customers.
*Softball will make a brief return for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics thanks to a new rule that allows the host country to propose events for their program, but will not resume regular inclusion.
Your Gold Medal Call Center Outsourcing Strategy
If you’re looking for a gold medal outsource call center partner, Outsource Consultants can simplify your selection process. We’re the equivalent of Olympic television commentators – top experts who understand the complexity of the BPO industry and the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players. At no cost to you, we’ll help you find a call center partner that’s a perfect fit for your organization and help you WIN the BPO-lympics!
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