Unamic/HCN and Sanoma: experimenting in an experimental garden

Working together for an outsource deal

Text: Erik Bouwer

Companies that partially or totally outsource their client contact, need to choose where to draw the line: which processes will stay in-company and which responsibilities will go to the service provider? Publishing company Sanoma threw in its lot with a new service provider, but wished explicitly to choose for a partner with whom they could develop new ideas in order to give the client contact an added value. Unamic/HCN and Sanoma developed the so-called ‘pilot factory’.

With the transition to Sanoma’s new service provider, the new cooperation is divided into two phases: ‘make it work’ and ‘make it better’. General Manager Simon Verzijl of Unamic/HCN explains that ‘make it work’ means that you bring order to the base: accessibility, settlement time, client satisfaction. During the first phase the settlement time was dealt with, which lead to a reduction of 30% in the average conversation duration, amongst other things by implementing ‘first time right’. The second phase would concentrate on innovation and optimization.
Sanoma also wanted to give the client contact an added-value. The publishing company had a good marketing team with lots of new ideas. Together they thought about not immediately carrying out ideas in a broad sense, but to test them in a so-called pilot factory. Therefore a separate environment with a dedicated value manager was set up, including some contact centre agents and team members. The team, that only has one goal – namely developing and testing as good as possible the concept that the marketers have thought up – has cooperated closely with the marketers and data-analysts of Sanoma. One of the starting points was offering as much freedom as possible: this even goes so far that the team can determine when they start working and when they take a break.

Making and testing plans
The marketers come up with a plan for a campaign, supported with a business case. For such a campaign, that Sanoma wishes to approach its clients with, needs to be determined how the conversation should be held, what the product must look like. By working with the proposal on a small scale in a live environment, the business case of the marketers gets tested. An example is making the most of opportunities that present themselves during conversations with clients who call for an address change. Simon Verzijl: “This is probably a good moment to offer a magazine about housing. Sanoma has different publications in that category that could be offered to different client profiles. Reality has shown that in ten to twenty percent of the cases a new subscription can be sold to clients who call for an address change.” This gives the client contact an extra value that was not spotted right away. The same is true for cancellations: when a certain young adult magazine is not relevant for the client anymore then it is possible to check which magazines are. Where cancellations are concerned Unamic/HCN now realizes a conversion in 18% of the cases, that does not have a negative effect on the consisting turnover.

Permanent pilot-plant
At the pilot factory, outsourcer Sanoma and service provider Unamic/HCN take a look, in reciprocal harmony, at how these actions need to be organized in detail. They can also determine whether or not longer conversations are profitable. The creativity mainly comes from Sanoma: the marketers are in the driver’s seat. Unamic/HCN especially looks at how an offer can be cloaked as good as possible in a conversation. Unamic/HCN also uses its own ideas about the different client types as they are distinguished in the Sanoma database. This makes the pilot factory a permanent pilot-plant with room for small-scaled optimization. Because of this it is possible to prevent a campaign to ‘drown’ on a work floor with sixty seats.

Long-term cooperation
Also campaigns that will be used in a broad sense after the pilot phase is finished are followed-up by marketers. Exactly because cooperation relationships in client contact outsourcing are becoming more long-term, both parties need to be prepared to invest in knowledge about each others’ processes. With long-term contracts both parties have to deal with each other for a long period of time. After some time the contrasts will also become clear: the outsourcer wants to save (some more), the service provider wants to earn (some more). Testing new ways to generate extra turnover together works favourable in this case and it is a good counterpart for the creation of contradicting interests, where the outsourcer as well as the service provider want to increase their profits and want to handle client contacts in the most efficient way possible.

New ideas
Another example is sending cancellations: let the client no longer cancel via mail – which generally leads to a threshold to cancel – but let him call. This creates the opportunity for personal contact and also offers possibilities for up and cross selling. From this point of view, the telephone – that was traditionally considered as labour-intensive and ‘expansive’ by the contact centre sector in comparison with web self service or mail – is totally back again. At the basis of a well functioning partnership there is more than a good set of agreements. Unamic/HCN has expressed its own thoughts on ‘the ideal client’ in a couple of keynotes. Also Sanoma saw this click as important. Even so important that during the RFP-phase workshops were organized with about five teams – consisting of IT professionals, trainers and delivery managers – that needed to cooperate with their counter partners. Verzijl: “It was about reports: what did Sanoma’s employees think of the cooperation? What did it feel like to attend a workshop?” The fit between both cultures seemed to be in the flexibility, openness and informal cooperation. This good atmosphere should also make it possible to talk openly about mishaps, like extra costs as a result of process disruptions.

About Sanoma and Unamic/HCN
The cooperation between Sanoma and Unamic/HCN was awarded with a Dutch PON/OM Outsource Award last summer. Especially the pilot factory impressed the jury. With over 80 magazines and 200 websites Sanoma Uitgevers B.V. is the biggest multimedia publisher in the Netherlands. In 2008 they had a turnover of 515 million Euros. With over 300 magazines in 13 countries the Finnish media group Sanoma Magazines is one of the biggest magazine publishers in Europe. Unamic/HCN is active in the field of business process outsourcing of client processes and has branches in the Benelux and offshore branches in Suriname and Turkey.

More information at www.unamic.com