October 2, 2023

Leveraging the champion-challenger model to optimize BPO performance in CX

Taylor Milliman

In the dynamic world of customer support, ensuring your business process outsourcing (BPO) partners remain at peak efficiency and effectiveness is paramount. As vendor managers, workforce leaders, and heads of customer support, the challenge often lies in continuously gauging and optimizing BPO performance — without compromising service quality.

Enter the champion-challenger model. A proven strategy in many sectors, this model can be a game-changer for CX teams aiming to strike a balance between productivity and cost-effectiveness. In this guide, we'll unpack how this model works and illustrate its transformative potential for evaluating and comparing BPO performances.

The basics of the champion-challenger model

In the fast-paced ecosystem of customer support and BPO operations, utilizing efficient models for continuous improvement is essential for survival. One such model that stands out in its applicability and success is the champion-challenger model. But what exactly is it, and how can it revolutionize your approach to BPO management?

Definition and origin of the champion-challenger model

The champion-challenger model finds its roots in the realm of A/B testing, where two strategies compete to determine which yields the best results. At its core, this model is about pitting a current best-performing approach (the 'champion') against one or multiple new strategies (the 'challenger(s)') in a controlled environment. This competition, based on pre-determined metrics, allows organizations to continuously assess, refine, and employ the most effective strategies.

Key components

  • The champion: This is your reigning top-performer. Whether it's a strategy, process, or — in the context of BPO — a particular partner, the champion is the current best approach based on historical data and past performance.
  • The challenger: Representing innovation and change, the challenger is a new approach or method waiting in the wings, ready to be tested against the champion. It might be a different BPO strategy, a fresh partner, or a novel methodology proposed by an existing BPO.

By harnessing this model, CX teams can facilitate a system of constant evolution, ensuring that processes and partnerships don't stagnate but rather consistently aim for optimization. The cyclical nature of the champion-challenger approach ensures that as soon as a challenger proves to be more efficient or effective, it replaces the champion — setting a new benchmark for excellence.

Why the champion-challenger model is relevant for CX teams

Having grasped the fundamentals of the champion-challenger model, it's imperative to contextualize its significance within the realm of customer experience. The nature of customer support is ever-evolving, with new challenges and customer expectations cropping up regularly. In such a landscape, relying solely on historical data or past successes can leave organizations lagging. Here's why the champion-challenger approach is not just an option, but a necessity for forward-thinking CX teams:

  1. Dynamic customer support demands: The wants and needs of customers are in a state of flux. As technology advances and markets shift, CX teams are under constant pressure to adapt and deliver top-notch support. The champion-challenger model acts as a catalyst, encouraging regular re-evaluation and fostering a culture of agility and adaptability.
  2. BPO efficiency and effectiveness: With multiple BPO partners potentially in the mix, complacency can sneak in, causing potential dips in service quality or efficiency. This model keeps BPOs on their toes, ensuring they continually innovate and present the best version of their services.
  3. Strategic cost implications: Every organization aims for optimum performance without breaking the bank. Inefficient BPO partnerships can incur hidden costs, be it through subpar service or resource wastage. By continually evaluating and comparing BPO performance, CX teams can ensure they are funneling resources into the most productive and cost-effective avenues.
  4. Data-driven insights: The age of intuition-based decisions is waning. In its place, data-driven insights reign supreme. The champion-challenger approach is rooted in concrete metrics and analytics, allowing CX leaders to make informed, objective decisions that directly correlate with enhanced customer satisfaction.

In essence, the champion-challenger model equips CX teams with the tools and mindset to not just react to industry changes but to proactively spearhead innovation and excellence in their customer support endeavors.

Steps to implement the champion-challenger model in BPO evaluation

Now that we've illuminated the importance of the champion-challenger model for CX teams, the question is: how do you put it into practice? Transforming this theory into actionable steps can unlock the gates to optimized BPO partnerships and superior customer experiences. Let’s demystify the process:

1. Identify your champion:

  • Define metrics: Start by outlining the benchmarks that matter most. This could encompass metrics like first-call resolution, average handle time, or customer satisfaction scores. The goal is to measure what drives success for your CX operations.
  • Current top-performer: Analyze your existing BPO partners using these metrics. The one delivering the best results, consistent with your organization's goals, is your current champion.

2. Select your challengers:

  • Diverse pool: Introduce new BPOs or consider existing ones with a revamped approach. It's beneficial to have a mix, bringing different perspectives and methodologies to the table.
  • Potential for innovation: The chosen challengers should ideally display a propensity for innovation or an alternative strategy that promises tangible improvements.

3. Define your test parameters:

  • Duration and volume: Establish a test phase, deciding how long the champion and challengers will be evaluated. Allocate a specific volume of customer interactions to each, ensuring a fair playground.
  • Objective criteria: Establish clear, unbiased criteria that will govern the evaluation, steering clear of subjective or ambiguous standards.

4. Monitor and collect data:

  • Utilize management solutions: Leverage your workforce and vendor management solutions to diligently gather relevant data. This real-time monitoring allows for timely course corrections, if needed.
  • Consistent oversight: Ensure that data collection is consistent across all BPOs for an accurate comparison.

5. Analyze results and make informed decisions:

  • Performance review: Once the test phase concludes, contrast the challenger's performance against the reigning champion.
  • Decision time: If a challenger demonstrates superior efficiency or effectiveness, it might be time to crown a new champion. Alternatively, use the insights to negotiate improvements with existing BPOs or refine your overall strategy.

Incorporating the champion-challenger approach into your BPO evaluation not only paves the way for continual improvement but also fosters a culture where excellence is always in pursuit, ensuring your CX initiatives always remain a step ahead.

Benefits of using the champion-challenger model in BPO management

Embracing the champion-challenger model in your BPO evaluation strategy isn't just a modern-day best practice — it's an investment in the future of your customer support operations. As you navigate the intricacies of BPO management, the tangible benefits of this model become increasingly apparent. Let's explore some of the standout advantages:

1. Continuous improvement:

  • Eliminating complacency: By continually challenging the status quo, BPOs remain proactive, eliminating the pitfalls of stagnation. This dynamic sets a stage where there's always a push toward betterment.
  • Fostering innovation: With challengers perpetually seeking an edge to overtake the champion, it stimulates a culture of innovation, prompting BPOs to continually refine their strategies and methodologies.

2. Cost efficiency:

  • Optimized resource allocation: Funneling more customer interactions toward higher-performing BPOs ensures you extract maximum value from your investment — ultimately improving your bottom line.
  • Preventing hidden costs: By proactively identifying inefficiencies or underperforming aspects of a BPO, you can circumvent potential indirect costs like customer dissatisfaction or lost business opportunities.

3. Risk mitigation:

  • Controlled testing environment: The model facilitates testing new strategies on a smaller scale before full implementation, reducing potential risks associated with large-scale changes.
  • Adaptive approach: By having a champion and several challengers, you inherently diversify your strategy, allowing for quicker pivots in the face of unforeseen challenges.

4. Informed decision-making:

  • Data at the helm: Rooted in empirical evidence and real-time metrics, the champion-challenger model ensures your BPO management decisions are always grounded in concrete data.
  • Strategic foresight: With continuous insights into BPO performances and industry shifts, CX leaders can anticipate future trends and make proactive decisions rather than reactive ones.

In a nutshell, integrating the champion-challenger model into your BPO management framework is akin to arming your CX operations with a compass, ensuring you're always oriented toward delivering exceptional customer experiences and maximizing operational efficiency.

Challenges and how to overcome them

While the champion-challenger model has solidified its place as an invaluable tool in BPO management, implementing it isn't without its challenges. Recognizing these potential roadblocks and preparing strategies to mitigate them is crucial for CX teams aiming to fully harness the model's potential. Let’s explore some common challenges and how to overcome them:

1. Resistance to change:

  • The challenge: Introducing new methodologies can sometimes meet resistance from both internal teams and BPO partners — especially if they're comfortable with existing processes.
  • The solution: Regularly communicate the benefits and the long-term vision of the champion-challenger approach. Facilitate training sessions and workshops to ensure everyone is aligned and understands the bigger picture.

2. Data overload:

  • The challenge: With multiple BPOs, strategies, and metrics in play, CX teams might find themselves inundated with data, making it challenging to derive actionable insights.
  • The solution: Utilize robust workforce and vendor management solutions that can efficiently collate, analyze, and present data in a digestible format. Establish a core set of metrics to focus on, preventing unnecessary data sprawl.

3. Balancing fair competition:

  • The challenge: Ensuring that the competition between the champion and challengers is unbiased can be tricky. Factors like seasonal variations or external market changes might skew results.
  • The solution: Ensure a level playing field by setting clear, objective criteria for evaluation. Consider external factors when analyzing results and possibly extend the evaluation period if necessary to gather more comprehensive data.

4. Inconsistent implementation:

  • The challenge: Different departments or teams might adopt the champion-challenger model with varying degrees of rigor, leading to inconsistent results and evaluations.
  • The solution: Establish a standardized implementation guide for the model, ensuring all teams are on the same page. Regularly review and iterate on the process based on feedback from different departments.

5. Potential partner strain:

  • The challenge: Constantly evaluating BPO partners might strain relationships, with partners feeling they're perpetually under the microscope.
  • The solution: Open channels of communication. Ensure BPOs understand that the model isn't just about evaluation but also about collaboration and mutual growth. Celebrate successes and work together on areas of improvement.

While the journey of implementing the champion-challenger model in BPO management might present hurdles, they can all be surmounted with a proactive and collaborative approach — paving the way for a more dynamic, efficient, and result-oriented customer support ecosystem.

Elevating BPO management with the champion-challenger model

In the complex web of customer support and BPO management, the champion-challenger model can bring collaborative clarity and operational optimization. By promoting a culture of continuous evaluation, innovation, and data-driven decisions, CX teams can ensure they’re consistently delivering the best to their customers and maximizing returns from BPO partnerships.

Yet, as with any transformative approach, it's essential to anticipate challenges and strategize their mitigation. With a commitment to open communication, consistent implementation, and leveraging the right tools, the potential hurdles become mere stepping stones to elevated success.

As the landscape of customer support continues to evolve, those who adopt, adapt, and refine their strategies will lead the charge. And with the champion-challenger model, CX leaders are well-poised to sculpt a future where excellence isn't just an aspiration but an ongoing reality.

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