Time to embrace back-office outsourcing

first_imgThe term ‘outsourcing’ is hardly new to the legal world: there has been much discussion over several years about legal process outsourcing (LPO) to lower cost locations. However, it has taken the profession a while to feel reassured that outsourcing is not a swear word, but in fact representative of a sensible and innovative approach to a firm’s business structure. So, what of the new kid on the block: back-office outsourcing (BOO)? By this I specifically mean the outsourcing of back-office functions such as the switchboard – a service increasingly used by firms large enough to have a separate switchboard and front of house, or smaller firms in need of an ‘overflow’ system to decrease the number of calls missed because of lack of resources. Sometimes alternatively referred to as a ‘virtual’ or ‘remote’ reception or switchboard. In our experience this is not a brand new development – in fact, for a number of years, CallCare has been handling out-of-hours calls for firms wishing to avoid a situation where the security guard picks up that all-important call from a client. Over more recent times, this picture has been evolving and a number of firms, having had the opportunity to ‘test drive’ outsourced call handling outside of core business hours, now outsource all call answering and see it as a financially attractive option that is aligned to the objective that is to become more strategic and forward-thinking in the approach to business structure. Despite this, BOO is still something that happens behind closed doors: even law firms with which we work are keen to avoid clients being aware calls are answered off-site by an external provider, as if this is an admission of some ‘weakness’. Far from wanting to ‘out’ CallCare’s clients, rather what I find interesting is the contradiction that exists here. The key question is: why are firms comfortable with talking about the outsourcing of legal processes – which sits at the heart of the service they offer to clients – yet are reluctant to make noise about the outsourcing of a basic function such as call handling? Call handling by an onshore outside organization offers the benefit of high-quality service delivered cost-effectively – of course I’m not without bias, but this seems to make good business sense to me. I appreciate it has taken a number of years for attitudes towards LPO to change, one would hope that the profession would learn from past experience and embrace BOO in the interests of cost efficiency and quality – benefits that can be passed on to firms’ clients. People have talked about the fact that LPO is all about improving processes. The same principle can be applied to back-office outsourcing: handing over your switchboard function is about putting the onus of improving the efficiency and quality of that function on to someone else’s shoulders: someone who is an expert in that particular field, leaving the firm’s management to focus on the business of providing legal services. In today’s global village, a law firm’s client base is increasingly widespread and, where necessary, firms are well practised in gearing up legal teams to handle work of an international nature. Yet apply that principle to other law firm departments and the same cannot be said. For example, hiring multilingual staff to fill a switchboard role can be difficult and expensive. Procuring an external provider who can supply a translation service for any international call that comes into the firm is one good solution. Similarly, for smaller firms a ‘virtual reception’ provides a hassle-free option – perhaps preferable to training and managing temporary staff. It’s clear that law firm clients want lower costs. While firms seem to be paying more and more attention to this, and well and truly embracing legal process outsourcing, it is important they do not overlook the option of outsourcing non-core elements of the business such as call handling. There was much negative press about LPO a number of years ago, now a firm is considered behind the times if they haven’t turned their attention to it. I feel confident that we will see the same change in attitudes towards back-office outsourcing, but I strongly suggest the profession as a whole makes it a priority call. Rasik Kotecha, is founder and managing director of CallCarelast_img