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While attending the Support Driven Leadership conference, Chris Murray from Babylist took the time to connect with Mari Parker, COO and President of Boldr. They spoke about the benefits of outsourcing and how Babylist retained their Philippines-based freelancers when they transitioned to Employer-of-Record (EOR) outsourcing.

The following transcript has been edited for clarity and ease of publication:

MARI: I'm here at the Support Driven conference with Chris from Babylist. I'm Mari, chief operating officer with Boldr. And we're gonna have a little bit of a chat about our relationship.

CHRIS: My name is Chris Murray. I'm the Head of Support at Babylist. I've been there about three years and been in support leadership for about a decade in a lot of different industries. And it's a fun group of people to work with.

MARI: What was going on within Babylist when you embarked on the journey of finding a partner for the relationship that we have today.

CHRIS: Before I joined Babylist, we've experimented with offshoring support or using offshore resources or people to manage our support queues. By the time I joined, we had about 20 people spread across the Philippines, but they were working for us through one-by-one contracts. When I looked ahead at what growth we would have, I knew we'd be growing a lot over the coming years, and knew that it would be hard to keep hiring everybody with one-on-one contracts.

They were all using their personal devices and you don't want 40 to 60 to 100 people having all this business information on personal devices. It's also hard from an IT standpoint. We were looking for efficient ways to grow the team, but also retain these team members who had been there for a long time. Some had been there three years at that point. We wanted to do right by them. We wanted to retain their knowledge, so we set a goal to grow efficiently, grow securely, and retain at least 80% of that team.

MARI: How many did we retain? 

CHRIS: 100%. It was amazing.

MARI: We have clients or potential clients come to us when they're at a smaller scale and do a price comparison between what I can pay somebody directly versus working through a BPO or partner. It's difficult to explain the difference. I've found myself in a position where my advice would be that you should work with independent contractors for the time being, but I know there's a tipping point at which that doesn't make sense anymore. It's a matter of scale and scalability. Once you are at a certain size, if you're going to grow significantly. There's a compliance factor as well. When there's acquisitions at play, or if a company wants to go public, they need to consider that independent contractor relationships seem like a gray area from a compliance perspective. It's a great way to get your footing and understand how to work with a global team, but at some point a partnership can just help you formalize it.

CHRIS: Yeah, I think about how much it would take to do the sourcing, the interviewing, the hiring, and then things go wrong with their devices, what strain that puts on the IT team. There's tons there. It's great to use these individual contracts to learn about the people in this area. Are they able to serve the customer base that we hope, and the way that we hope and like? Can we work together well? But when you're ready to grow, you need someone in the area who knows local labor laws and can help you do those things in a time-effective way.

MARI: You ran a formal process and you had a full RFP. Talk a bit about what you weighted in terms of importance there and what ended up in this relationship.

CHRIS: We were thorough and didn't rush it. From when I started the discovery process until we signed with Boldr was six to nine months. It doesn't always have to be that long, but with the criteria we were formulating, we wanted to check all the boxes. Efficiency, that’s both cost and time. So, scaling, right? Our scalability was always gonna be one. We wanted people who had proven success track records. We wanted people who aligned with our values, which is that we care about our people.

When I learned more about the BPO space or an offshore support space in general, you hear horror stories about the way that team members are treated. At Babylist, people are what make things work. If you invest in your people, you see good things, and if you don't, you don't. It's both short- and long-term investment to invest in people. We looked for people who checked those boxes and took care of people. Ultimately, we went with Boldr because we felt our values aligned, genuinely. I talked to dozens of offshore potential partners. Boldr felt the most genuine that they cared about their people. It rang true from the first call I had with the first sales rep all the way through when I talked to David. It was cool to see like: This is the core of what we do here. Boldr checked all our boxes and outshone others in the area and gave me the most confidence to retain most of our people.

MARI: So nice to hear. It's super validating. You have worked with us for almost two years and the team has grown from 20 to almost 100. It's proven that we can scale, but I think there's something hidden in those boxes that get ticked when you work with a partner, that I want to make sure we bring some light to here. The difference we want to make in the industry is the way we treat our people. We're always going to be proud of that. But I'm not naive that at the end of the day, it's the numbers that matter. It's making sure that the partnership is economically viable for all parties involved and that the quality is there. So I'm curious, in your experience, have you seen the results of being a people-centric organization? Or in the way that we operate, or the way that we source, the way that we help you build this team, have you seen the results of that? Or what business results can you tie that to?

CHRIS: In terms of quality, CSAT is obviously huge in the customer support world, but it's influenced by so many things. Going back to those numbers, you always have to unpack that a bit. It varies based on changes in the market, changes in the team, new features that get released. Sometimes that's not always the greatest thing, but when we look at their QA scores, they're really high. And when we look at the sheer amount of great, positive feedback that customers give these team members, it's great. There's tons of great feedback. What it's unlocked from a business standpoint, like you mentioned, we went from 22 team members to this year we're gonna grow to over 100. When we started those first 22, they were all just doing one task on one team. Since then, we now have almost 100 team members and it's spread across six teams in 13 different functions. It unlocks a lot for the company. And it's been great.

MARI: Yeah, I'm curious how that has unfolded on your side of the business. I've always had this visibility of the opportunity and I've tried to figure out like, how do I get the clients to see it? People often ask, what outsourcing do you do? And I'm like, we find talent in these markets. It's clear to me that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And where there is opportunity within organizations, they can leverage us to find talent in any area of their business. But we often get pigeonholed in customer support because it's the easy way in, it’s most familiar. But then growing outside of those departments can be a little tricky. How did that unfold for you guys internally? Where was that unlock where you see that this can be helpful in different areas?

CHRIS: It's sharing the wins, right? Truthfully, it was a little bit easier for me, where I reported at the time to the CFO, and she could see: Oh, you're growing this team this way? Could they help with other things? Part of it was her seeing that opportunity. Then you are talking about: Oh, we're seeing this great value add. In her mind, she would think about the cost. This is more cost-effective. How do we do that? So we talked about different departments that could use help with even the beginning tasks. Given her position, she could see a lot more things. So we partnered and I shared. I reached out to a handful of department leaders and said, Hey, these are the services they can offer. Obviously I touched base with Boldr to double-check that those are things they can do. And that's kind of how we started.

MARI: I've always seen that as one of the unlocks. When somebody on the executive team, usually the CFO, understands the opportunity, it unlocks a different lens on how to utilize a partner who has roots in these markets. Another question that's coming to mind for me is, how would you describe your employer-of-record relationship compared to a fully outsourced solution?

CHRIS: For me, it's the flexibility and the control. When we were looking at different options, a big criteria point was that we need to maintain control over our culture. We want to be able to pivot the need of what these team members are doing, to a reasonable extent as we learn new things. We've seen a lot of great wins where it goes back to that expansion. We used to have just 22 team members doing one CS job. And now even just on CS, we have two different departments that they're helping with, and they're doing six different jobs. That flexibility has helped us grow as a business there.

Whereas with a BPO you have a lot of going back and finding out, can you do this, negotiating new contracts, or all those things. A lot of times they don't let you do some of those things. The thing I found most impactful with EOR versus the traditional BPO model, is that we get to have influence on the team member’s growth. We have team members who have grown from level one agents to level three agents to shift leads. We get to be involved in their career growth, which is typically one of the stronger motivators that team members have. It's led to a high retention. Having worked with BPOs before, I've seen attrition go as high as 50%. When you're doing that, you're just constantly retraining, and it’s super expensive, it's super draining for the team members who are doing that, and it impacts all your KPIs. Because we've been able to maintain control of the culture and help these people grow, we've had almost no attrition over two years.

MARI: Any closing remarks in terms of advice for companies or customer support directors that are looking to move into an EOR model or partner with somebody in an EOR model? What advice would you give them for success?

CHRIS: Firstly, know your priorities. Every team, department and company is different. Outlining those upfront is important as you look for the right partner and the right format. BPO might be the right fit for certain functions or operations. But if you are looking to maintain control over your culture, and be able to bring your brand to life with another team, and look for opportunities to grow those individuals as well, which is a strong motivator, then EOR is a great way to go. I'd also say loop in big decision-makers early, share your success stories, and then look for other ways that other parts of the company can benefit from this.