A new partnership announced between outsourcer Firstsource Solutions and Ulster University will – for the very first time – give customer contact centre employees the opportunity to study for a degree.
The degree, BSc (Hons) in Customer Contact Management, is the first of its kind in the world, in which a leading Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) company has entered into an academic partnership. The degree will be delivered through an online curriculum provided by Ulster University Business School and through internal training and experience gained in employment with Firstsource Solutions.
The course will be available to frontline management, including team leaders and mid-level managers, to become professionally certified in customer contact management. The first students will be able to enroll on the degree course from September 2015.
The degree course reflects the changing nature of the marketing and customer management industry, which now requires a range of high level skills including data analytics, integrating IT platforms with customer management, recruitment, training, performance management of teams under pressure, building customer loyalty and identifying opportunities to match the profile of customers with sales opportunities.
The course also reflects the growing complexity of managing customer relations across an increasingly diverse range of communication channels, from more traditional routes like telephone and email, to mobile apps, webchat and social media. At the same time, the course will equip students to deal with changing nature of client demands as a result of the pace of change in technology and customer behaviour.
Modules on the degree will include professional skills relevant to the industry such as specialist resource planning, data analytics, using technology and how to measure performance through quality systems, as well as covering wider business degree content such as leadership, financial planning, customer service and strategic planning.
A pool of senior leaders at Firstsource will, over time, be certified as recognised teachers under Ulster University to impart training.
Employees at Firstsource’s operational centres worldwide will be able to take the course, in addition to those employees based in the UK in Belfast, Derry, Cardiff and Middlesbrough. Up to 380 employees worldwide will be eligible to apply for the degree for the 2015/16 academic year.
The partnership also means that Firstsource employees will be able to do a BSc (Hons) degree at a reduced cost.
Gavin Snell, President, Customer Management, Firstsource Solutions, said the fact that a significant part of the curriculum would be delivered by the Firstsource Academy (the company’s internal training scheme) showed the recognition of the quality of Firstsource Solutions’ training and its commitment to investment in employee competence.
Mr Snell said: “Firstsource Solutions already provides gold standard training for our employees through its Firstsource Academy. We’re delighted that that the quality of our training has been endorsed by one of the UKs leading business schools through this new degree partnership.
“The customer contact management industry is now a vital engine of jobs and skills in the UK, especially among young people. It is therefore right that this sector gets the professional recognition it deserves.
“This partnership will give those employees who did not get the chance of higher education the opportunity to gain a degree, proving an attractive incentive for future employees of the company. It will also help further professionalise the contact centre industry and raise standards for our clients and, in turn, improve services for customers.”
Tim Moruzzi of Ulster University Business School and Programme Director, said: “The recognition by Firstsource of the appropriateness of the degree to their employees and the impact this will have both inside and outside the organization can only help in raising the profile of the programme as well as giving individuals in the industry some real recognition for their efforts.”
The partnership between Ulster University and Firstsource was first developed through a relationship built with Invest Northern Ireland’s International Business Team.