When a visa outsourcing contract moves from one supplier to another, a particular challenge is how to manage any ‘in-flight’ applications. These are customer applications that are ongoing or in-progress when a contract changes hands. It therefore requires significant forward planning and tailored customer communications to ensure a smooth transition. In this article, the second in our transition series, our Programme Manager Arnaud Lefebvre explains how we manage this process at TLScontact.
Throughout any transition period, we work closely with our government clients to provide clear communications to visa customers and help to ensure that they understand the forthcoming changes. This is particularly critical for any ‘in-flight’ visa applications, started before the contract change. Whatever stage customers are at in the application process at the time of a contract handover, it is essential to provide them with timely, relevant information. This will involve our own websites, client websites, any appropriate social media channels and more targeted communications to specific customer groups when required.
Clear messaging and a personalised approach
In many contract transitions, there is a clear handover in appointment management. This means that from a particular date, appointments can no longer be booked with the incumbent supplier and instead must be made via a new appointment table, managed by the incoming company. As long as the switch is clearly communicated to current and future customers, this limits the risk of confusion.
We manage this risk by ensuring that we have launched the website for any new visa application centre 30 days before the centre actually opens. This allows us to provide customers with all the relevant information before we open the new appointment table, 15 days before the centre opening. In parallel, we offer additional support through a call centre, with staff on hand to answer any questions.
Personalised communications will also be required for those customers waiting for a decision on their application. They will ultimately need to retrieve their passport from our visa centre or the local consulate, not the centre where they carried out their biometric enrolment. We manage this by clearly identifying the relevant customer group and running a direct email campaign to share information about the forthcoming change with affected individuals.
An additional challenge comes when visa appointments are booked many months in advance, well beyond the end of the existing outsourcing contract. This is the case for some of our government clients and requires an even more personalised approach. This is because applicants can find themselves at one of several different stages in the application process when the outsourcing contract changes hands. Many will have already made an appointment with the incumbent supplier, for example. If so, they will need to be informed of the change in contract and the new arrangements for their future biometric submission. Again, we work to identify different customer groups, according to where they are in the application process. We then send out detailed guidance that is relevant to their specific situation.
Example: managing customer communications during the Covid-19 pandemic
This sort of personalised communication was required during the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. During this period, we had to manage a wave of centre closures and reopenings. Targeted communications to thousands of visa applicants who were at different stages in their application process were used to ensure they were made fully aware of any changes. For each government client, we carried out a detailed mapping of the different customer groups. We then developed the appropriate messaging and communicated it to these different groups through mass email campaigns. This enabled us to ensure we communicated effectively with thousands of customers in a short period of time, sharing information relevant to their particular needs.
Our priority: ensuring the best possible customer experience
Whatever the scenario, our objective during a transition period will always be to ensure optimum customer experience through clear, timely communication. The examples that we have given in this article give a measure of the level of detail that is required to ensure the smooth transition of all ‘in-flight’ applications. We must first identify the different customer groups and then craft and distribute the right messages for each, so that they understand any changes to the process.
In our next article on this topic, we will explain how communication is also essential with our government clients throughout the transition process. Check back shortly for more on this.
Article written by Arnaud Lefebvre