Tuesday, June 05, 2012 10:30 AM
If you’re a vendor manager or responsible for overseeing an outsourced services arrangement, take my (tongue in cheek) relationship quiz to find out if your relationship is doomed or if you’re destined to work happily ever after. Assign 1 point for each “yes” response and 0 for each “no”.
VENDOR MANAGEMENT TO VALUE PARTNERING
As a vendor manager, do you:
- Clearly communicate your executive goals? Outsourcing providers need to understand what you’re driving towards so that they can align their own resources and goals to your business objectives. To do this, your account manager needs to understand enterprise direction and corporate initiatives in all areas of the business. For example, until recently, one of our clients was tight lipped about enterprise sales metrics because they didn’t want their outsourcing providers drawing comparisons. However, this client soon realized they were missing the opportunity to unite their internal and outsourced teams and harness the power of multiple skillsets and voices to work towards the same goals.
|Outsourcing relationship dysfunction?
- Foster a transparent relationship? Vendor-client relationships are doomed to fail when they adopt an “us against them” mentality. Successful relationships feature seamlessness and transparency, honesty, dedication and a commitment to work towards a common goal.
- Hold vendor conferences and CEO roadshows? These methods are great ways to help achieve the first two goals above. For example, one client organized CEO roadshows where the CEO traveled to various internal contact centers to share information and dialog with the staff. Eventually, this client began to include outsourced centers in the roadshow as well and the feedback from the outsourced sites was clearly positive. At vendor conferences I’ve attended, workshops can provide providers with valuable takeaways to assist with their business improvement initiatives and ensure that all outsourcing services suppliers have access to the same information.
ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT FOR SUPERIOR VALUE
Does your account manager:
- Challenge your decisions? Once in a while, taking a step back to consider impacts to reaching your business goals and providing alternative solutions is a good thing. If your outsourcing provider occasionally challenges your requests, you may want to thank them. Why? Their job is to add extra value. To do this they must understand the business results your business is targeting, “keep the end in sight,” and ensure that any new requests and changes align to your strategic goals and make sense within the context of the big picture. Sometimes we tend to get caught up in wanting to deploy “the next big thing” when it may divert funds and resources from other projects that more effectively support the end goal. It’s up to the outsourcing provider to ensure that resources are managed to provide the most gains.
- Communicate adequately and smartly? Communication is key to any relationship, whether professional or personal. Generally, phone conversations are preferable to email, while face-to-face interactions, when proximity permits, are even better. Emails are less personal, often fail to convey emotion appropriately, and aren’t ideal for two-way dialog. The most effective use of email for outsourcer/provider interactions is for summarizing conversations—including action items and next steps to ensure that all participating parties are aligned in their interpretation.
- Look for ways to make you more successful? Does your outsourcing provider arm you with good ideas, generate good results and meet your KPIs? Are they able to position you to speak intelligently to your internal stakeholders about your initiatives? Your provider should make it a priority to highlight successes so that you, in turn, can communicate these successes internally. There is always a tendency to focus on what’s not being done or what’s not working well, which overshadows recent wins. So it’s important to keep those successes top of mind!
- Demonstrate loyalty and flexibility? Is your outsourcing provider willing and able to accommodate your changing business quickly and successfully?
- Look for revenue assurance and growth opportunities? It is always important for outsourcing providers to seek revenue assurance opportunities, not only within the confines of the existing scope of work, but through other creative means. For example, since one of our media clients already had a relationship with one of our telecom clients, we proposed a customer incentive program that would result in a win-win for both companies. As an incentive for customers to subscribe to their publication, the media company would offer these customers free services for one month from the telco. The telco, in turn, would receive those leads.
- Reduce operating costs while maintaining quality of service? This is where solid processes either through ISO or COPC for contact centers, or a well-defined business management system, ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are still in place, even when processes are combined or staff numbers are reduced. One of the biggest value additions that outsourcing providers offer is their shared services model. In some cases, this can be extended from enterprise services to the agent level. For example, for two non-competing newspaper clients, we were able to cross-utilize agents across the two programs, which increased occupancy (and ultimately contained costs) for both clients.
- Provide value across your customer lifecycle? This ability is crucial to the long term success of your partnership with your outsourcing provider. Whether it’s virtually trained agents or technology that reduces handoffs and servicing in a one-stop shop, your provider should always be thinking of new ways to provide value, not just in a single area of the customer lifecycle, but at multiple touch points.
Only when the partnership between your company and your outsourcing provider is solid, seamless, and integrated can you derive true value from the engagement. The shared experience gains will ultimately improve the total customer experience for your end users.
So how did your relationship score?
- Less than 3 – Dysfunctional. Your business may be at risk. Make immediate changes.
- 3 to 5 – Outsourcer-vendor. Take steps to improve your working relationship through better communication and collaboration.
- 6 to 8 – Functional relationship. Your relationship will likely continue for some time but don’t become too complacent. Ensure that both parties share a common goal and work together.
- 8 to 10 – Value partners ever after…you look forward to true shared business wins!