Posted March 2016
While vows and rings may not be exchanged, the buyer-service provider relationship remains an important commitment.
Buyers look to their service provider to deliver the resources and the know-how to better meet the needs of their customers, while service providers look to the buyer for the knowledge and direction to achieve better business results.
It’s a symbiotic relationship that requires extensive collaboration to reach mutually beneficial outcomes. And as with all relationships, there are certain factors that ensure ongoing engagement and success. A recent study by Everest Group, with support from TELUS International, identified six success factors for an engaged BPO relationship:
Six Success Factors for an Engaged BPO Relationship
1. Defining governance models that support a working partnership – A governance model ensures accountability at all levels. The study recommends a three tier model where each tier builds upon the previous. The Executive steering committee is responsible for the overall buyer-service provider relationship, while Management oversight provides planning and strategy, and the Program office is in charge of delivery oversight.
2. Building trust on an ongoing basis – While the governance model lays the foundation for success, regular meeting cadence and the development of bonds across the buyer and service provider teams remain essential for engagement. For example, at TELUS International, Health Checks are built into the governance model to ensure the relationship is not only meeting, but exceeding expectations. By regularly capturing strategic and tactical feedback, service providers can deliver better business outcomes and ensure engagement at all levels.
That kind of consistent communication bakes continuous improvement right into the relationship. “We have regular quarterly touch points at executive levels not only to discuss the operational performance but also to assess the overall health of the relationship and identify remediation steps,” says a VP of Strategic Initiatives for a global Financial Services Company cited in the paper.
3. Partnership mentality that supports intimate collaboration – Relationships grow and change naturally with knowledge and experience. With increased familiarity, buyers are more comfortable sharing data and granting system access, while service providers develop the ability to provide a wider scope of work that’s more judgment intensive in nature. Building trust takes time, but the investment can yield new ideas and approaches that drive better customer – and business – outcomes.
4. Joint investments that foster innovation – The most innovative companies don’t just sit back and hope innovation happens to them; they make it a repeatable process, and they invest in it. Many outsourcing buyers expect more than just the basic delivery of Service Level Agreements, and rightfully so. And in more engaged and mature relationships, service providers have been known to deliver innovation. But a formal planning process and incentive models are two important contributing factors to driving new ideas, processes, and outcomes. Planning for innovation by building the appropriate pricing and incentive structure into the initial contract and ensuring it’s a standing agenda item in your weekly status meetings ensures prioritization and accountability.
An example illustrates. “Having managed our inbound sales operations for over two years, our incumbent provider conducted a detailed study to critically review the current process (on their insistence),” says a Head of Sales for a Retail Company cited in the study. “As a result of this study, a custom-designed customer service training process was implemented globally, which enhanced sales flow as well as reduced operation costs.”
5. Improved agent engagement – The importance of agent engagement is no secret – engaged colleagues deliver a greater customer experience – but achieving this is a two-step process. First, service providers need to measure employee engagement levels and use the findings to identify areas for improvement. Second, there needs to be a mechanism in place to capture agent feedback and process improvements. For example, the iSuggest program at TELUS International gives frontline agents the opportunity to provide suggestions and have their opinions heard. Applicable ideas are then developed into full solutions benefiting the buyer both in terms of process improvement and increased agent engagement.
6. Evolution of contracting terms – Scope expansion is a positive sign of great business outcomes coming as a result of an engaged relationship. As the scope of work evolves to include new geographies, more complexity, even new lines of business, so should the service level agreements. The traditional SLAs need to be supplemented or changed to target business outcome-oriented objectives such as sales conversions, likelihood to recommend and/or Net Promoter Scores (NPS), not just operations-based KPIs.
As argued in the study, “engaged outsourcing relationships don’t just happen – they are envisioned, intentionally nurtured, and diligently built.” As with all relationships, the buyer supplier partnership requires significant effort and planning to achieve the greatest results. Engagement needs to be managed through all stages and levels, from frontline agents to senior leadership.
Achieving Maximum BPO Value
How smart buyers structure contact center relationships – with Everest GroupDownload PDF