How to sustain your brand experience with your external partners – panel experts weigh in

Posted April 14, 2016

By Kevin Bottoms, Global VP, Business Development

Adapted from a panel discussion at Consero’s 2016 Customer Experience Forum.

A company’s brand is a powerful thing. It can serve as a differentiator, a loyalty builder, and has the ability to create a lasting impression that transcends the immediate customer interaction. Take Ferrari for example. While you may not have the chance to drive an Enzo or an F12 Berlinetta, the Ferrari name alone evokes a sense of luxury, status, and of course, speed.

The most influential and sustainable brands are developed over time. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but the part that’s often left out is that it did take only one day to burn down nearly the entire city. Every single customer interaction is an opportunity to build loyalty, but a poor customer experience can instantly break that trust.

Brands are damaged at that individual consumer level each and every day due to a lack of cultural adoption and alignment at the frontline. That’s why it’s crucial to find external partners who can deliver on your brand promise and ensure that every customer experience leaves a positive impression.

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The experts weigh in

I recently had the opportunity to host a panel discussion at the 2016 Consero Customer Experience Forum in Miami, Florida to talk about that very topic. Our distinguished panel included the following industry leaders:

Panel members: Annmarie Jenkins, Vice President of Member Service | Optum RX Geoffrey Burbridge, Assistant Vice President of Contact Center Management, USAA | Matthew Sahuck, Director of Call Center Operations, Newsmax Media
Panel members: Annmarie Jenkins, Vice President of Member Service,  OptumRX   |   Geoffrey Burbridge, Assistant Vice President of Contact Center Management, USAA   |   Matthew Sahuck, Director of Call Center Operations, Newsmax Media

Despite different industries and target customers, similar themes arose, particularly around culture.

Theme 1:  Finding a culture that reflects your company’s

A brand is a reflection of the alignment between a company’s culture and their stated values. Finding an external vendor with a culture that resembles your own company’s is an important attribute in optimizing your brand experience with your customers.

If your company has a customer-centric culture, then your external vendor should live and breathe for the customer experience. And if your organization has a heavy focus on corporate social responsibility, your external vendor should be giving back to their community in more ways than one.

Not just mirroring, but striving to emulate, your company’s culture and values within their four walls is a good sign that your external vendor will be able to deliver the brand experience you would expect to deliver internally.

Theme 2: Understanding the customer

Cultural alignment is an excellent starting point in an outsourcing relationship, but it’s also important that your external vendor understands your customer inside and out. Geoffrey Burbridge shared a great example of how USAA, a financial services company serving military members and their families, helps their external vendors develop that understanding through highly engaged on-boarding processes, such as training.

All external new hires are not only required to participate in a full three days of training dedicated to the organization’s culture, but must also experience a “day in the life of a drill sergeant” exercise. This training session ensures that everyone has a basic comprehension of what it means to serve in the military, right down to the food served to those deployed overseas. Only then, argues Burbridge, can they develop an empathetic understanding of the USAA customer. It’s that understanding that ultimately enables frontline team members to deliver an exceptional customer experience, while ensuring that the USAA culture is integrated externally.

Theme 3: Culture accountability

Building a level of agreement on culture right into the contract with your external partner ensures accountability and sets an expectation for the delivery of your brand promise with customers. It not only frames ‘what’ you want to accomplish but also ‘how’ you want to achieve your objectives. For example, the two parties can agree to empower frontline agents to go off-script when appropriate in order to make a greater connection with the customer. Rather than a “one and done approach,” this dialogue and accessibility between the two cultures should be perpetual and fluid, ensuring consistency throughout the relationship.

In the end, your external partner serves as an extension of your brand; what they say and how they act is ultimately a reflection on your organization. Identifying an outsourcing partner that shares a similar corporate culture is a natural way to ensure the alignment of priorities, objectives and values with each and every customer interaction.

 

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