Assure Your New Technical Support Vendor Wins from the Start

The crux of an outsourcing contract is that sufficient value be delivered at a fair price. When the value delivered is sub-par, standing still is not the best choice. This is especially true when technical support is the service at the end of the contract. Technical support is vital to your customers. When something goes wrong, time to resolution must be swift. The inability to resolve an issue can prompt product replacement and customer defection.

When evaluating a new technical support vendor, the following seven questions can help you assess the experience and competence level the vendor will have during a transition, as well as the resources they have available for supporting it. Don’t just ask the vendor these questions, ask internal stakeholders as well. This way the vendor relationship can be positioned more collaboratively right from the start.

  1. What past transitions can the vendor discuss, including the process used? Most vendors that make your short list will look excellent on paper. When confronting a vendor transition, you need the confidence that comes with a vendor who’s been in similar circumstances before and come out successfully on the other end.
  2. Will the vendor provide a proof of concept program prior to requiring a contract for a larger roll-out? Testing the vendor’s capabilities on a smaller project can do a lot to demonstrate their proficiency at turning theory into action for a bigger one. By transitioning a smaller service area to the new vendor for a trial period, you’ll have the chance to evaluate both their transitional prowess and the skill levels of their agents and to make sure their acumen for service delivery matches the promises made. You’ll also be able to gauge the affinity of the cultural match between your company and the vendor.
  3. Does the vendor offer contractual flexibility? The services you define will be predicated on correcting the problem with the vendor you’re replacing—such as low quality of service. It’s important to look beyond just fixing what’s wrong now. When you select a more experienced vendor with an impeccable track record, you may discover new methodologies and expertise that will allow you to evolve the delivery of technical support in new ways. Given the opportunity, the new vendor may uncover some processes that have been in place but are not effective and would be best if eliminated from the contract. Ensuring that the vendor is open to contractual flexibility can be a boon for both sides of a new partnership.
  4. What role does the service agreement play in the relationship? A service level agreement should serve as a back stop, not as a reflection of the best service or performance possible. In fact, if you’re relying on an SLA as a replacement for trust, the relationship will get off on the wrong foot. Instead, consider how the SLA can be used as a performance enhancer to encourage the vendor to pro-actively seek improvements beyond baseline requirements.
  5. What kind of transparency does the vendor provide? Does the vendor only provide quarterly reports with select insights or will your team be able to randomly sample quality assurance monitoring? If a problem arises, how will you be informed? What processes does the vendor have in place for remediation? How about agent training? Is coaching an ongoing, in-depth process or a twice-per-year occurrence? In other words, how much insight will your company have to the technical support contact center’s operations? What are the processes the vendor has to establish and maintain the management and operational relationship with your team? Do the people on your team agree that these are sufficient? Is there room for collaboration and growth of the relationship, as well as the services provided?
  6. How well is the vendor able to establish consensus and respond to tension with internal stakeholders? During the vendor evaluation process, it’s important to include the contact center operations team, lines of business, customer experience executives and other stakeholders to validate their views with those of the vendor. There must be agreement that the vendor understands and can deliver on expected needs—as well as bring new ideas into the mix for how those needs will be met. In a world where change is the new normal, you’ll want to test the vendor’s agility level, willingness and capacity for flexibility.
  7. How will the vendor handle risk and potential business disruption? Today’s businesses operate in an environment of evolving risks and the potential for business disruption. From unexpected spikes in call volume to talent shortages to violent storms, the vendor you choose must be prepared to handle whatever could impede service delivery. Present the vendor with a variety of potential scenarios and ask them to show you their plans and processes for responsiveness under adverse conditions. Hopefully, you’ll never need them, but it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

Finally, you’ll want to compare vendor plans and feedback with analyst research to ensure that data points can be validated. Any discrepancies should be used as an opportunity to test accuracy and vision of the vendor under consideration. Obviously, your customers are your company’s biggest asset. Selecting the right technical support vendor will be as important to them as it is to you. Don’t be afraid to expand the boundaries of your selection process to ask the difficult questions. When you do so, your new technical support vendor will be positioned to win from the start—and so will your company.

Nick Sellers

Author Nick Sellers

Nick Sellers is the Senior Director of Strategy & Marketing at SYKES. An outsourced contact center and customer experience veteran with almost 30 years of understanding and satisfying the needs of companies and their customers, Nick focuses on customer service through online channels (chat, social media, community forums, self-help) and support solutions for technology sector companies. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or on my personal blog at www.journey2excellence.com.

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