Evaluating the Value of Technical Support Vendors

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While the procurement department is essential to making your organization more profitable, this doesn’t always relate to the price paid on a contract for outsourced technology support services. Comparing the pricing on RFPs is only one way to evaluate which contact center vendor to select. The contract must be workable for both parties and focused on achieving defined objectives that contribute to bottom-line improvements.

Evaluating price will enable a quick assessment of historical spend comparisons for technical support, it doesn’t take into account the quality or value that an outsourced services provider can bring to the table. Given that customer satisfaction, retention, loyalty and advocacy are primary factors to the success of your organization, the experience provided by the vendor you select will need to be exceptional, efficient and consistent.

A contact center providing technical support is no longer just a cost of doing business, it’s often the last personal interaction opportunity for the company, once a sale is completed. Adding value that customers appreciate through support services is an imperative for company growth and should be evaluated based on a range of procurement objectives beyond price.

Performance Improvements

Given voice of customer surveys and feedback, where do opportunities exist to improve the technical support function? Present customer-driven issue scenarios to prospective vendors and ask them how they will correct the situation and to show you how they’ve been able to address a similar situation in the past. Make sure they also have a process in place to institutionalize practices that drive performance improvement. How will the performance improvements outlined impact the bottom line or provide a source of new value to the company?

Process Improvements

Achieving performance improvements outlined at the start of a contract is imperative for contract performance, but what will ensure that processes continue to improve based on changes in customer sentiment or market opportunity? The contact center is a haven for data. How will the vendor you select extract value from the data to drive continuous improvement to processes over the longer-term? Does the vendor have a methodology they can implement based on their expertise within the industry? How will the vendor share insights from data with other divisions of the company to contribute to overall enterprise process improvements?

Risk Mitigation

Business continuity is critical, of course, but does the vendor under consideration have a defined plan and process for recovery? Does the plan restore services in a way that works for your company whether the issue is presented with warning—such as a hurricane—or without—such as a power outage that stops contact center activity cold? Ensure that the plan comprehensively addresses people, processes and technology within timeframes that will expose your company to minimal interruption of services.

Agent Recruitment, Training and Coaching

Attrition for customer service and technical support staff can run higher than in other occupations. There is a ramp time for new agent proficiency in the provision of technical support. How does the vendor address the need for acquiring the right levels of talent and their need for ongoing training and coaching as the nature of products and customer issues evolves and processes are developed to address them? What processes are in place for quality assurance?

Revenue Streams

Inbound contact centers that provide technical support have traditionally been run as cost centers, rather than profit centers. But cross and up sell and renewals can also be addressed with a vendor capable of training agents in cross-functional roles. Ask the vendor to show you examples of how they’ve been successful at helping other customers add incremental revenues to the technical support role. Making offers to help consumers avoid future frustrations or to better achieve what they were attempting to do when the issue arose can not only increase satisfaction, but sales and customer longevity.

When Evaluating Technical Support Vendors, Look Beneath the Surface

A vendor that says they have capabilities and expertise in all of the areas above, but that is willing to improve the offer quickly could be showing a sign that the price is masking deficiencies. The vendor could be lacking experience, capacity or processes that may cause the program to fail. Negotiating price must be weighed against the gains your company can achieve from the level of services provided.

  • If performance improvements result in efficiency increases of 10 percent, how does that translate into customer satisfaction and retention value, for example?
  • What about the ability to re-route calls during a power outage to another center so effectively that the customer never realizes there’s an issue?
  • If a new product launch is wildly successful, how fast can the vendor’s technical support team scale to meet increased customer demand competently?

When all is said and done, it’s the depth of the procurement process that reveals a true strategic partner rather than a mere supplier. Because technical support services touch your organization’s customers, the evaluation must look beneath the surface to ensure that those services not only reflect well upon the brand, but also help to meet organizational objectives.

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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