Selecting an outsourced customer support provider involves much more than price. This is especially true as products become more complex and customer expectations become more exacting. The customer experience is climbing its way to the top of the business priority list. But, along with a shift in prominence for customers, comes a need to shift how companies support and serve them.
This presents a challenge for selecting an outsourced contact center vendor as price is only one factor, which can now be offset by the delivery of additional business value. As companies begin to rethink their approach to customer support from something they had to provide to the opportunity to create growth and competitive advantages, they also must think differently about how they source vendors.
Take a Deeper Dive into Specifications
Buying to specifications is fine, but unless you are familiar with all the nuances, then what looks like an apples-to-apples comparison could be hiding some key differentiators that could help you make the best decision.
Let’s say that your company wants to add a sales component to customer support to convince customers to upgrade to the latest version of the product. But, you’ve seen consumer research that up selling consumers during service calls is one of their highest sources of frustration and can jeopardize customer satisfaction (CSAT).
- How would you evaluate a vendor’s ability to overcome this obstacle?
- What type of training programs do they have to improve agent skillsets?
- How do they manage quality-of-call monitoring?
- What level of value would you forecast that the vendor could bring toward meeting your company’s objective?
- Is there enough upside to warrant agreeing to a percentage bonus based on incremental levels of revenue achievement?
- Perhaps there’s a motivation for the possibility of awarding more of your business to the vendor if specific levels are achieved and maintained over a specific period of time.
- Is their past performance for another client a true indication of what they can achieve for your company?
- Look at the similarities and differences of the situations and have the vendor explain how they would handle the differences. Do they have expertise in process design that will enable them to customize workflows to meet your specific needs?
In this scenario, evaluating the vendor’s capabilities goes beyond price. Their ability to succeed at the objective could very well command a higher price based on a number of factors that could be offset by the growth in revenue. Maintaining and even improving CSAT can also have a high impact on advocacy and word-of-mouth referrals that are proving to be highly influential for increasing net promoter scores.
Rather than approaching specifications from a service levels standards perspective that allows you to check off the boxes in an RFP, consider the implications of how a vendor will handle situations specific to the higher goals of your organization.
Look for Added Business Value
In the example above, a consumer trend was applied against a corporate business objective as an evaluation strategy to aid in the vendor selection process. This type of rigorous investigation will help procurement organizations uncover hidden opportunities for differentiation and competitiveness.
When you consider that customer support services may be the greatest opportunity to interact with your customers, gaining an understanding about how creatively and progressively vendors respond to market trends can make the difference between a strategic bpo partner and a get-what-you-pay-for contract relationship.
- Differentiation. Calling a support line is often the last thing a customer wants to do given increased channel selection and their preference for autonomy. The call often happens after all other avenues of self-service have been exhausted. The customer can be emotional and frustrated. What type of training does the vendor provide to agents that will help defuse these situations and turn them from reactive to proactive?
Can the vendor design a process where the support issue is resolved and the customer is also educated about how to solve this specific issue in the future within the channels they prefer without a dramatic increase to average handle time? How will the vendor support customer education that can lead to higher satisfaction and lower attrition?
- Competitiveness. Even customer support is often viewed as a commodity service—something an enterprise must provide. If customer service is treated as such, that’s exactly what you’ll get. But, if technical support is considered to be a value-added component of the customer relationship, your organization creates the opportunity for competitive advantage.
When you consider that the cost to the customer to switch is reducing and the rate of competing products entering the marketplace very high, the need to maintain and escalate your organization’s competitiveness is dependent upon the customer’s experience. An ability to use the technical support experience to improve competitiveness is also related to the cultural affinity between your company and the vendor and is something difficult to evaluate from a standards-based RFP process.
Procurement executives have become increasingly strategic in managing the supply chain. As such they’ve become instrumental in driving business performance. In a marketplace increasingly driven by the customer, taking new approaches to source support vendors can have a transformative effect on overall performance. New avenues of business value are available now than were possible when the traditional view of the contact center was simply as a cost of doing business.