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Procurement Provides Leadership in Call Center Vendor Evaluation

Economic uncertainty has given a boost to the strategic ranking of CPOs in organizations where increasing the value gained from outsourced services vendors is beginning to hold sway along with cost avoidance in managing the viability of the supply chain. This widening of focus beyond procurement to consider the business issues vendors can address will help CPOs gain more of a leadership role within their organizations. By applying strategic thinking to help internal stakeholders get more from vendors, procurement provides more than checking off the box next to a budget item well spent.

Evaluating vendors is often a challenging job. No two are alike which can often leave you wishing there were a way to easily compare apples to apples—especially when evaluating services. Vendors that deliver on contractual specifications are good, but are they good enough to warrant your extended business and loyalty when their contract comes up for renewal?

Interactions with the call center may be the only brand experience your customers have in addition to the technology products, solutions, and services purchased from your company. Outsourcing this valuable relationship is based on your confidence in how well the vendor can represent your company and brand, how consistently they will do so, and the expertise they bring that isn’t available internally to achieve performance goals.

Theoretically, you can contract the same services from a variety of vendors. However, the true point of differentiation for a call center vendor is based upon how far above and beyond contractual goals they go of their own volition. You may be satisfied when the service levels are met, but a vendor who strives to provide openness, transparency, and additional expertise will not only help you exceed your objectives, but identify strategic opportunities that may otherwise go unnoticed.

Signs of Increased Vendor Value

The Vendor takes the time to establish rapport.

  • Communications match your preferences for timing, mode, and information depth.
  • Updates are consistent without the need for you to ask.

The vendor is transparent and open.

  • Snapshots of what’s working—as well as what’s not—are candid and forthcoming.
  • Recommendations for improvement are proactively provided.

The vendor provides opportunities for strategic advancement.

  • Predictive insights keep surprises at bay, allowing you ample time to prevent them.
  • Discussions are initiated about non-core activity to present additional insights for performance and process improvements in support of customers.

The vendor is obsessed by what success “looks like” to you.

  • Beyond the scorecard and contract, the vendor should empower you to prove your competence and success to your line of business owners based on quantifiable business value.
  • Activities are tailored to meet contractual objectives, but also reach farther to exceed your objectives; which may include priorities such as cutting costs, improving customer experience, reducing customer touch points, or increasing sales.

Creating a Valued Vendor Relationship

Outsourcing call center services requires setting the appropriate expectations for both the vendor manager and the vendor. External expertise focused only on call center operations specific to your industry, process improvement, and up-skills training that evolves agent proficiency in relation to your company’s technology products and solutions provides a straighter—and shorter—path to success.

With expertise that goes far beyond the most common call center issues, such as agent absenteeism, attrition, and engagement, the right vendor frees you from day-to-day operational obligations to concentrate on ensuring that the overall brand promise matches the customers’ experience.

3 Ways to Set the Stage for Vendor Success

  • Assign ownership of the vendor relationship. Vendors need clear direction, expectations and channels of communication. Managing vendors by “committee” can create conflicts in understanding and increase the complexity of the relationship, introducing more opportunity for crossed signals and inefficiencies that impede objectives.
  • Empower vendors to make decisions on behalf of the business. Define the level of authority, but focus on providing the vendor with the latitude to make small changes that can immediately be reflected in improving the customer experience. Examples may include modifications to the IVR, staffing levels, or processes. If the vendor must turn to you for every adjustment in the service program, delays can adversely impact customer satisfaction levels, or other KPIs.
  • Remove obstacles between vendor managers and line of business owners. If your company’s vendor management sits at a global or country level but line of business owners are regional or local, communications and objectives may introduce conflict that cannot be easily or quickly resolved. Ensure that internal lines of communication are enabled for faster decision making that leads to best outcomes—rather than stalling performance.

Treat Vendor Management as a Joint Venture

Building rapport takes time and effort from both sides. Candor and transparency are critical attributes that will pay huge dividends for the integrity of the vendor relationship. After all, a situation that causes your confidence to waiver can erode not just the vendor relationship, but the customer service experience. But, by searching out vendors predisposed to bring additional value—independent of cost—and taking the above steps to set the stage for vendor success, you’ll be able to build longer-term relationships with vendors who provide higher impact to your bottom line than the contract calls for.