Your RFP for Outsourced Tech Support is Too Expensive
July 24, 2014
July 24, 2014
Procurement is often tasked with getting the most value for the least money. To do this, they often develop an RFP in order to define how vendors will describe their service offerings and how they present them. In concept, this is a solid practice that ensures that procurement officers are evaluating based on an apples-to-apples approach. But trying to force all the elements to align across vendors could be costing you in more ways than you may think.
First of all, you’re not purchasing widgets that come off an assembly line. You’re procuring the services of people. Not just any people, but people who will represent your company to your most prized asset—your customers. People come in many shapes and sizes, and so does their expertise, commitment and ability to provide a stellar customer experience.
Secondly, you’re buying technical support services. Not only does the level of expertise required for specific issues vary, but solving technical problems without hands-on or the ability to actually see what the customer sees means technical support agents must be able to accurately interpret the issue each customer describes in order to resolve it correctly the first time.
Third, you probably have a set of metrics that you require your technical support provider to use to measure their performance, but the devil is in the details. Have you ever heard the phrase “liars figure and figures lie?” In relation to RFPs, this phrase is not meant to be quite that literal, but should serve as a strong reminder that data is open to interpretation. Without a strong, standardized workflow process driven by a sound methodology, there’s no sure way to gauge the consistency and accuracy an outsourced service provider’s metrics will report for your most critical KPIs.
When purchasing outsourced technical support services, there are three things that matter most—people, expertise, and process orchestration. None of these is conducive to being compared by a check-the-box RFP approach. If you try to impose this approach, the vendor’s responses will be constrained by those parameters resulting in limited ability to accurately evaluate the services based on their capability to deliver business value.
1. Comparison vs. Value: When evaluating an outsourced technical support provider, the only true way to determine the business value you’ll gain is through evidence and proof points that can be tied back to the methodology and service processes used to deliver those results. If, instead, your RFP is focused on checking off the availability of tier 1 and tier 2 support, 24/7 coverage, agent attrition rates, and training facilities, you could be missing the opportunity. Sure, this may provide a way to do a price and features comparison, but it won’t validate the ability of the provider to deliver what’s most important—tangible results that drive business growth and sustainability.
2. Cost of Quality: The cost of quality can be used to measure the impact of broken products and services and their impact on your company’s bottom line and customer retention, or it can measure the business value provided by proven processes and first contact resolution. Efficiency and effectiveness go hand-in-hand for technical support. Having the “features” without the supporting infrastructure can become much more expensive than it appears on paper. An inflexible RFP process doesn’t support your ability to evaluate each vendor based on their level of expertise or to gauge if their style is a match with your company’s culture. Remember that meeting your customers’ expectations is at stake. The service delivered should match the value the company ascribes to customers over their lifetime.
3. Controlling Risk: Risks come with varying degrees of potential costs. Three risks that come to mind when evaluating outsourced technical support are the risk of not meeting the business need, diminishing the reputation of your company and brand, and finally the risk to your professional reputation as the person responsible for approving the vendor selection. To control or avoid risk requires continuous process improvement informed by metrics grounded on standards and consistency.
An RFP may be good when buying products that can be compared appropriately, but when selecting an outsourced technical support vendor, there are many nuances that must be assessed to ensure that the business value objectives are met at a cost-for-quality price point that is appropriate for continuous customer satisfaction.