Take a Strategic Approach to Selecting a Technical Support Provider
July 24, 2014
July 24, 2014
Technology companies are usually built around a few select core competencies. Staffing a technology support and service operation is not one of them. Just as you have your expertise, a technical support provider has theirs—and it’s built around the processes, methodologies and expertise used to ensure the elevation of your customers’ experiences with each and every interaction.
The kicker is that not all outsourced service providers are going to be the right partner for every company. Given that your customers are your company’s most precious asset (even the best technology is only great if customers embrace it), your path to selecting a technical services provider with the right “fit for purpose” needs to be strategic, not tactical.
One of the main challenges for technology companies is the efficient availability, administration, and allocation of resources to evolve their business models and keep pace with innovation. One of the market developments that must be addressed is the growing expectations of customers who demand more and improved services at lower prices with shorter time to market. And the best way to address this imperative while maintaining your focus on innovation and business growth is to select a service provider capable of seamlessly representing your brand with customers during their technical support experiences.
According to research conducted by Duke University/The Corporate Board Offshoring Research Network, the top three drivers for outsourcing to a service provider include, labor cost savings (93%), competitive pressure (71%), and improved service levels (58%). Selecting the services vendor with the expertise to help your company address those top drivers is more difficult than choosing the lowest price provider. To gain advances against all three drivers, you need a service provider with blended expertise.
How to Evaluate Service Providers Against Business Goals
• Lower costs: When considering the customer experience, buying a cheap service is not always the right choice. An outsourcing vendor provides multiple options and brings experience from many projects, to reduce risks and improve outputs. You’ll want to consider the depth of channel expertise (e.g. voice, email, web, chat, social media, etc.) and multi-shoring options the vendor can provide. With their focus on customer service and applied expertise, the mix of options a vendor can present can not only lower overall costs, but reduce transactional costs by reducing contacts per case.
If you’re tempted to try and squeeze more cost savings from an existing vendor to achieve this goal, remember that there is a tradeoff that causes diminishing returns. And it’s usually reflected with diminishing customer satisfaction. By addressing this goal during vendor selection, you can work with the vendor to define parameters and learn how they’ll do so without sacrificing customer satisfaction. Have you considered choosing a partner that can deliver revenue from inbound support transactions, effectively reducing cost and increasing customer satisfaction?
• Competitive pressures: Running at optimal efficiency is an admirable goal. But in the face of competitive pressures, the right technical support services can also serve as a differentiator for your brand. Combating competitive pressures is often best achieved through customer advocacy and word of mouth, which a skilled service provider can help you to achieve through highly-trained agents who rely on a combination of conversational skills and technical proficiency to resolve issues and delight customers.
Time to market for new technology products is coming faster all the time. This requires constant training and coaching in the support and service operation to ensure that agents are always ready to address spikes in volume each time customers adopt and learn the intricacies of new products. A technical support provider with a focus on continuous improvement processes and training can become a valuable tool in your arsenal to combat competitive pressures, driving quantifiable bottom-line impacts. The vendor you select should be able to show you their methodology and process, as well as the results they’ve been able to achieve for this goal.
• Improved service levels: Customer expectations change on a dime. And, left unmet, customers can vocally and virtually express their discontent. It takes a valiant effort to stay abreast and ahead of market changes that can affect the quality of service by catching support and services unprepared for change. Changing your service models in parallel with customer expectations is necessary to not only maintain service levels but to improve them. An incumbent vendor used to the way they’ve always done it may have too much baggage to produce the game-changing effort required for continuous evolution.
Change is one of the most difficult things to embrace as human beings. Adapting to new business models and working in an environment where evolution means continuous change management requires a certain breed of service provider. It’s difficult enough to improve service levels in slower-moving industries. For technology companies, it’s the name of the game. Make sure the vendor you select can show you demonstrable results from other projects that require agility and flexibility as an integral part of their service delivery.
An Outsourcing Strategy Beats a Tactical Approach
While business leaders and analysts praise outsourcing as a way to improve processes, cut costs, and eliminate waste, many companies find the opposite to be true. This is just one reason why selecting a provider must be based on business goals as the means to an end—not as an end in itself. Tactical approaches are not enduring, but strategic approaches position the company to source a supporting partner for the long-term, based on developing a foundation of shared business goals from the start.