Validating Your Outsourced Customer Care Partnership: Is Your Incumbent “Still the One”?
We believe that every outsourcer should earn your business by delivering value day in and day out whether your relationship with them is in its first year or its 20th year. After all, continual improvement and striving to evolve are the hallmarks of long-term success. Great companies are regularly assessing the ongoing value of their partnerships — but how do you measure the true value of your contact center outsourcer is delivering? And how do you test the waters to see how they compare in the market?
For clients with complex care scenarios — whether that is enterprise customer success management or providing critical support direct to consumers — change is never taken lightly. Change is hard and change can be expensive. On the other hand, you need to also consider the cost-benefit equation of a status quo situation.
Here are a few questions to think about.
Is There Still Cultural Alignment?
Cultures evolve, that much is clear. Sometimes the leadership team shifts, with people moving on to other opportunities or new leaders entering the mix and shaking things up. Sometimes the vision of a company is redirected as the company scales, adds new lines of business, seeks to build its presence in new markets or hones its focus in one specific area. As these cornerstones of a business transform themselves, the company’s culture may follow suit.
Whether it’s your own culture that shifts over time or that of your outsourcer, keeping a pulse on cultural alignment in your outsourced contact center is essential. Are your values still shared and mutually respected? Is communication still going strong and do you feel comfortable in those interactions? Are you still in regular contact with your partner’s leadership team and do you still trust them to deliver excellence for your customers?
Just as important — has their culture evolved with the times? 20 years ago, the concept of diversity looked different than it does today — is your partner open and working to proactively create a safe and welcoming environment for all people, celebrating the rich tapestry of diverse human experience? Are their values still clearly aligned with your brand?
What Service Level Metrics Are Most Relevant to Your Business Now?
Let’s face it: Contact center metrics that measure customer service as if it’s some kind of race (think Average Handle Time) are frankly table stakes. Those data points still play a role in measuring performance, but your partner should have their eyes set on the bigger picture of customer success.
Is your partner focused on metrics that help you assess and elevate customer loyalty or promotion and advocacy? These things make just as big (if not bigger) an impact on your bottom line. Measuring your current contact center outsourcer’s performance must go deeper than default metrics.
What should your outsourcer — and you — be measuring beyond those standard metrics? Well, in a B2B customer success model, measuring renewal rates holds your outsourced partner accountable to targets that are tied to revenue and retention. That’s the kind of performance measurement that takes an outsourced relationship from vendor to partner. Understanding Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) and how the service and support experience contributes to or detracts from the realization of LCV is critical (more on the LCV metric here). You need a partner who is committed to gathering and interpreting a wide range of data to build the big picture. Consider Net Promoter Scores (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Willingness to Assist, and Customer Effort Scores (CES) and how these metrics work in tandem with metrics measuring buying habits, social media interactions, renewal rates, account maximization activity, and more… For example, for our global order management client, we are handling the end-to-end customer journey including asset recovery. Total Value Returned Rate is a key metric that also has to be tied to customer retention. It doesn’t matter how much equipment your team is able to retrieve if they cost you the lifetime value of that customer in the process. Then and only then can you tie in First Call Resolution (FCR), AHT, and ASA, to really map out the quality of the entire customer success journey. This is what relevant service level metrics look like in today’s customer care center.
Are Your Customers Happy?
With those big-picture metrics in place, you can determine just how happy your customers (whether they are mission critical enterprise-level B2B accounts or consumers) are when they’re interacting with your current customer care outsourcer. How do those NPS and CSAT scores look? How do they compare to industry averages and the averages of other potential vendors? Is the anecdotal feedback positive and encouraging? What about feedback via social media networks? Though this may be less accurate (people are more likely to share negative experiences online than positive ones), it’s still a small window into the state of your customer experience.
These scores and metrics aren’t the only way to look at the customer experience, though. Consider looking at the data from your outsourcer that shows how often your customers are switching channels. Whether it’s from self-service to live chat to phone or some other combination, the reality is that the wider your omnichannel offering, the more complex the customer journey. Interestingly, Gartner studies show that as of right now, channel switching isn’t hurting customer loyalty — but how long will it stay that way? After all, it’s also proven that a strong omnichannel strategy (i.e. one that mitigates against frequent channel switching) actually improves customer retention rates. (Check out more insight on omnichannel trends here.)
At the end of the day, you need an outsourcer that is genuinely committed continual improvement and delivering on your big strategic goals not just their monthly service level metrics. Is your current provider delivering that value?
Can They Pivot with You? Are They Scaling with You?
If there is one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that the ability to pivot quickly and smoothly can be the difference between thriving or just surviving. How did the lockdown impact your provider? And how did their pivot affect your program and the agents on your team? What was the communication between you and your partner like in the midst of the chaos created by the pandemic? Did you feel safe and secure in their hands? Did your customers? Was their true alignment and a sense of shared mission? Did the stress of the situation exacerbate cracks in your partnership, or did it illuminate the strength of your relationship? Did new hire training falter in a fully remote environment? Or did they not miss a beat? Ask yourself this: were you grateful for the partnership you had in the worst of times or not?
Beyond the extraordinary circumstances posed by the global crisis, if you’ve been with your incumbent for more than five years, we’re willing to bet that whether in scope, size, or revenue, your enterprise is either larger or just different than it was when you first signed on with your current customer service provider.
Your partner should be positioned to effectively scale with you — that means access to a deep labor market, a strong position as an employer of choice in their market with scalable recruiting efforts, and scalable training and onboarding processes. It also means being able to support you if you take on a new customer demographic, wider hours of operation, higher complexity roles in your customer journey ecosystem or increased language requirements. Are they meeting (and exceeding!) your evolving needs? Are they reliable, flexible, and adaptable when changes are thrown their way?
Assessing the Value of Your Existing Contact Center Outsourcer
Every relationship needs some occasional time and space to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. That’s how you grow as partners and achieve great things. If you’ve had the same customer service provider for a while, it’s essential to understand the big-picture value they are bringing to your business and to your customers. They should always be leading and bringing forward new ideas and how they can be a better partner, constantly looking for ways to strategically optimize your program.