In our recent whitepaper with analysts Frost & Sullivan, we looked at (amongst other things) the importance that choosing the right partner will have on your customer experience. As customer journeys become increasingly complex and omnichannel, the need to find the perfect partner becomes more important than ever. But when so many BPOs use cookie-cutter language, have similar offers and make matching claims, how do you differentiate? In this blog Scott Weeth, CCRO and Steve Eveland, Business Development Executive, Webhelp Americas, share some pointers on how to know what makes a difference – and how to make sure your partner has it. 

Let’s begin with the basics. Choosing the right partner will depend on the kind of business you are. Looking for a BPO partner for a large, mature business can be a lengthy, attritional process for everyone involved for example, where more than a dozen vendors might each be receiving 70-page Request for Proposal documents (RFPs), with little room available at that stage to express their organization’s creativity or culture. 

Whereas a smaller start-up, with an entrepreneurial ethos and small headcount, might be looking for a partner to guide them through everything including the selection process. At this end of the scale, potentially a young business’s first attempt to work with a BPO, might not know what their pain points are or how to find them. A new company might want handholding through the process, and a clear idea of how a new partner will help them de-risk it. A clear methodology, like the one we use in our Webhelp Anywhere solution, can really help, and it’s discussed in detail in the Frost & Sullivan white paper available to download here.

If you’re a mature business, on the other hand, it may be six months further down the line before you’re finally eyeballing your shortlisted suitors. Having established an initial relationship, you’ll get to talk about what it is that you’re really looking to accomplish through partnering. 

Any organization in this scenario should be asking itself: how is this potential suitor going to add value in new ways? How do you know that you’re getting a response that is truly tailored to your organization’s needs? In a mature business that might have a decade or more of various outsourced partnerships under its belt, what can a new partner bring to the table that hasn’t been seen before?

Don’t settle for a commodity partnership 

Any BPO worth its salt can offer a commoditized proposition that is near-identical to 95% of the competition. It can be difficult to tell those offers apart, and ultimately the day-to-day work of handling calls, emails, chats is not where real value is added. Instead, true value might be in the strong culture they have that fits with your own. Or it could be their focus on helping you make smart efficiencies that aren’t at the expense of great CX, but instead, enhance it through digital transformation. It’s here, in this remaining 5%, where the best differentiates itself from the rest. Here are some pointers to help you find the partner with that magical few percent that makes all the difference:

You want them to be an extension of your own business. You’ll hear this from a lot of potential suitors but few can pull it off because not all of them have the laser-like focus on implementation necessary to make it happen. A good partner should want to come and visit your workplaces, meet your people and make sure they understand what wins and losses feel like for your team. By taking co-ownership of those experiences like this, they can help you build on the wins and make sure you (hopefully) never have to relive the losses, as well as properly feel like an extension of your team.

Never lose sight of the end goal. In a big BPO partnership, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of the myriad details, but it’s helpful to keep focused on the big picture, which should always be some variation of how to provide best-in-class customer experience. Ideally, you want a partner who is constantly scheming with you on how to make your customer satisfaction levels the stuff of watercooler chat and CSAT legend.

Recruitment is your superpower. The right partner will help take your recruitment to another level because you can only be as good as your people are. What do successful agents look like for you? What would an influx of game-changing agents look like? Find a partner who wants to understand your company DNA and then hire agents who carry it around.

Don’t settle for butts-in-seats. Make sure you’re getting great project management resources from your partner to help truly evaluate your business, rather than simply settling for butts-in-seats adequacy. Their people should be able to provide you with a seemingly-inexhaustible flow of ideas for improving your CX.

Always start with satisfaction. The right partner should always be focused first and foremost on how the change(s) it’s helping you implement will impact customer satisfaction. How will it impact your net promoter score? How will it impact your employee satisfaction? 

Don’t just take their word for it. If a potential partner is on top of their game then they should be able to provide an abundance of references, and you should be able to ask them for one from any of their clients.

Culture always beats cost-cutting. One of the smartest areas to focus on when aiming for a long-term relationship is the cultural fit between your business and your new partner. A great fit is a much better portent of a relationship with potential for real longevity than, for example, simply aligning with an efficient cost-cutting partner, from which you might get short-term benefits, but struggle to make a case in the long term. 

For example, if environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) commitments play a large role in your company, then this needs to inform your partner selection. Take an initiative like impact sourcing: a socially-responsible approach that enables a business to find, hire and train people who might otherwise struggle to find similar opportunities. With an impact sourcing program, your business can tap into a huge, motivated pool of talent and potentially fulfil your ESG commitments, all within a traditional BPO framework.

How to find that 5%

Ultimately, brilliant, next-level customer experience – the kind that goes viral – is a rare beast. If it wasn’t, everyone could do it. Instead, too many BPOs provide ‘good enough’ 3-star CX instead of shooting for the unforgettable 5-star experience that earns brand fame and a gold-standard reputation. 

It all begins with the partner you select. Hopefully, we’ve given you some pointers on how to spot a partner who can give you that elusive missing 5% and that two-star bump in customer satisfaction. 

Creating customer experience so good it makes your brand famous is something we both obsess over in our day jobs, and spend every day trying to make happen for our clients. Drop us a line if you’d like to find out more about how we could help.

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