This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Like a marriage, outsourcing relationships involve two parties working together to build a successful and sustainable partnership, starting with a solid foundation.
In 2011, the U.S. $60-billion global outsourcing market witnessed the highest level of outsourcing transaction activity in North America and the U.K. since 2007. It’s a huge industry with lots of people walking down the aisle. And like marriages, outsourcing relationships can deteriorate without a continued investment of proper care and attention.
What are the signs of an ineffective partnership? We’ve listed the symptoms to watch out for below.
If your satisfaction levels decrease over time in your relationship, you may need to re-evaluate your commitment. The same rule applies for your outsourcing partner: A constant decline in customer satisfaction is a clear indication of a challenged relationship.
If you’re not getting the attention you need or your partner is constantly distracted, dissatisfaction usually arises. With an outsourced partner, if you see patterns of increased attrition or escalated calls, it’s a sign that your account may not be as important to the service provider as others. High attrition is not a new problem for the contact center industry.
However, above average attrition or staff rotation is a cause for concern and should be investigated.
As a buyer, it isn’t a good sign if you are spending disproportionate amounts of time managing your service provider. Good relationships in a personal and professional sense run naturally; too much feedback or constant analysis is not a sign of a healthy union.
Money is a sore point in many relationships. A consistent decline in the revenue or profit of your outsourcing supplier could mark deterioration in their performance. Solid financial health is crucial to the provider’s ability to invest in their customers, and investments are key to forging long-lasting partnerships in this business.
Forgetting what’s important
Situations can arise when even though service levels and metrics are being met, users remain dissatisfied. Why? It often happens when the relationship is focused on minimizing cost and maximizing efficiency – a scenario that’s not typically suited to maximizing what’s most important – customer experience.
Every relationship needs passion. If your service provider is content with the status quo, not showing proactive intent to add value or grow your account, there’s little chance that the relationship will evolve into a true partnership. An important question to reflect on: When was the last time your service provider engaged in a discussion around best practices or ideas to improve customer experience?
If you cannot recall, then the signs are clear – your service provider isn’t hungry for your business.
Disinterested friends and family
If you find your partner’s friends and family have little interest in meeting you, it’s a sign they may not be taking your relationship seriously. Similarly, senior executives from successful service providers should connect with their key customers on a periodic basis. If your provider’s executives are conspicuously absent, it is a clear sign that your account is not high on their pecking order.
Guiding a relationship by the letter of the contract – or the words in your vows – instead of its spirit is an obvious sign that the relationship is strained. This only happens when either party feels it’s not getting the value it originally set out to achieve, and means it’s time to prepare for challenges in service delivery.
Some of these symptoms are clear signs of a poor relationship and are easy to identify. However, the absence of certain behaviors, such as a hunger for your business and the presence of senior executives, is also important to track.
Operational issues may be possible to fix through a disciplined process requiring communication and a commitment toward resolution from both sides. Cultural differences and misaligned values remain harder to address, and usually result in changes to the service provider portfolio.
The behaviors listed here can be indicative of deep-rooted problems that need to be understood and addressed. In the end, this can make the difference between a good marriage and a great one; or in customer service terms, between customer satisfaction and customer delight.
Jeffrey Puritt is president of TELUS International.
Edited by Braden Becker