Posted by: Tim Houlne | 07.31.2017
It is common for organizations to engage more than one outsource partner for a variety of business reasons, including business growth, need for niche providers and specialized needs such as additional security or compliance.
However, this scenario also creates challenges for benchmarking success, ensuring continued communication and aligning for successful outcomes.
Recently I spoke with David Collyer, senior vice president of customer experience for ECI Software Solutions, and asked him to share his expertise on the subject of aligning multiple outsource partners. As a veteran of the industry, Collyer has worked in multiple organizations and varying capacities where he was responsible for ensuring successful outsourcing relationships to produce positive business outcomes.
While there are different ways to align multiple outsource partners, I have chosen to focus on the following three key strategies that bubbled up during my interview to set the foundation of building positive relationships and ensuring continued success.
Key Strategy #1 – Define the Success Baseline
Not all outsource partners are structured the same nor do they provide the same services, thereby making it difficult to land on appropriate key performance indicators to ascertain success. Collyer had this to offer as a solution:
“A foundational element is to define up front what success looks like, the outcomes your organization wishes to achieve and how you intend to measure those outcomes. Those three components create a baseline that support you in aligning your outsource partners on one primary set of success factors.”
According to Collyer, defining the baseline for success levels the playing field so each outsource partner can scale their contribution to meet the overall measures. It also ensures you can incent outsource providers on the same measures. He believes the only two things that matter are customer experience and business results, which must be synergistic.
“Too often I see organizations making customer experience and business results competing forces. If we take care of our customers by providing a great experience, we will have better results and in turn gain advocates for our brand. Having customer experience and business results intimately tied together allows us to incent our outsource partners on a set of metrics that really makes a positive difference, no matter what solution or service they provide.”
Collyer noted that too many organizations are still incenting outsource partners on transactional metrics. While those are important operational measures, they will not have a positive impact on overall customer experience.
“People will focus on what you tell them is important to you. Make sure your success baseline is made up of measures that produce real results for the organization overall.”
Key Strategy #2 – Build Strong Relationships
Once you have your outsource partners focused on the primary success metrics, it can be easy to simply email reports, results and information without engaging on a deeper level. Collyer believes this will not yield the best results.
“Your outsource partners will be more effective if you treat them like an extension of your team. If you approach the relationship with the mindset that they are part of the organization, it opens lines of communication and gives the outsource partner space to provide value.”
Collyer believes that open lines of communication are critical, both between the organization and the partner and between the partners as a whole.
“Just like with your internal team, there should be regularly scheduled conversations with each outsource partner and with the entire outsource team together. These meetings will be more effective if the partners are given the freedom to discuss the business as a whole, how everyone can align better and a way to share best practices.”
Collyer believes that open, transparent communication is the best way to achieve the outcomes an organization desires.
“In addition to sharing the vision and goals for the organization, it’s good to share the individual and team status. If you have a partner doing something exceptional, it’s a good time to share. If a partner is struggling, then the meeting should take on a tenor that supports that partner in asking for help.”
Collyer also believes in frequent feedback.
“Too often I’ve seen situations where the partner is only given information monthly. It is too late to take corrective action at that point. It is critical that people understand what is expected of them and how they are performing against those expectations in order to make adjustments and ultimately succeed.”
Typically outsource partners are selected because they bring a solution needed by the organization. Collyer recognizes that bringing them more into the fold of the organization yields positive results.
“Developing the communication cadence, having a continuous improvement loop, and continually updating all team members and outsource partners on expectations and results strengthen relationships so that everyone is invested in the organization’s success.”
Key Strategy #3 – Let Them Innovate
A benefit to creating strong relationships between your organization and outsource partners is the ability to lean on them for innovation and expertise. Collyer has seen first-hand how creating this positive environment increases innovation among the outsource partners.
“There are a lot of smart people inside the outsource partner’s organization. By setting the incentives and goals toward customer experience, they will come up with new and better ways of doing things, which can then be shared and made a best practice among all the outsource partners.”
Collyer noted that he still sees organizations trying to dictate how outsource partners perform their services.
“There is still an attitude of ‘they don’t know my business. Or in reverse, the outsource partner thinking the organization doesn’t understand their service. A hybrid of the two, where there is freedom to bring forth new ideas will work best.”
Collyer stated that creating an environment to support innovation means the organization must recognize the outsource partner’s expertise and trust them to motivate their agents and set metrics to ensure success. The flip side is the organization will understand their customer better and know what really defines success. The key is to delineate who has the expertise in each area and then support innovation in that area. Don’t stifle it, but rather create ways to help outsource partners to be more innovative.
There is plenty of give and take on both sides to ensure a positive relationship that empowers innovation, which means organizations must have the right outsource partners. How do you make that decision?
The Secret to Selecting the Best Outsource Partners
Collyer knows that setting the right environment is key to innovation and success can be achieved if you have good partners. He weighed in on how organizations can make the right decision based on their needs.
“From a business perspective, it’s important to understand that you cannot toss something over the wall and expect to get a great product back. It takes engagement that is directly tied to the success of the partnership. Therefore, businesses need to be prepared to have skin in the game.
“To create an environment of successful outsource partnerships requires the organization to have structures in place to set the direction, have measures in place, provide continual feedback and help course correct. I cannot be hands-off otherwise you will never be happy with the result.
Additionally, Collyer provided the following insights for outsource partners who want to be successful:
From an outsource partner perspective, you have to treat your client like it is truly a different business you are engaged in and dedicate time to understanding what drives the business and what is viewed as success. Often the organization will not define that for the partner, so you have to figure it out for yourself. It’s okay to ask those questions. In fact, I would challenge every outsourcer to ask the question of what defines success for the organization before they enter a partnership so they have a clear picture of how to be successful.” Collyer believes that choosing the right outsource partner goes beyond service lines, organizational size or tenure. “I would prefer to have a partner that is willing to improve our business, get better results and invest time in innovating toward success. That is why I find it beneficial to look at a more boutique firm that provides a personalized, proactive service and understands that our success is equal to their success.”
Customer experience is a driving force for all our services at Humach. We believe in providing prescriptive solutions to our clients that open the door to innovative partnerships. If you are ready to make customer experience a focus for your outsourcing relationship, CONTACT US today.