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Partner Performance Need Improvement? Consider This

Posted by: Marketing | 09.13.2017

Whether you have a single outsource partner, or multiple partners, we recognize that they will perform better when treated as part of the team. Even with the best intentions, there are times that outsource partners struggle and performance lags. When this occurs, it’s important to take swift action to course correct, while also ensuring that your organization stays focused on successful outcomes. Sometimes this is easier said than done!

To provide insights on best practices and tips to consider, we recently interviewed contact center consultant Michael Larson, who provided his insights based on over 20 years in the industry.

As with many things, when a partner is struggling, or particularly if several partners are struggling, it’s best to begin by looking internally. Are there things to address within your own organization that could be contributing to the challenge?

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“The first item to consider is why did you outsource in the first place? There can be a myriad of reasons, from cost savings to quality to location, as well as the need to improve competency in a particular area,” said Larson. “Once you determine the reason, the next step is to ensure you have buy-in at all levels of the organization, with a focus at the top.”

Larson went on to say that ensuring alignment with the outsource partner, or partners, is critical because simply moving a problem to someone else’s plate won’t work.

The focus on aligning outsource partners as part of the organization, ensuring everything from a culture match to alignment of success goals, will minimize challenges and provide a level playing field for every partner. When considering what might be a challenge within your own organization, Larson recommends looking at a few key areas, including:

  • Training – is your training solid? Do you have a good train-the-trainer program? Is there follow-up training for changes to processes and new products or services?
  • Communication – is there regular communication? Do all partners understand the success goals?
  • Key Performance Indicators – do you have well thought out KPIs that drive toward the success of the organization? Are they published regularly so that the outsource partners know where they stand?

If you are certain that your organization is solid on these key points, then it’s time to review the outsource partner to determine next steps.

Get to the Root of the Problem

The data will quickly verify there is an issue. The next step is to determine if this is a short-term issue or if there are more significant underlying challenges.

“Your key performance indicators will highlight issues quickly so you can drill down into the problem. Perhaps it’s customer satisfaction that is waning, or queue times have increased. Whatever the situation is, the partner and the organization must sit down and work through it very quickly,” said Larson. “Having an open, honest dialog about what you are seeing and simply asking questions should uncover the issues.”

Outsourcing partners should be aware they are missing KPIs and be prepared to come with a plan to improve. Ideally, this happens early in the process while the issues are small and more easily rectified. Even with larger issues, having a solid plan and both the organization and partner working together to achieve improvement will yield better results.

“The key is to select outsourcers that are interested in a partnership. They will come to the table with a high-level plan that is executable,” said Larson. “Everyone is invested in success. It is then simply a matter of setting up appropriate check-ins to track results.”

Larson noted that outsource partners will bring the issues to the organization first, typically verbally, and then provide an actionable plan that is easy to achieve. Additionally, it should not be a surprise to the organization that the partner is struggling. Rather, everyone is looking at the same data regularly and knows there are issues that need addressing.

“I’m not looking for a multi-page brief with detailed, prescriptive analysis. I’m looking for measurable, achievable actions that ensure success,” said Larson. “It shows the partner is invested and willing to make changes.”

When considering the outsource partner’s performance, there are some scenarios to consider that may contribute to the challenges, such as:

  • High levels of attrition – perhaps this is the norm for the partner, but if this is only occurring on your account, it is worth addressing.
  • Acquisitions and purchases – if your partner has been acquired or is in the process of acquiring another organization, this could disrupt quality if not handled well.
  • Turnover in leadership – whether it’s the person who manages your account, to the overall operations person to high level executives, turnover of key personnel is something to watch while the new people settle in.
  • Strategic change – if the outsource partner is extending or changing to a near or offshore model, it could impact your account if the transition is not handled smoothly.

As long as the outsource partner can manage any of these scenarios smoothly, there will not be a problem. However, it’s good for the organization to consider these factors when deciding to work through performance issues.

To Stay or To Go

If you feel you have done everything you can, the final decision is to decide whether or not to maintain or “offboard” the partner. This is a significant decision that cannot be made lightly as there is an impact to the organization, both financially and from a customer engagement standpoint. In an upcoming article, we will cover in detail how to find a new strategic partner who can make an impact quickly while ensuring a smooth transition.

Before you decide to exit a partnership, it is important to ensure that your goals are well-defined and your organization is truly prepared to maximize an outsourcing relationship. Our Customer Engagement Assessment can help you get started. Learn how to maximize your contact center for immediate results and potentially increase your ability to have an improved outsourcing partner relationship.


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