The Real Way Outsourcers Can Become True CX Partners
For some, a vendor relationship is just a vendor relationship. But there's a different kind of success to be had when organizations look at outsourcers as partners.
There are often three things that clients expect from their CX outsourcer. They want us to save time, money, and frustration. And it starts by taking the time to really understand the client and their goals as an organization.
Sometimes, all a client wants is to have CX services delivered reliably and in a cost-effective way. They prefer a straightforward client-vendor relationship where they tell you exactly what they expect, and the onus is on the you, the vendor, to meet those expectations. If you can’t, then they’ll move onto someone else.
But ideally, our goal is to move the relationship from CX vendor to true CX partner. So, what does that really entail?
Removing the Line in the Sand
What does it mean to be a true CX partner? It’s looking beyond the provisioning of BPO services -getting rid of that line in the sand that separates us from them. It means integrating ourselves as part of the client’s organization and brand. This involves being proactive and uncovering new opportunities, as well as successes.
It can be difficult. As a vendor, you don’t want to blur that line so much that a client starts dictating your internal operations, and vice versa. A client doesn’t want a vendor overstepping their bounds, telling them how to run their business. There’s a fine balance. You want to work closely with clients, and make them feel involved in daily operations, as much as they want. However, as vendors, you also want to keep some autonomy. You want to be empowered to run operations according to the best practices you’ve established as an organization and what has made you successful in the past. The benefit of this is that, by using a vendor’s experience and expertise for CX delivery, the client can focus on their core business.
There’s a lot of trust needed on both sides, but like any relationship, if you can get past the surface, then a true partnership can yield some amazing results. Recent reports by Adobe found that companies that effectively manage customer experience are 3x more likely than their peers to significantly exceed their top business goals. And according to BCG research, companies that achieve higher customer satisfaction scores generate twice as much shareholder value.
When a CX vendor is allowed to bring the full force of their insights, expertise, and innovation to the table, that’s when exciting things start to happen. Many of our operations team have extensive backgrounds in key industries, years of experience that can be tapped. They can supply new perspectives and fresh ideas.
Our data science and innovation (DSI) team are some of the best at what they do. There’s tremendous potential to use data insights and find innovative solutions that enhance the efficiency of a client’s operations and the overall customer experience.
Making Their Business Better
The question is, how do you get there? How do you get to that state of trust where a client seeks a true partnership? My personal philosophy is that you need to take your relationships with your clients from good to great. The term good means you're not memorable. However, when you’re great, that's when you're really making a difference to the organization.
Vendors who want to be partners must continuously ask themselves, “am I making valuable contributions to the client’s organization, am I driving real positive change, am I irreplaceable?” If you can answer ‘yes’ to all three, then you've reached the point where you are a true partner, and you’ve made their business better. Maybe you’ve helped to improve the customer experience by introducing new communication channels or technologies or sustained their brand approach through a market crisis. When your vendors have evolved towards more of an advisory role, the sky is the limit. That’s when you’ve become more than a CX vendor.
Now, as mentioned, some organizations don't want that level of involvement with their vendors. Sometimes they don’t want new tools, new systems. They don’t want any recommendations. But a good vendor, someone who’s trying to be a great BPO partner, will always try to talk about ways to improve a client’s business. When a client is receptive to that, they see themselves as not just a client, but also a partner – enabling success not only for their business, but also the BPO.
Trust is essential in any partnership. However, trust isn’t given, it’s earned. And you earn it not by perfection – there will always be hiccups along the way – but by how you recover from challenges and whether you learn from your mistakes. My motto is, if there’s ever a problem, there’s no sense hiding it. Be honest. It’s vital to communicate any issues to the client early on and to provide immediate solutions. They appreciate that openness and honesty, and that’s what establishes trust.
But how do you know if trust is there? Often, you will know by the way the client responds or communicates. Client surveys also give us the opportunity for direct feedback. But knowing where you stand is just the first step. Then, you must act on that information. There’s no point publishing a survey unless you take action to improve performance and change the way you do business. And really, that means constant communication between a vendor and client, and following through with your commitments.
Communicate and Be Accessible
There is no partnership without effective communication. It’s important to set up a clear cadence for operational and alignment meetings, and to set very clear expectations on both sides. Personally, I prefer to overcommunicate than under communicate. I tell my team, every time you meet with a client, you’ve got to talk about their opportunities, their successes, and how they got there, as well as the inverse. Then you must bring forward a strong business recommendation. That can be as simple as changing a line on a form, or as complicated as recommending that all data run through our DSI team.
Ensuring access to senior level management is a differentiator and it builds further trust. That’s what makes our company easy to work with. The benefit of a flat management style means there are no burdensome hierarchies to navigate or complex chains of command. It means you can move fast and be flexible as an organization. At our company, our executive team, and even our CEO, are directly accessible to clients, no matter the size of the business. How many CX vendors can say that? And that’s what sets us apart.
Becoming a True CX Partner That’s Irreplaceable
Moving from a CX vendor to a true partner is not an easy transition and it doesn’t happen overnight. Reliable service delivery is just the start. Ongoing communication, strengthening the client’s business, and maintaining trust are essential components for building that beneficial partnership. An outsourcer needs to be ready to support clients in whatever they need, which is something we strive for as a CX company, even as we continue to grow.
You also need to be able to move rapidly as clients’ needs evolve. Although we’ve grown into a large company, we've institutionalized agility by structuring our organization around a flexible approach to service delivery. We don’t get locked into certain ways of doing business or ways of thinking that hinder innovation or out of the box solutions, and this allows us to drive changes quickly.
Every day, we need to think about how we can move that client relationship from good to great. Then, from great to irreplaceable. That’s the tricky part. It's exceedingly difficult to achieve, but that’s the goal.
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