Perfecting Service Management

Issue #97

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

SCORE 2006 Symposium
Join Customer Centricity president Craig Bailey as he moderates one of the tracks at the annual Symposium for Customer Operations and Relationships Exposition, sponsored by Omega Management Group Corp. and the Customer Relationship Management Institute (CRMI). The symposium will be held June 12-15, 2006, at the Seaport Hotel, Boston, MA.

Outsourcers: Partners in Process
by Craig Bailey

This is the sixth article in our series on maximizing outsourcer relationships. The prior edition began the discussion of including the outsourcer in your inner circle with a specific focus on the alignment of people within and across companies. We will now expand on that topic by discussing process-level integration.

If your firm is like many, you have worked hard to break down barriers within your organization by streamlining processes and removing steps that add no value to the end-customer. These streamlining efforts often begin when it becomes painfully obvious that, for example, the timeframe to deliver a product or solution to the customer is unacceptable. Upon further analysis it is learned that there are redundancies in the process. Multiple departments are required to touch the order and, upon each touch, a "QA" step takes place, which ultimately means that you have "checkers, checking checkers to check checkers" each ensuring the order has been accurately processed by the preceding step or steps in the process.

An effective approach for addressing this situation is to establish a single process owner who, regardless of the number of people and organizations involved, is responsible for the positive and timely outcome of the entire end-to-end process. This process leader has over-arching authority to streamline the process, removing steps that add no value to the end-customer while increasing accountability to the process by each participant.

If you would like to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of working with your outsourcer, then consider taking the same approach here.

For example, let's assume that you have outsourced your tier 1 customer support. A typical objective for the outsourcer is to resolve as many inquiries as possible "at first touch." However, there will always be exception situations requiring the outsourcer to engage your organization. When engaging your organization to respond to a critical customer inquiry, does your outsourcer have to wait in the general contact center phone queue? When your outsourcer does reach your firm, does the issue need to be re-stated in order to be re-entered into YOUR customer service system? Is your outsourcer able to set customer expectations in this scenario, or is the outsourcer at the mercy of your firm and must simply wait for resolution? And, worse still, does your outsourcer receive repeat calls from customers who are anxiously awaiting resolution to a previously reported problem that the outsourcer can't address?

You may think that these situations are absurd. But, the reality is that these are real-life scenarios that may very well be occurring at your firm.

There is a better way. Instead of literally having two separate customer service processes (the outsourcer's and yours) that just happen to intermingle, you are encouraged to define a single customer service process that seamlessly spans the two organizations. Building upon the above example, this would include defining an over-arching process that ensures:

  • The outsourcer has a special number to dial that ensures prompt attention for escalated or critical customer reported issues based on agreed upon guidelines.
  • The outsourcer has access to your customer service system to log all customer reported inquiries.
  • Service level agreements are defined that your firm is accountable to your outsourcer to achieve. Yes, your firm is accountable to your outsourcer to respond to customer issues in a timely manner in order to ensure a positive experience for YOUR customer.

The above is just the beginning. In the words of Michael Hammer, in his book The Agenda, "This means recognizing that, just as corporate departments are components of larger business processes, whole enterprises are components of larger inter-enterprise business processes." Said another way, you are encouraged to view your outsourcer as just another department within your organization responsible for performing certain aspects of your process. In so doing, you can work together to streamline processes so that transactions flow seamlessly between organizations, resulting in significant win-win. This exercise will result in improved efficiencies and profitability. More importantly your customers will feel the difference, leading to the ultimate objective: increased customer loyalty.

In future articles we will cover the remaining areas of inter-company integration: Product/Service and Technology.

In closing, if you'd like an objective perspective on how effectively you are managing your outsourcer relationships, give us a call. We would be happy to perform a situational assessment, providing you a read-out of what is working well (to keep doing), opportunities for improvement and a pragmatic road-map for closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Alternatively, if you are considering outsourcing as an approach to addressing key business needs, we can help you evaluate options (including the basic question: does outsourcing make sense for us), consummating the relationship through implementing the standard operating practices to ensure an ongoing and effective relationship. In fact, we have the references to prove it!

View previous articles in this series.

Contents

+ SCORE 2006 Symposium
+ Outsourcers: Partners in Process

+ Recommended Reading
 


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Recommended Reading
Complementing our series on Partnering With Your Outsourcer is CRM Magazine article Live the Brand by Dana Chryst. Ms. Chryst echoes the important sentiment that a 3rd-party fulfillment company needs to be tightly integrated with its clients and its clients' customers. She offers several considerations; continue to read our series for how to put her ideas into practice.


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In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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