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Building Successful Outsourcing Partnerships

When it comes to outsourcing vendors and their clients, Stephen Dunne, ModSquad’s Director, Client Services, has been at both sides of the table. Based in Northern Ireland, Stephen offers his unique insights on what makes for successful collaboration between companies.

A few weeks ago, I happened to be chatting to an old colleague I hadn’t seen in a few years. We traveled down memory lane, reminiscing about things like the work trips we’d taken. It got me thinking about the last twenty-something years and how much has changed in the outsourcing world. Yet even amidst all of those changes, there have been constants in the services industry that remain strong to this day. And it’s no coincidence that these key components all boil down to one common theme: the relationships between businesses and their industry partners.

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some amazing companies across many industry verticals. I’ve been given the opportunity to travel the world and to see how relationships are forged and tended to across different cultures. I’ve seen this from both a client’s perspective and an outsourcer’s perspective. It’s amazing how much of a social science this really is. There’s a human-to-human interaction that needs to take precedence when establishing and nurturing these kinds of relationships. That, ultimately, is what we specialise in here at ModSquad: humans communicating with humans. But there are other factors at play. Let’s take a look at some of the most important elements to creating a successful outsourcing partnership.

Consider the outsourcer an extension of your business. When companies take on an outsourcing partner, the representatives of that service provider become representatives of the client’s business. To get the maximum benefit of these specialists, place a particular focus on their integration into your company. Equip them with everything they need to succeed, just as though they were one of your own.

Ensure your business goals and styles are aligned. In order to really get that “wow factor” from your vendor, you need to ensure that the outsourcing partner is culturally aligned with your goals. Do you want a fun, upbeat team that is super engaging with your audience, or does your customer base warrant a more formal tone? Some outsourcers can provide both styles of engagement, but it’s important to have a good sense for the people you’ll be working with when entering into that partnership.

Bring in seasoned experts. It’s important to be confident in the fact that the people making up this team really are the best at what they do. You may have worked in your chosen field for most of your career, but the best outsourced agents have usually excelled in many different environments in previous engagements. As a result, they’re very adaptable to what you need and can provide great insight into how other industries behave, or offer feedback based on best practices.

Make the difference between in-house and outsourcer invisible to the customer. Once you’ve found that good culture fit, focus on brand resonance with this particular team. As they are technically a separate entity, you’ll want to give them what they need so that they look like you and sound like you. The best outsource providers will work with you to ensure a seamless customer experience whether that customer is speaking to an in-house representative or an outsourced agent. Working with outsourcers who are as passionate about your products and customer experience as you are helps ensure this level of seamless integration.

Maintain a mutual understanding. Clear expectations need to be set so that your vendor knows what they’re doing, the goals they’re working toward, and your acceptable standard of service. Laying down ground rules is a good starting point to any relationship; this ensures that they’re ingrained into everyday work from the get-go. This might include establishing SLAs, giving a clear scope of the lifecycle of any particular case, and, most importantly, helping the team understand what to do — even in unforeseen situations. Some professionals see a crisis plan as a negative approach, but it’s always better to have and not need than vice versa. That’s why I make sure my people have a clear escalation path should it ever be needed.

Ultimately, all of the elements described above have one thing in common: communication. Ask the members of my team what I’m best known for saying, and it’s “Communication is key.” It’s crucial to be honest and transparent so that everyone’s on the same page. Share your challenges as you would share your successes; after all, a problem shared through open communication can typically be solved more efficiently, leading to a greater experience for customers. After all, that’s the end goal for the best outsourced service providers.

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