Creating More Value and Innovation in Outsourcing Relationships

Creating more value and innovation in outsourcing relationships

According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Outsourcing Survey, 35% of companies already measure the value of innovation in their outsourcing relationships.

In response to this increasing emphasis on delivering value beyond cost savings, service providers are rapidly evolving into innovators with the aim of creating improvement opportunities for their clients.

For contact centre and customer experience outsourcing providers this means a sea change; from a primarily service-oriented mindset to one focused around transformation and continuous performance improvement.

For that process to be of value to an outsourced provider’s client, it has to be informed by – if not entirely led by – the wants and needs of the client’s customers.

It then follows that in order to provide maximum value outsourced providers must take steps to get feedback from and understand the customers they are serving.

Customer experience is king

Over the last few years several studies have suggested that customer experience is now a brand’s biggest competitive differentiator, rather than the traditional values of price and product. But what will really set brands apart is customers’ emotional engagement; how they feel when they use a product or service, and their experience when they contact a company.

As part of this, customers expect companies with which they do business to not only know them – their purchasing history, their preferences – but to personalise offerings to meet their specific needs.

Brands that make strong personal bonds with their customers at every touchpoint will win and retain more customers than their rivals, regardless of price and proposition differences. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs always had a great view of customer service and customer experience. In fact, he’s noted as saying:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around.”

What does this mean for outsourcers?

When we talk to our contact centre outsourcing provider clients, they tell us the same thing. Clients want more – a lot more – than a service provider.

The core business of contact centre outsourcing providers is now helping their clients to undergo business transformation, digital transformation, and customer experience transformation.

While the provision of buildings and people is likely to be involved in pursuing those goals for some time to come, it will increasingly involve the deployment of digital or automated solutions, the rethinking of back office or supply chain processes, and even the restructuring of entries business units to focus on the one thing that matters above all; the customer.

Outsourcers are therefore breaking out of service provider mode and as what they do takes on a more strategic importance the people who hire them increasingly come from higher and higher up the hierarchy, right up to board level.

Renowned UK outsourcing consultancy, Ember, gives one reason for this change: “the Digital Revolution has fundamentally changed the outsourcing landscape, what outsourcing can deliver, how it should be contracted and how it should be assessed.”

It is indeed the case that the focus on customer experience as being more important than price, product, positioning is only possible because of digital transformation. Only recently has it become even remotely possible to provide the type of personalisation at scale that customer experience demands.

And of course customers now demand it not just over the traditional channels of face-to-face and voice, but over all the digital and mobile channels they use in their everyday lives.

Ember goes on to put into blunt words what this means for companies that use outsourcing, and their service providers: “It is our contention that any outsourcing decision made, or contract put in place more than two years ago, is likely to be redundant and should be re-assessed in the light of the Digital Revolution.”

Today, outsourcers are delivering innovative services to add even more value and progressive and successful outsourcers are going even further. If clients are expecting innovation, and clients’ customers are shown to respond well to new channels and services, then the question for outsourcers becomes: given every client is different, what tailored innovative solutions can we create for each of them?

Customer experience cannot be captured just in numbers

Good customer experience means delivering what customers want at every touchpoint. This goes way beyond the product or service being delivered; now what matters just as much are the way the product is discovered, how it is purchased, what the bill looks like, and – of course – how the various interactions that happen through the customer lifecycle are handled.

As the majority of customer interactions now take place in the contact centre, what the outsourced provider needs is a method of objectively measuring – quantitatively and qualitatively – the customer experience it delivers. The objectives would be to understand (and demonstrate) the impact this has on the client’s success and bottom line, and to continuously improve that performance.

While quantitative data, in the form of sales figures, up-sales and cross-sales figures, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition costs, conversion rates, and so forth are all important indicators, if outsourced providers are to meet their clients’ customer experience goals, something more is required.

In addition to quantitative data contact centres pick up a lot of ad-hoc and open-ended feedback from customers in the normal process of handling interactions. The problem is that these comments are not gathered in one place or structured in way that makes them easy to analyse and extract useful information from. Plenty of information simply never gets recorded so never makes it way to anyone in a position to analyse it and draw conclusions.

Ask customers for feedback, and you shall receive

Forward-thinking outsourced providers are creating improvement opportunities for their clients by gathering and analysing customer feedback using automated customer surveys. This learning is then put back into the operation to improve performance, and given to the client to improve their own.

Our outsourcing clients all tell us that the measurement of customer satisfaction is critical to their client relationships. Richard Parsons, Head of Business Development at Contact Centre Outsourcer, Ventrica says; “The measurement of customer satisfaction in outsourcing relationships is a priority for us. The reputation and value of outsourcing increasingly depends on meeting and exceeding end user and client expectations. Any customer feedback is a great basis for continuous improvement and helps outsourcing partners provide a valuable role in their client company's strategy to win, serve, and retain customers.”

The reputation of an outsourcing company and the value of its contracts increasingly depend on meeting end-user expectations. Customer feedback is a great basis for continual improvement and helps outsourcing leaders play a valuable role in their clients’ ability to win, serve, and retain customers.

Most contact centres already conduct post-interaction and other follow up surveys with customers in order to measure customer satisfaction and gather feedback used in ongoing training of agents. Call monitoring and recording are also used to capture this type of valuable information.

But today contact centres need to look beyond capturing ad-hoc feedback and one-dimensional metrics such as CSAT and NPS. Two things are needed:

Structured qualitative and quantitative data that can be analysed and fed back into the business to improve performance,
On all aspects of the business’s performance at every customer touchpoint and across all channels.

While market research has its place, certainly when launching new products to new markets, the only real way to get the level of detailed information required is to ask customers.

The majority of customer surveys these days are automated, which not only is more cost effective for the company, it also allows customers to go through them at their own pace and removes the possibility of being led by an agent.

Reaching customers with automated surveys

While useful quantitative information can be gathered using web-based, chatbot and even SMS surveys, for a deep dive into customers’ minds telephone-based IVR (interactive voice response) surveys are a must.

For most individual customer interactions, a quick and immediate follow up using the same channel as the interaction itself suffices. For example, following a chat session the chat window can display a few questions or ask the customer to rate elements of the interaction from 1 to 5.

When it comes to phone interactions, or where more detailed feedback is being sought – for example at the end of a complex transaction which required a whole chain of individual interactions possibly over numerous channels – IVR has the advantage of being the fastest way to collect large amounts of structured data and open-ended feedback. They are also the most likely for customers to take part in.

When an agent transfers a customer to an automated telephone survey at the end of a call we find there is a 75% completion rate because it’s effectively a single call by the customer and they won’t hang up until completed. In comparison the completion rate for stealth mode surveys – where an automated system asks the customer to take part in a survey either before or at the end of the call – falls to around 20%.

For outbound automated surveys made soon after an interaction the completion rate drops to something like 20%. For email / web surveys we find an 8% completion rate and just 5% for SMS.

Closing the loop with the client

It goes without saying that the data collected from customer surveys – and other customer feedback – has to be analysed, disseminated, and ultimately formulated into plans of action. In the contact centre itself that could mean creating new training programmes for agents, or redesigning workflows to make them more efficient.

At a more strategic level, working with the client to turn that feedback into innovative and improved customer experiences adds a whole new value to what the outsourced provider does. Providing clients with insight as to what makes their customers tick, and what they want, can feed into the design of new products and services, the improvement of old ones, the redesign of supply chains or back office processes to make them a better fit for customers’ needs, and many other money-saving and efficiency-gaining measures.

Outsourced contact centre and customer experience providers looking to boost revenues and retain clients in this time of digital transformation absolutely must take on the more strategic role of CX, business process and even marketing consultants as well as service providers. Only armed with properly structured and analysed customer feedback – both quantitative and qualitative – from customer surveys and other sources will they be able to do this.