David Highbloom On How to Select Your Best BPO Provider

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Selecting the best BPO partner to meet a particular client’s needs is not a simple matter of finding the lowest cost provider who can achieve some minimal level of service quality. As a corporate strategy, marketing, and operations expert David Highbloom notes, potential clients must consider a range of factors when selecting a BPO provider. Central among these factors are genuine process expertise, the provider’s capacity to integrate seamlessly with the client, and the level of employee satisfaction among the service provider’s personnel.

Simply because a BPO firm offers a particular service does not mean that they are truly expert in providing that service at a high level of quality. Outsourced service delivery is about more than mindless process execution. So how can a prospective client tell whether the provider they are considering is in fact capable of top-quality execution? Focus on data is one key signal. The best BPO providers have a relentless focus on data as it pertains to all aspects of their business: service KPIs, staffing and retention metrics, and business intelligence are all areas where a high-quality provider should be dedicating substantial analytics and data science resources.

One of the most important outgrowths of this focus on data is the depth of advice that top quality BPO providers can offer to their clients regarding process optimization over time. An excellent BPO partner doesn’t just provide high-quality service at relatively low cost; they should also help guide the client toward greater cost efficiency, further reducing costs consistently over the long term. In a smoothly functioning provider-client relationship, this can be one of the most powerful benefits accruing to the client over the duration of the partnership.

The second factor that prospective clients should consider is the likelihood that integrating with a potential provider will be a seamless process. Switching crucial business functions to a new provider is never as easy as flipping a switch and watching the new partner’s services come online automatically. With that said, the transition to an outsourced model can be relatively costly, time-consuming, and disruptive to the client’s operations and quality of service, or it can be relatively smooth and painless.

One key factor in where a given transition comes out is the extent of overlap between the client’s core technology platforms – Microsoft, Salesforce, Zoho, Pipedrive, Hubspot, etc – with the service provider’s repertoire of actively supported environments. Taking on functions for a new client is challenging enough without layering in the need for the provider’s employees to learn an entirely new technology framework. Breadth of service is similarly crucial for a seamless client-provider relationship long term, given that the mix of services a particular client wishes to outsource may evolve markedly over time. Locking yourself into a vendor who can meet today’s needs but cannot provide an avenue for an expanded relationship down the road sharply reduces long term operational flexibility. While you may only need simple data entry services today, tomorrow you may require omnichannel customer service and a rich suite of back-office functions.

The global pandemic has brought to the fore an aspect of provider integration that was too often overlooked before Covid-19 struck: the quality of a potential provider’s business continuity planning. Providers who had robust BCP plans in place were able to adapt to the pandemic relatively quickly, while those who had only paid lip service to BCP soon found themselves struggling to deliver quality service as large-scale operations centers were forced into partial or complete shutdown. Given the unpredictability of the future, clients would be wise to consider the strength of a potential partner’s BCP plan across a wide range of potentially catastrophic scenarios. While remote work was a central theme in 2020, no one can know what unexpected scenario service providers might have to adapt to in the future.

Finally, an absolutely central factor in evaluating potential BPO partners is the level of employee satisfaction those vendors are able to achieve within their teams. Attrition is a key driver of both cost and service quality in BPO organizations, and a provider that is unable to achieve a high level of employee satisfaction will necessarily deliver lower-quality service at a higher cost to their customers. Engaged employees to better work, integrate better with key contact points on the client-side, and are much more likely to identify effective means of enhancing operational efficiency over time. This factor has become all the more important with the shift to remote work in 2020, as achieving high levels of employee satisfaction in a primarily remote environment requires providers to put in place a novel set of mechanisms to ensure that employees feel like valued members of a team and remain happy and productive.

To be sure, cost matters when it comes to outsourcing. However, new outsourcing clients who over-focus on cost are likely to find themselves dissatisfied with the provider they select. A provider who cannot seamlessly integrate with the client while delivering expert-level service and achieving high employee satisfaction will under-deliver over the course of a long relationship. Prospective clients evaluating potential outsourcing partners must keep these factors in mind during their evaluation process.