Optimising service provider management

For better readability, the generic masculine is used in these articles. The designations of persons used in these articles refer to all genders unless otherwise indicated.


Optimising service provider management


Companies are increasingly using the support of one or more contact centre service providers to handle their customer/business partner contacts (please also read our articles on “Make or buy” and “Service provider selection“). When implementing outsourcing partners, the importance and internal resource requirements that are necessary to actively and continuously manage the service provider(s) are often underestimated. In the following, we will briefly explain why service provider management is one of the key success factors in outsourcing projects and how it can be organised.

What requirements are critical to the success of service provider management?

It is a fact that the processing of customer/business partner contacts is a very sensitive area in the customer/business partner relationship. However, a company’s decision to outsource all or part of the processing of customer/business partner contacts to an external service provider does not change this. This means that the company must provide clear internal resources and establish responsibilities that ensure that the external service provider processes the contacts quantitatively and qualitatively in the same way as the company itself aims to do.

To this end, it is important to establish a set of tools for defining and measuring the relevant qualitative and quantitative key performance indicators (KPIs). Both sides must also be clear about the consequences of under- or overfulfilling the KPIs. These instruments should be contractually agreed so that management can be sustainable in the long term. Quantitative instruments include, in particular, reporting (preferably direct access to the service provider’s ACD), which shows both historical and current data to ensure intraday management. Qualitative management can include, for example, mystery calls, silent monitoring, regular knowledge tests and side-by-side coaching.

As the client, it is important to ensure that the external service provider pursues the objectives of the company. As the objectives of the client and service provider are not always congruent in a long-term partnership, the service provider controllers need a “robust mandate” to act in critical situations. Agreeing a bonus-malus regulation can be useful here. However, the prerequisite for this is that the client can provide a reliable forecast that is continuously adapted to the current situation.

What measures do we recommend?

In order to manage service providers, roles and responsibilities must be defined on the part of both the service provider and the client. This is the only way to ensure efficient and smooth communication and knowledge transfer. In particular, the role of the service provider controller (client side) must be filled with care. This represents the interface between the interests of the client (usually driven by quality) and the service provider (usually driven by costs). Regular communication in the form of meetings, reports or audits is the key element here.

A clear service description/process definition, including the definition of the KPIs to be fulfilled, is also of central importance for both the client and the external service provider(s). When a process is handed over to another service provider or to internal employees must be clearly defined here. The same applies to a possible escalation process. To ensure that process handling and its KPIs are transparent for everyone, seamless reporting should be available in real time (for intraday control) as well as for historical data. This is the only way to measure, review and debrief the outsourced processing of customer/business partner enquiries within clearly defined framework conditions.

When it comes to employees, the client should only contractually define the qualification requirements for the agents working for them. The service provider tax should not interfere in any other issues, such as selection, remuneration or working time models.

What are the benefits of implementing our recommendations?

Outsourcing can quickly lead to a reduction in service quality and subsequently to dissatisfaction among customers/business partners. We therefore recommend implementing our measures to ensure and increase customer service quality and experience. As a result, there is a good chance that the satisfaction and loyalty of customers/business partners will also increase in the long term in cooperation with the external service provider(s).

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Gender reference

For better readability, the generic masculine is used in these articles. The designations of persons used in these articles refer to all genders unless otherwise indicated.