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Call Center Vendor Management Best Practices

You see the big picture. While others get caught up by hype, you identify value.

You have the weight of the company's success on your shoulders because you're accountable for the risk versus reward of the call center vendor you select. If the vendor works out, you are credited a job well done (and hopefully a raise). If it doesn't, your reputation and job are essentially on the line.

You are a call center vendor manager.

It’s understandable why vendor managers are selective and deliberate with their choices of emerging technologies that may (or may not) help improve call center management. It’s a risky business, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t suck in by legacy-driven fads.

1. Assess Cultural Compatibility

If you’re at the point of having a conversation with a potential vendor;

Then it’s a given that their product or services are a need. More importantly, though, is figuring out if the vendor’s values align with the company you represent.

You should research their about page to see what critical mission they’re shooting for. Have a conversation with several people in the organization to feel out their passion and experience. Read their social media profiles, both company pages and personal, to get insight into what they post (is it all about them or more about their customers?). The more information a vendor openly provides, the more you can understand if you can trust and communicate with them effectively in the future.

2. Clearly Establish the Price and Value Upfront

In my experience dealing with vendors, I’m astonished to find how secretive they can be with the price of their services. Even worse are hidden agendas, costs, fees, etc. that were not clearly laid out in our early discussions. When I market or sell anything, I’m upfront and transparent with cost both in the short and long-term.

An honest vendor has nothing to hide. They are clear about pricing from the get-go, which shows they respect you as a potential client. They understand that you are capable of making a decision around the value behind the product in terms of how it helps as a whole approach. If you get resistance from vendor on sharing costs directly, run the other way-it’s a red-flag.

Along with that, a reputable company will always have customer case studies, webinars, or white sheets available to send to you. And you shouldn’t have to ask for this information. Frankly, a good vendor should be like an excited child showing Mom her cartwheel she just

learned…Look at me! Confidence is a result of the vendor listening to your challenges and initiatives and matching you with similar customers who have had success.

3. Ask the Difficult Questions and Push the Boundaries

A friend of mine, like many people, has been on several first dates where the guy seemed too good to be true. He said all the right things and seemed to have no flaws. The sensible side of her realized it was likely not the case. So what did she start doing? She asked the tough questions on date one. Test the waters. See how my date really acted under a little pressure or knowledge of her flaws.

Similarly, she started doing this with her potential vendors. They will likely promise you the world on a first call. It’s your job as a smart vendor manager to sift through the hoops and whistles and ask the hard questions. Throw them a curve ball and listen for hesitation.

Your vendor should be willing to share their weaknesses and be open to improvement and change. That’s the kind of vendor you want to work with because they will be the most supportive of your client's needs.

4. Set Measurable Goals and Track Quality

In my several roles, I’ve acted as both vendor management and a vendor. Sometimes I come across people who seem to have very little idea of what goals they are trying to achieve for their customer service agents. Before selecting a vendor, make sure you talk with the project managers, team leaders, and executive decision makers from your own company to understand your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). One of the most important questions to ask your customer service team is “What goal are we trying to achieve? How will this product or service give us a return-on-investment?"

Set weekly meetings with your vendor to discuss challenges that come up. Don’t be one of those managers who just show up to the meeting without a plan. It’s a waste of time, and ultimately, the success or failure of the vendor comes down to clear and consistent communication. Most importantly, make sure that you are receiving dynamic reports and have access to quality tools to measure effectiveness of agent performance.

5. Gauge the Vendor’s Sense of Urgency

Time is money right? One of the most critical vendor management best practices is to pay close attention in the beginning to time allocation. Ask these questions upfront:

  • What is your average response time to answer questions we may have?

  • What portals, channels or tools do we have access to for customer support?

  • How many people will be assigned to me for customer success and technical support and for how long?

  • How often will your customer success manager meet with us and what’s the process like?

  • Are you open to receiving customer feedback and making changes? If so, what’s an example of change you have made from a current customer?

Hold your vendors accountable for following through with their promises and time commitments. Doing so will increase productivity and efficiency to satisfy the goals of the company.

I've had vendor management relationships that have both impressed and failed me. And I take responsibility, at least in part, for both scenarios. By following what I have said in 5 steps, you can consistently partner with vendors who will meet or exceed your contractual requirements.

Result? Happy clients & very happy

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