Using customer feedback to grow business process outsourcing (BPO) companies

As companies refocus on their core business, they are looking to outsource what are seen as non-core yet business-critical functions. These can range from IT to estate management; from finance to catering; but on the receiving end of all of these outsourcing agreements are their customers. Outsourcing will only ever work if the end customer believes they are getting the service, and the service level, required to enable the business to deliver on its core proposition and in order to understand that you need customer feedback on those BPO companies’ service. For the purposes of this article we have focused on the outsourcing of IT services, but the points below are just as applicable in other BPO markets.

At the heart of outsourcing IT services has been cost savings and efficiency improvement and, although through these challenging times that focus remains, suppliers of outsourcing need to be able to differentiate their offer in more ways than just these. Gathering and acting upon customer feedback offers the possibility of a significant differentiator, and one that is already proving to be of benefit to outsource suppliers and their customers. In short, BPO companies can use customer feedback as a sales tool to grow their business.

As IT is fundamental to the success of any private or public sector organisation, the potential cost savings have to be balanced with ensuring the end users’ capability is not diminished, and hopefully enhanced. Although the delivery of SLAs will provide a bedrock of service assurance, the actual customer experience is vital to a successful ongoing relationship between supplier and customer. Understanding the experience and appreciation of customers’ needs and gathering customer feedback is vital if outsourcing is going to continue to flourish.

Practical tools

Customer Champions has worked with an extensive variety of outsourcing suppliers. We have found significant benefits can be gained through incorporating customer feedback into outsourcing companies’ propositions by offering an independent measurement and review mechanism. Let’s consider the three primary profit-based routes:

  1. Gaining new business: On behalf of a BPO supplier Customer Champions is benchmarking and regularly reviewing both senior executives’ and end users’ needs and the views of their outsourcing supplier. This information is shared between the BPO supplier and its customer the outsourcing company in order to identify required actions against a series of KPIs. A Customer Champions’ client recently won a multimillion pound contract by using this customer feedback approach as a key sales tool in its proposition. As a senior executive within a BPO supplier put it:

    “My experience confirms the value is in having pre-agreed, objective and weighted success criteria for service delivery with the client – thus removing many of the emotional and subjective influences when reviews take place. The use of an independent third party ensures both the credibility and accuracy of the feedback which then supports the effectiveness of any associated actions.”

  1. Renewing and extending customer contracts: The successful renewal of an LEA IT services contract, with a contract value in excess of a nine figure sum, was undoubtedly swayed by the demonstrated understanding of their customer’s customer needs as a result of customer feedback commissioned by the BPO. Customer Champions researched what citizens within the LEA wanted from education over the next five years so that the IT offer could be successfully positioned around these needs and built with them in mind. This customer feedback was then subsequently utilised in developing metrics for the ongoing success of the contract.
  1. Retaining current customers: The views of both senior customer executives and end user customers are regularly gathered, and follow up action plans are implemented and sustained in order to retain customers. This is often a combination of transactional type surveys and senior executive interviews that are focused on longer term more strategic issues. Gathering feedback from customers in the outsourcing company provides valuable input to develop future KPIs.

In our experience, the outsourcing customer can be lost in the rush to make significant cost savings, without balancing this with service issues. The outsourcing of any business-critical function purely in the names of cost-saving and efficiency can be a false economy if it causes a loss of profitability through dissatisfied customers turning to the competition.

If the BPO gathers customer feedback to develop checks and balances that can be put in place from the outset this can provide the evidence necessary for adjustments, prior to launch, to ensure the customer’s or end user’s needs are incorporated to nip dissatisfaction in the bud.

The use of one or a combination of the above three approaches focused on customers will ensure that BPO suppliers can win, retain and grow their customer base.

Take the next step

If you would like to discuss how you can use customer feedback to grow your business process outsourcing (BPO) company, please get in touch.

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