“The first item to consider is why did you outsource in the first place? There can be a myriad of reasons, from cost savings to quality to location, as well as the need to improve competency in a particular area,” said Larson. “Once you determine the reason, the next step is to ensure you have buy-in at all levels of the organization, with a focus at the top.”
Larson went on to say that ensuring alignment with the outsource partner, or partners, is critical because simply moving a problem to someone else’s plate won’t work.
The focus on aligning outsource partners as part of the organization, ensuring everything from a culture match to alignment of success goals, will minimize challenges and provide a level playing field for every partner. When considering what might be a challenge within your own organization, Larson recommends looking at a few key areas, including:
If you are certain that your organization is solid on these key points, then it’s time to review the outsource partner to determine next steps.
Get to the Root of the Problem
The data will quickly verify there is an issue. The next step is to determine if this is a short-term issue or if there are more significant underlying challenges.
“Your key performance indicators will highlight issues quickly so you can drill down into the problem. Perhaps it’s customer satisfaction that is waning, or queue times have increased. Whatever the situation is, the partner and the organization must sit down and work through it very quickly,” said Larson. “Having an open, honest dialog about what you are seeing and simply asking questions should uncover the issues.”
Outsourcing partners should be aware they are missing KPIs and be prepared to come with a plan to improve. Ideally, this happens early in the process while the issues are small and more easily rectified. Even with larger issues, having a solid plan and both the organization and partner working together to achieve improvement will yield better results.
“The key is to select outsourcers that are interested in a partnership. They will come to the table with a high-level plan that is executable,” said Larson. “Everyone is invested in success. It is then simply a matter of setting up appropriate check-ins to track results.”
Larson noted that outsource partners will bring the issues to the organization first, typically verbally, and then provide an actionable plan that is easy to achieve. Additionally, it should not be a surprise to the organization that the partner is struggling. Rather, everyone is looking at the same data regularly and knows there are issues that need addressing.
“I’m not looking for a multi-page brief with detailed, prescriptive analysis. I’m looking for measurable, achievable actions that ensure success,” said Larson. “It shows the partner is invested and willing to make changes.”
When considering the outsource partner’s performance, there are some scenarios to consider that may contribute to the challenges, such as:
As long as the outsource partner can manage any of these scenarios smoothly, there will not be a problem. However, it’s good for the organization to consider these factors when deciding to work through performance issues.
To Stay or To Go
If you feel you have done everything you can, the final decision is to decide whether or not to maintain or “offboard” the partner. This is a significant decision that cannot be made lightly as there is an impact to the organization, both financially and from a customer engagement standpoint. In an upcoming article, we will cover in detail how to find a new strategic partner who can make an impact quickly while ensuring a smooth transition.