Leslie Pontello, Chief Operating Officer at bswift, shares two strategies for selecting a service provider that will act as a true business partner to deliver quality service.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Working with service providers to outsource tasks that aren’t part of an organization’s core business is a strategy companies can employ to optimize time and resources. However, if organizations don’t choose their partners carefully, the relationship may result in service break down and become a point of frustration.
“Ultimately, vendors and clients create better quality outcomes when they operate as trusted partners rather than operating transactionally,” says Leslie Pontello, Chief Operating Officer at bswift.
How can companies select a provider that will be a true partner to their business and deliver service excellence?
- Leverage a behavioral interviewing approach. One way organizations can evaluate a potential vendor’s ability to be a trusted partner is to ask for specific examples of when they have developed unique solutions in response to a client’s problem. Similarly, the client can explain a specific challenge of their own and ask the vendor to share their approach to developing a solution for it.
A behavioral interviewing style is an effective way for clients to evaluate the vendor’s ability and willingness to modify their approach based on the client’s needs. “We actually see this approach more now than we have in the past, and it leads to some very constructive conversations,” says Pontello. “I believe it gives the client an opportunity to better understand how the service provider operates, what their thought process is like, and how they work with other clients like them. It also gives the service provider keen insight into the client’s strategy, needs and priorities, fostering a proactive, problem solving approach on the part of the provider which is foundational to service excellence.”
- Ensure the partner offers adequate organizational support. Organizations seeking a new service provider also need to evaluate whether the partner has infrastructure and support needed to meet their needs and support their teams.
“It is critical for service partners to have what I call ‘foundational assets,’” explains Pontello. “We always say that no team is an island, and it is unlikely for any one team to have all the necessary skills and knowledge needed to successfully service a client. Therefore, they require a well-connected support system and an organized set of tools and resources in place for when they need help.”
Before making a decision, clients should ask a potential partner four key questions:
- Is there a succession plan in place in case one of the service team members goes on leave, or is promoted into a new position?
- What is the process to tackle a problem that the service team has never dealt with?
- How is the service team able to bring the full power of the organization to this partnership?
- How do you ensure consistency in service quality? Do you have an infrastructure of best practices, documentation, processes, and trainings in place to ensure everyone we work with at your organization will continually be operating in alignment?
A governance program that includes a member of each organization’s leadership team can help answer these questions, ensure that the relationship has mutual executive commitment, establish processes for engaging and communicating on both a strategic and tactical level, and also make sure the individuals responsible for the success of the partnership feel well-supported every step of the way.
By implementing these two best practices, organizations can be more likely to enter a service contract based on honesty, trust, and mutual accountability—ultimately resulting in a successful partnership that actively drives your business results.