The Power of Partnerships
At this year’s EmpowerCX, understanding how to move from a customer-supplier relationship to a true, transformational and mutually beneficial partnership was high on the agenda.
The past 12 months have underlined the importance of professional partnerships in order to meet and overcome the business challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, what was also clear during this year’s virtual CX event, EmpowerCX, is that identifying and truly working together with a partner can be a challenge in itself, pandemic or not. This was particularly evident in the breakout sessions where clients shared their personal experiences.
Look for Leaders in Their Field
“You must make sure that the people that are working with you are above others in the field and can also show how you can create excellence,” said Jessica Maloney, Product and Training Excellence Lead, Global Medical Affairs at Jazz Pharmaceuticals, when asked to explain how her company chose Sitel Group® for its learning and development needs. “[Sitel] didn’t come in and try to brainwash us into their way of thinking, but listened to us about what we wanted.”
Look for Openness
The key to partnership is about more than working together to achieve a client’s goal or current business objective. To really deliver, a partnership must be an open relationship with information sharing so that ideas and innovation can be brought to the table – to create greater efficiencies, reduce the total cost to serve or create a greater customer experience differentiation.
Look for Understanding
“Ours is a very complex organization and a partner needs to understand us,” stressed Lisa Miller VP, Customer Care Operations for health benefits administration company Alight Solutions. “A partner has to be a good listener, ask the right questions and really match the client’s culture. We weren’t expecting [Sitel Group] to become an expert in healthcare. But we did have expectations about how they could help our agents become experts.”
Yet, for a number of firms, due to existing approaches to business and historical views of organizations that provide key services simply as vendors, it has taken the events of 2020 to arrive at this realization.
Look at Things Differently
“Some companies; the way they go to their vendors, they basically put them in a straightjacket and give them an impossible task,” said Everest Group Founder and CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel during his guest speaker spot– I Can’t Get no Innovation. “The impossible task is focusing on cost reduction and unit cost reduction. As a result they’re constricting providers in a way that they can only focus on exactly what they’re doing now.” In other words, unlocking innovation by becoming partners simply isn’t possible.
“It’s fine to have a desire to drive down costs, but improving the total cost to serve or customer experience means being transparent with providers and working with them at a senior level,” continues Bendor-Samuel.
Look for Innovation
It was a stance echoed by Sitel Americas – CEO, Mike Small who pointed out the need for both communication and freedom for a partnership to progress, especially in the current climate. “When a true partnership is in place, innovation becomes an active process of design thinking and virtual brainstorming to solve critical problems,” he said. “But this only happens with a partnership built on trust and transparency of purpose.”
Over the past year, where Sitel Group has managed to forge these types of partnerships, we’ve been able to make substantial financial investments in moving partnerships forward through the use of proofs of concept.
Look Beyond Traditional Metrics
Small used his keynote to highlight that moving to this level of relationship – with any supplier and vendor – is about looking beyond traditional measures of success or performance. “When setting up new partnerships or reimagining existing relationships, think about measures of success and tying the things that matter to program goals,” he warned. “Consider metrics that are more closely tied to customer experience rather than traditional measurements like average handle time.”
For clients that have successfully forged this level of connection, the results have been a crucial element of continuing to align service with customer expectations, even in the face of COVID-19.
Look to Be Challenged
For instance, through forging this type of relationship, Michelin North America had the confidence – and have realized the benefits – of leveraging digital CX solutions, such as chatbots to enhance customer service.
“I need a partner that will continuously challenge Michelin’s status quo. We’d been doing these things the same way for many years and weren’t keen on adopting change,” said Jill Weis, Zone Director of Inside Sales for Michelin North America. “I need a business partner who is going to be on time, stay on budget and we have to have some fun doing it.”
Look for Integration
Also key to this mutual success is an ability to build and deploy cross-functional teams that can address any element of a client engagement. However, as Ehab Goldstein, VP, Global Strategic Insights and Customer Care for leading glucose monitoring and diabetes management company LifeScan explains, there needs to be top down alignment with business goals and universal access to data. The [Sitel Group] team works just as much with our customer care team as our IT team and our marketing team and our marketing agency,” he explained. “Breaking down cross-functional silos was a very big must do for us to ensure success because what we do in customer care, has to be aligned with the marketing tech stack and what’s going on with IT and the enterprise architecture. Without that going right you are always going to have missteps along the way or duplication or things falling through.”
Look at your Partner’s Partners
However, even for progressive organizations who are actively searching for a partner rather than simply a vendor or supplier, there is one issue that can be overlooked. How is the potential partner working with other suppliers and organizations in order to deliver solutions and meet the challenges its clients face?
“For us at Sitel Group, we are your partner in experience integration,” stated Sitel Group co-founder and CEO, Laurent Uberti during his opening address. “We continue strengthening the relationship we have with our clients, helping to identify their pain points, to understand their challenges and to deliver proactive solutions. But this is only possible because we continue building partnerships with best-in-class providers to continue augmenting our digital capabilities.”