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|How to Build Innovative Relationships with your Service Providers

How to Build Innovative Relationships with your Service Providers

At this year’s EmpowerCX, Sitel Group CEO - Americas Mike Small sat down with Everest Group CEO and founder Peter Bendor-Samuel for a fireside chat on the topic of innovation and how businesses need to rethink their relationships with their service providers in order to gain a competitive advantage.

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by Sitel staff November 19, 2020 - 3 MIN READ

At this year’s EmpowerCX, Sitel Group CEO – Americas Mike Small sat down with Everest Group CEO and founder Peter Bendor-Samuel for a fireside chat on the topic of innovation and how businesses need to rethink their relationships with their service providers in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Mike Small is concerned about how the perception of perfection around outsourcing is preventing companies from embracing innovation. 

“We model towards perfection – both penalties and service level credits are modeled towards very traditional measures that maybe don’t drive the overall CX experience,” he explains.

This focus on operational excellence inhibits businesses from pushing the envelope and achieving better results through working in partnership with businesses like Sitel Group. 

“Too many times, our clients put us in a box,” says Small. “You can’t have a conversation with them around transformation or innovation.”

Investment in Innovation

Over the course of 2019, Sitel Group invested $26 million on innovation, through hiring experts and teams and through developing 94 proofs of concepts for clients. But, as Peter Bendor-Samuel points out, while it’s a considerable sum of money, it doesn’t appear to have been invested evenly across the company’s portfolio of clients. 

“Many, many times we see this frustration of clients and enterprises, putting their suppliers and their vendors in a straightjacket and telling them to stay in their lane,” he suggests as a reason for how the sum has been invested.

Small agrees that historically, at least, a restrictive relationship with a client made innovating very difficult, but thanks in part to COVID-19, companies are starting to change their approach.

“Clients are starting to really look at innovation in a very different way, which is the art of the possible is in front of us folks, and it’s here to stay,” Small says. “I believe that COVID-19 will fundamentally change our industry, because we’ve been able to show what is possible through this crisis.”

A New Way to Look at CX Outsourcing

Businesses are starting to think about CX outsourcing as a means of reducing total cost of ownership and total cost to serve rather than obsessing over more traditional metrics; and outcome-based pricing is growing in popularity. However, there are still hurdles to overcome if organizations really want to harness innovation.

“Data democratization is the big issue,” reveals Small. “That’s holding us back in terms of innovation and getting full visibility with the client, side-by-side with us and with others. It needs to be open and transparent. That’s when we can identify and solve a problem with a solution.”

Another problem area is existing perception. Often an organization with a host of innovative capabilities might not be invited to the table unless the existing services being delivered are hitting all the metrics.

“I think this is a barrier to entry into this conversation for any service provider,” says Small. “From an operational perspective everything needs to be green first.”

New Client Relationships

In his own experience, Bendor-Samuel says he’s also seen the opposite happen, when an enterprise has engaged with a service provider around transformation or innovation because they were prepared to “roll their sleeves up” rather than because of existing performance. “I think many enterprises would share the ‘all green’ view but if you look at the data, the firms that are constantly getting innovation are taking a different approach,” he says. “One of these firms said that their providers are like their children, they’re not perfect but I expect them to get better.”

So how can these problems be addressed? How can enterprises create mutually beneficial relationships with service providers? Small says it comes down to trust.

“In many cases, we have a great relationship with the people at an enterprise we deal with day in day out,” he explains. “There’s great support with our client teams but when we need to look to functions beyond our existing purview to innovate those owners sometimes say ‘I don’t know these folks, I don’t trust them’.”

And in those situations, delivering an end-to-end solution is not going to happen. “If the client wants broader innovation or transformation, especially in digital, we need access to operations, to security and we need the business owner at the table with us,” continues Small. “Otherwise we’re going to have a very limited and confined view of the solution.”

Watch the keynote in full and learn more about how to build relationships with service providers that unlock innovation.

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