Edited transcript of a telephone conversation initiated by Michael Falkson, Pres. ETI Sales Support Inc, with Mr. Ostrow 08/02/08.
The Aberdeen group recently undertook a study of the B2B Teleservices Industry - the first of its kind to my knowledge. I recently had an opportunity to talk with Peter Ostrow, the author, about some of his findings.
Mike: In your view Peter, what are the critical elements a best in class company should look for when seeking an outsourced business development partner?
Peter: They should look for a partner who offers flexibility around deliverables.
The overall deliverables should be carefully quantified and reevaluated on a regular basis. They should look for flexibility in compensation methodology, which we've ratified through our research, and that too should be reevaluated on a regular basis. They should look for a company which allows them to micromanage the process.
Now that may sound counter productive to efficient program execution, but on a personal note when I look at my career, I have been least successful when I did not have the customer fairly closely involved in my day-to-day activity. Going away with a script and a list and then simply coming back with the results is in my opinion least likely to satisfy the client.
There are some vendors in your space who don’t worry what their clients think of how they work, whose customers don’t get involved or want to know how you produce their results. They're just concerned with the final outcome. And that there may even be an implication that “we use a special ingredient or a secret sauce.”
To be honest Mike, I think there are some proprietary best practices unique to various providers, though not patent worthy. I think it’s interesting that some companies try to figure out how you get the job done and I’m ok with that. I also believe it’s wrong to keep the customer from accessing the callers, the messaging, and some of the processes. These are bad signals to clients.
Finally, I think clients should certainly look for domain expertise. That’s very important.
However, it's not always feasible that the provider of teleservices can say, " Yes! We have exactly the experience your company needs. We’ve worked for companies with the same demographics and which faced the same challenges. In fact we’ve scored a wonderful success story." That would be too tall an order.
But for a small versus large company, for a less or more costly solution, for a situation where the brand was not well known - or some less specific criteria, I would imagine it’s permissible and acceptable to tell a particular story which provides a little insider domain expertise to indicate we have been there before.
Mike: How important is longevity, breadth and depth of an outsource partner's experience in establishing desirability of the vendor?
Peter: I would say moderately important. People want to get in bed with someone that they know or heard good things about, but being in the business for 20 years or five years doesn’t really matter that much.
Mike: What are the vital personnel qualities of a top notch outsource partner?
Peter: I would say staff who are strong enough to do without the script and speak from the heart about the value proposition, will be preferred, Callers with advanced degrees, maybe multilingual, they’re usually very good. Still these qualities are not uniformly essential as you know.
Probably the most important quality one needs are folks who are comfortable getting on a phone on a regular basis and interacting with the sales force. That’s probably the #1 criterion that end-users look for. Turnaround is not that big an issue. If people trust the outsourcing company and trust the process management then it does not matter that the folks who actually make the calls come and go. Clients won’t really fret about that . . . it’s pretty far down the list.
Mike: How important is it that the outsource partner has access to powerful flexible technology to manage real time reporting and communication?
Peter: There are two answers to that. I see no difference between the best in class and other companies, so I can't say that smarter companies will integrate with the customer's CRM and other tools.
But I can also tell you that the majority of best in class companies either currently or in the near future definitely plan to deploy exactly that.
Mike: Would you say that most teleservices providers rated in that survey were essentially meeting the expectations of their client base?
Peter: Actually, most were. Respondents choose whether they are either very dissatisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, neutral, somewhat satisfied or very satisfied. Everyone came out somewhere between somewhat and very. The respondents were satisfied with the lead quality. They are generally less satisfied with lead quantity.
Quality . . . lead quality . . . lead quantity . . . all count. Clients are most satisfied with messaging accuracy; they are least satisfied with reporting metrics, business intelligence gathering and cost per lead.
Thanks a span, Peter, much appreciate your valuable input.