You are excited, some key members of your company are excited, you have a new services partner. You have signed the deal just last week, you know their credentials are good because your buddy John is using their service and can’t stop singing a happy tune about how his company has benefited from this partner. Their costs have reduced, their quality issues have come down, their in house employees have now become more productive as they are doing customer facing jobs, their customer service rating has improved. You call your operations chief and tell her to take care of this relationship before you step into your next meeting where are you meeting a key customer who has had issues in customer support.
One month later you check with the team and they tell you everything is going “fine” and the training is going on.
Two months later your head of operations walks in and says “I am having too many problems with this service partner. I think we should pull out!!!” She adds “They are taking too long to get trained, we have had quality issues, we have tried to be the best team but it seems that we have too many issues. Our agents have complained about their work. I am tired of my team saying that they are afraid for their jobs. This is just getting to be too hard!”
You call a meeting and find that the entire company has a problem with the service provider. You think to your yourself “What did I do wrong in 20 days? I know it is the right thing to do, but how to I execute this strategy to success? It seems that everything and everybody is against anything I want to do.”
Well, you are not alone! We have seen this situation a number of times and we are here to help. We have worked on over 100 project ‘Ramp up’ and one we will list out the 5 tips to follow that will help you overcome these issues and gain value from a service provider like your buddy John and his company
1. One owner for project success: You really need to appoint a person whose salary and bonus depends on the success of this project. That is the only way you can make sure that any project is successful.
2. Ramp up time and sign off: From our collective experience here is a check list for successful ramp up:
- Identify one area: Usually it is a simple process that you pick up that has minimal customer interaction/impact. Just to get the ball rolling.
- Train your partner team on your process: Remember, even if you have expem trained on your process “As Ierts working on the other side, you will need to make sure that you have ths”. Have your new partner document the training. That way you will know if they understand the process and training.
- 30 day plan: You will need to allow at least 100 files/accounts/transactions to be sent out to the partner during this time. During this phase you can expect the partner team to work 1/3 the pace of your internal team and make 3 times as many mistakes. You will need to do a 100% quality check on everything that they do. Sometimes we have client teams sending out 5 files in the first 30 days because the IT team takes time to setup accounts. Training is drawn out because your team is too busy, etc. In these cases you need to extend the 30 day plan until your partner team has completed working on at least 100 files.
- 60 day plan: The goal here is to make sure that your partner team starts to improve on the speed of delivery along with reducing the quality issues. By the end of 60 days you will find your partner team work at 2/3 your team speeds and make twice as many mistakes as your internal team.
- 90 day plan: By the end of this plan the timely delivery is almost as good as your internal team and the quality delivery should be roughly the same and most of the errors that have during this period is new learning.
3. Quality Checks and internal Ramp down plan: Your partner team will make two kinds of mistakes, repeat mistakes and new learning.
- Repeat Mistakes: These mistakes are the real mistakes that happen because people did not remember what they had been trained for. This should be NO more than what happens when you hire a person for the first time. Remember your partner team is no different from someone you would hire internally within your team.
- New Learning: When you are training your partner you will have walked them through a series of use cases. When they are actually working on files/accounts/transactions there will be several scenarios that they will come up that is new and not taught by your team to them. They will have to make assumptions at times and complete the work. When your QC team reviews these files they have to mark them up as ‘New Learning’ and have your partner team add this information into the knowledgebase. That way you will not have new learning in the future.
- Quality Check Lists: If you have a series of quality check lists that you use internally that are important for your team, please provide that your partners so that they know what is important for this line of work.
- Ramp down: One of the very common issues that we find with customer teams is that your team does not allocate a certain percentage of time to QC and handhold your partner through the ramp up time. If you want your partner and your strategy to be successful, you need have a gradual ramp down for your team for each process that you hand over to your partner. The best ramp down is given below:
- Beyond 90 days have a 25% QC. Focus your QC. Not just on random checking of files processed by your team, but on files that have a larger Impact on your organization. Don’t focus on just size or amounts. Look at information like new clients, new agents, larger clients, larger premiums, higher claim probability, etc.,
Bottom line, have people that review the work that is done by your partner and given them feedback in a timely manner.
4. Success and Failiure Criterion (KRA and SLA)
- Timely delivery: Let your partner team know the expectation that you have from your internal team. For example you might tell your partner “We do 40 files in a day here. We look forward for you to meet this number by the end of the two months.” This help the partner figure out the rest.
- Quality delivery: Make sure that you let the partner know up front about the quality standards you have. If you have a quality tracking system please let your partner know this. Allow them to succeed by ensuring that you measure them on the same yardstick as you measure your own team.
- Timely feedback: Different business use partners differently. If your business uses service partners as a set of trained people that do as they are told, then use the first system. But this is more overhead on your organization. Many times companies start off with the first approach and then move into the second approach listed below
i. For every question: Here the partner company asks a question every time they have one and not use the knowledge that they have gained from previous work they have done on similar files.
ii. Extrapolate: If you are sure of your partner’s caliber and decision making, then go ahead and have them work on this method where they build a knowledgebase with any new learning and then make sure that they use this system to help ensure that they refer to the knowledgebase for new files that they process. This helps them build their confidence and you to reduce your work. The good thing is that you are going to QC their work anyway. We recommend that you go with this option but make sure you let you team know.
5. Communication and Issues Management
- Knowledgebase: Insist on creating a knowledgebase and review this with your team. This helps everyone become more familiar with the process. Remember, if your partner team learns quickly, it is good for you and your costs.
- Standard Operating Policy (SOP) and Operating Rhythm (OR) for successful communication:
- Issue management: There will be issues and when there are please make sure of the following:
i. Keep you cool: There is no point in yelling at people. Focus on the problems at hand. Track the issues and make sure they are all worked on one by one. Don’t get defensive. Most teams tell us that they are not defensive and when we get into a call they tell us how it is not their problem.
ii. Corrective measures: Have the team come up with a corrective measure for the issue on hand before trying to solve world hunger. Just focus on the customer and take care of their problem. If it is going to take time, have your team come with a plan on when they are going to fix it and then track it.
iii. Preventive measure: Make sure that you come up with a way of fixing the root cause of the problem so that it NEVER happens again. This can be achieved using the ‘Root Cause Analysis’ techniques.
iv. Tracker and Dashboards: Have a tracker in a spreadsheet (Check with your VA partner for one of these) when you are ramping up the project. Then you can move to converting it into a dashboard. As a CXO, insist on reviewing this everyday yourself for even 10 minutes. This is critical for the success of the project.
Follow these ramp up plans and you will start every project the way it is meant to be started and you will execute every strategy to success. Call us at VA. We are here to help!