I once worked at a contact center that had a contract with a state agency. One of the contract terms stated that they could show up unannounced at our facility any time they wanted to in order inspect our operations. We had been in business for a couple of decades at this point and had served hundreds of clients, including other government entities. We took pride in having relationships that were mutually respectful as well as productive because we effectively partnered with our clients. Client visits were a big deal to us. They took some planning because we typically presented status, provided agents and staff for round table discussions and cleared the account manager’s calendar so they could host the client.

Looking back, I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when this particular client showed up unannounced. I still recall greeting “Mindy” (not her real name) at the reception desk. She quoted the contract language at me and seemed kind of pleased with herself. I got the impression that she wanted to catch us doing something wrong. It didn’t feel good but like a good partner I grinned and bore it, had the busy account manager rearrange her schedule and scrambled with all the logistics that go into a productive and professional client visit.

This client clearly didn’t want a strategic partner. They wanted an order taker. Vendors can and will accommodate that model. In a recent KPMG survey, 46% of large organizations indicated that they want their outsourcers to be true partners. Which means that 54%, like this client, aren’t interested in this approach.

Personally, I think the 46% who want a true partnership are on the right track. In my experience, it produces better results. But it’s not easy. It requires, from both sides, hard work, mutual respect, trust and transparency, clear and honest communication, and a solid understanding of roles and responsibilities and performance expectations. It’s also a gift that has to be well cared for by the vendor, otherwise the vendor can be demoted back to order taker status and be subject to vendor management techniques like, say, surprise site visits!

So, yes, it is possible to have a strategic partnership with an outsourced contact center. When done right, it can produce great results and pleasantly engaging business relationships. Perhaps a better question is why wouldn’t you take this approach?

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