The role of outsourcing in redefining customer satisfaction
Since it burst onto the scene, outsourcing has been inextricably linked with upgrading the customer experience. But companies that initially turned to external providers to boost the quality of their help desks soon began transplanting their outsourcing strategy to other functions. The impact of outsourcing sent ripples throughout the enterprise, reaching into—and enhancing—customer relationships. Diego Rosenfeld, Consulting Principal at RSM, points out that “It’s very hard to deliver high-quality support at a help desk without having a lot of capacity, very good tools, and a tiering process.”
Those same proficiencies add value in other realms. The ability of service providers to keep bringing additional skills and efficiencies to different dimensions—from enhancing the flexibility of a company’s IT infrastructure to widening the scope of its innovation efforts—help sustain competitive differentiation. The outsourcing strategy, having first taken root in lower-value functions like payroll processing, blossomed into a potent tool in the high-stakes drive to claim new customers and maximize existing ones.
As companies work to map a steady strategy in a dizzying business environment, there’s abundant value in having a partner that can provide support and expertise. Customers have every reason to retreat from an enterprise with a wobbly technological backbone. Jim Lynch, Vice President of Human Resources and Internet Technology at U.S. Vets, says that the non-profit’s clients were ill-served by the fact that “every day there would be three of our sites down. It was just a continual pain in the neck.” In 2014, the organization started outsourcing. U.S. Vets, says Lynch, has “transitioned to an organization totally on the cloud. It’s much more reliable, and everyone’s happy.”
Technologically, as companies have had to stake out new platforms—from the cloud to mobile to social—they’ve needed to adapt while still expanding their customer base. “You need a partner who will invest in technology that surpasses the client’s expectations,” says Rosenfeld.
The impact of having such a partner reinforces customer loyalty, continuously fine-tuning the customer experience. Using a state-of-the-art service provider to manage infrastructure reduces costs, of course, but it also increases flexibility. While rooting out inefficiency—traditionally touted as the top benefit of such arrangements—outsourcing equips companies to be more responsive, a competitive edge in a marketplace populated by ever-demanding customers and ever-proliferating competitors. Companies bombarded with feedback, for example, can outsource the analysis of that data—structured and unstructured, originating on social media or in operations—to a service provider with high-powered software to distill it into valuable insights that can improve the customer journey.
“(We have) transitioned to an organization totally on the cloud. It's much more reliable, and everyone's happy.” —Jim Lynch, Vice President of Human Resources and Internet Technology at U.S. Vets
The nagging need to upgrade customer service isn’t limited to companies that cater to consumers. Among RSM’s clients are businesses that have partnered with bigger companies such as Google, Apple, and American Express. “They have very rigid security requirements for their vendors,” says Rosenfeld. “We help them meet those requirements. That’s one way to win over and satisfy clients. I can’t overstate how important that is.”
As layers of non-core activities are outsourced, company employees get in closer proximity to customers whose objectives become that much more visible. Equipped with the tools needed to enhance employees’ focus, companies can concentrate on making customers poach-proof, i.e., indifferent to solicitations from rivals. By providing access to up-to-date and integrated productivity tools, companies can attract the talent they need to innovate, which “ultimately leads to new products and capabilities and an improved customer experience,” says Rosenfeld.
FNNB, a locally owned bank in Newton, Iowa, outsources to RSM to maintain its reputation for both technology innovation and efficient, courteous customer service. Rob Kahn, the bank’s Executive Vice President, regards RSM’s resources as “top-notch.” He dubs the service provider as an “all-in-one shop” because it can provide support for areas ranging from IT to tax planning to compliance. “To be able to do that internally would almost be impossible,” Kahn adds. “The relationship is extremely important and critical to the bank’s operations.”
In addition to providing improved customer service, the tools RSM provides also enable the support staff to be more productive—which also translates into better service. Those tools, Rosenfeld predicts, will only improve as they incorporate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. RSM’s tools leverage machine learning, for example, to detect anomalous behavior, flagging unusual activity such as multiple downloads of files or logging in from two places at once. Right now, “we give them all of the tools you would expect to have in a modern workplace,” says Rosenfeld. “But there are a number of tools within the business intelligence and analytics space that will help them understand how the customer buys their services and predict the needs of customers based on historical data.” Such modernization will yield yet another transformation in customer interactions.
“To be able to provide support for areas ranging from IT to tax planning to compliance internally would almost be impossible.” —Rob Kahn, Executive Vice President at FNNB
For RSM’s customers, the ability to implement ever-more-sophisticated technology will continuously bolster the customer experience. “We’re that strategic advisor, looking around technology corners for our clients, and understanding what new technologies will be out there,” says Rosenfeld. “It’s our job to do that on behalf of our clients.” It’s a realm in which the services provider performs masterfully, as far as FNNB is concerned. Gary Kahn, the bank’s President, says that FNNB’s partnership with RSM enables bank management “to do a better job of planning, cost-control, and keeping a handle on all of our expenses.” He adds that outsourcing IT services and strategic planning to RSM “gives our board, and myself, piece of mind.”
His words make a strong case for the connection between outsourcing and customer service. After all, he sounds like the ultimate satisfied customer.
“FNNB’S partnership with RSM enables bank management to do a better job of planning, cost-control, and keeping a handle on all of our expenses.” —Gary Kahn, President at FNNB