We often see a question in contact center RFPs asking bidders what awards or recognition they have received. It’s a great question, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. Let’s assess the value of asking about awards when you’re searching for a call center partner.
On the surface, this question might just seem like a soapbox for contact centers to exercise bragging rights. But that’s not this RFP question’s most valuable function. Instead, it can provide a reflection of the outsourced contact center’s values, capabilities, and commitment and help you determine if you are well aligned.
Compatibility is the bedrock of any strong and healthy partnership. Both shared values and cultural alignment make business relationships sustainable. Some awards will show obvious overlap and others will not. The key to consistently validating your compatibility with an outsourced call center is to review the responses to this RFP question from a couple of different perspectives.
A quick cross-check can illuminate shared values and commitment to your core priorities. Which awards did the RFP respondent choose to include? Human resources awards? IT awards? Customer service excellence awards? A combination of categories? How do those choices align with your corporate priorities and values? Do the awards listed reflect the other questions you’ve asked in your RFP?
For example, we have responded to RFPs from companies that clearly indicate good environmental stewardship is a core value. Highlighting our award for Best Green Contact Center demonstrates that we share the same commitment to good environmental practices. Moreover, by including that specific award, we are indicating that we have carefully read the RFP and understand the corporate values and priorities of the company. Outsourced contact centers already exercising that attention-to-detail are predictably the ones that provide the most meticulous reports and metrics. In this way, the award question can serve as your “brown M&M.”
The source and extent of an award says just as much about an outsourced contact center as the award itself. Did the nomination come from a local or regional organization? Was it national or international? Were the award contenders exclusively contact centers or was there greater diversity? The organizations that a contact center is measured against gives you an idea of how they stack up in the larger world. In the end, all the answers you’ll get will give you gems of insight that are incomparable.
Think of the trade organization, non-profit, or municipality that is giving the award as a proxy for your business. By reviewing how their values parallel your business, you can get a better sense of whether or not the contact center will mesh with your business in practice.
Trade organizations give a sense of how a contact center stacks up with its peers, and the scope says even more. For example, Contact Center World’s Top Ranking Performer Awards evaluates contact centers (in-house and outsourced) on a global level, showing which companies are the contact center equivalent of the heavyweight champ. Winning any award on that list means a contact center has overcome competitors in the U.S., Canada, India, the Philippines, and other nations worldwide to get the recognition. For a business that highly values best-in-class service, there’s no further place to look than this prestigious award.
If you want to leverage a center that aligns with the empathetic human side to your contact center, it may be best to look at community and HR awards. We have responded to RFP inquiries from companies that put a significant emphasis upon community involvement and employees’ satisfaction. In response, we provided links to our Halifax Chamber of Commerce Business Award and our Nova Scotia Tourism Human Resource Council (NSTHRC) awards. With recognition from local and regional organizations showing an emphasis on human resources, we were able to show how our values were mutually aligned.
There’s an indirect question asked and answered by RFP questions about awards: what have you done lately? Why does it matter? It shows you what is currently motivating any outsourced contact center. Companies that make competition a priority are demonstrating a willingness to strive and to innovate. Their participation in peer-judged competitions indicates a “continuous improvement” mentality, as the call center will have sought out current best practices to receive recognition and will have had the chance to learn from best-in-class competitors in the process.
Even a contact center award’s exact year can differentiate the values between two different centers (if the RFP narrows you down to two). Each award year reflects different trends and mentalities in the industry and can forecast future trends. In 2013, for example, at Contact Center World competitions, most presentations focused on success as measured by KPIs like handle time, first call resolution, service levels, etc. By 2014, the industry was focused on customer experience, customer satisfaction, and customer service performance metrics like NPS with barely a nod to traditional KPIs. In fact, last year, one winning in-house contact center, an international home systems and security company headquartered in Salt Lake City, stated publically at an awards competition: “The only thing we care about is NPS – when the people who use our services will refer their friends and family, then we know we are doing a good job and our agents are doing their job well.”
Do client references point to the same values and strengths indicated by awards listed in the RFP as what the contact center does best? Can they provide clear examples? Are there areas of improvement that the center needs to work on? You’ll get some of the lowest bias in each of these responses.
Symmetry between a contact center’s self-perception and its clients’ perceptions is one of the most important part of the vendor appraisal process. When the two line up, a customer requesting an RFP can trust the objective authenticity of what has been said. Some contact centers are just rock stars at completing awards applications, but the references provided can help separate the fact from the fiction.
What we find to be one of the most important points of alignment is between what’s said in the boardroom and what is experienced out on the floor. Always ask RFP references whether there was an unequivocal connection. Outsourced contact centers who live their values in the trenches are far more likely to be consistent across their beliefs and their actions.
Now that you’ve asked all your questions in the RFP, award-related or otherwise, it’s time to review it all from the perspective of alignment. Alignment is the nucleus of every successful partnership. In the long run, price of an outsourced contact center is one component of the overall value that your partner can bring to the table. Our last three clients have chosen us over our competitors because our businesses have been well-aligned.
So if you want to maximize the screening power of your next outsourced contact center RFP, consider asking a question about awards and review the responses carefully with a keen eye for cultural alignment.
Have more RFP questions? Want help with your customer service? Please reach out to us today to get this conversation started.