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Agile Outsourcers where art thou?

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It’s going to be hard not to offend some outsourcers with this post. I’m hoping they’ll be too busy to care, or that their processes don’t include ‘reading blogs’.

A little bit of my heart broke when I heard that Voice sold to Capita last week. I know the outsourced market space has shape shifted like nobody’s business over the last 20 years. But, where oh where can clients put their 10/50/100 seats and feel like they are being loved, cared for and safe from being sucked up by one of the giants?

Overly sentimental? Probably. Grounded in experience of both? Unfortunately.

I have seen clients almost screaming about the hoops that they have had to go through with the ‘big boys’. They pretend they are ‘fleet of foot’: ‘agile’, and here’s the funny one – ‘flexible’ but how can they be? With thousands and thousands of seats and services clients have to fit into their infrastructure.

Of course they are exceptional at delivering certain types of services and they also add value to their clients (who doesn’t love a nice lunch at an interesting seminar in the US HQ?). But, is the market just going to offer clients the choice of suppliers in tier 1 or the niche/ small players in tier 3?

Come on 2nd tier outsourcers, sort it out! Getting your proposition clear - winning business is so very tough but you have do everything you can to take the best from what the big boys do whilst offering your clients real agility, personality and innovation.

There are tonnes of other things you have to do but clients really do not want to be dictated to by outsourcers with an overly inflated sense of superiority. Neither do they want to pay the earth for set up; sit in a change control process that take up an inordinate amount of time; or pay for attendees at the outsourcer to be at their scoping meetings (!!) but they do.

And they do because the big boys ‘sell’ (too far – probably) to one of Maslow’s basic hierarchy – safety.

Now, more than ever the services outsourcers offer really matter. As everyone knows customer service, client acquisition and retention are on the balance sheets with profitable returns against the investment. This means no client can afford to take the decision lightly. And neither should they.

But…

“Giants are not what we think they are. The same qualities that appear to give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”*

Please keep fighting 2nd tier. Clients need choice. And, just like in retail there is a place for the supermarkets but there should also be independents.

Rant over – off to get my weekly order from the super-efficient, quality butchers down the road who make me feel that my business really matters to them…


*Malcolm Gladwell - David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

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Comments

A really interesting, provocative article, Nerys! If the consolidation of outsourced customer management market is ‘back on’, then the Tier 2 players really do need to review their proposition and core competencies. Outsourcing has always struggled to shake off a narrow, cost-reduction efficiency perspective in favour of a broader focus on effectiveness. From a client viewpoint, the challengers to Capita and the other ‘big boys’ need offer something more than efficiencies of scale and wage arbitrage – but can they do so unless they can ‘own’ more of the moving parts of customers’ increasingly complex journeys?