Great CX Partnerships Need More Than Just the RFP Process

Great CX Partnerships Need More Than Just the RFP Process

Malin Gustafsson Kvarnström - 02.26.2024

At Teleperformance, we sell our services to other companies, or what is called Business to Business (B2B) in the sales jargon. The way one company sells to another is usually through a process called Request for Proposal (RFP). The company with a requirement issues a summary of what they need and experts in this area are invited to send their proposal for a solution.

I have often said to my peers in the industry that this process is flawed for many years now. The problem does extend beyond our industry, but if everyone uses this process, how can it be so problematic?

The single most important problem is that the RFP usually places guardrails around a potential solution – it often defines how the service should be delivered and then simply asks interested companies to quote for the project. A much smarter process would define the problem and desired outcome and then allow the companies answering the RFP to suggest a solution and name their price. Let the experts suggest the solution, rather than just pricing a suggested solution that comes from the company requiring help.

This isn’t a new problem. When I started looking around for examples of how the RFP process lets down companies on both sides of the contract, I even found opinion pieces from almost 20 years ago saying exactly the same thing.

Teleperformance offers different digital business services to our clients today, including analytics, trust and safety, AI, business transformation, and back-office processing. However, we started out in customer service, and this is still what many of our clients require.

Customer service processes create a particular issue with the RFP process. Until recently, the volume of customer interactions has always been correlated with the number of agents required to handle customer service processes. So, if you are expecting more calls, then you need more agents in the contact center – simple.

This led to most customer service contracts being priced by the Full-time Equivalent (FTE) agent. Put simply, this means that the client requiring a customer service partner will estimate how many customer calls or interactions there will be and how many agents should be required to handle that volume. When quoting a price in the RFP process, the customer service specialist just names a price per FTE. If the solution requires 200 FTEs, then the cost of the contract is 200 x the rate for one FTE.

Viewed from 2024, this does look strange, doesn’t it?

The contract is not priced with any focus on customer satisfaction, business transformation, or any other positive outcome. It merely says this is how many agents are needed to answer these calls and here is the fixed price.

The Modern Reality

The modern reality of designing a fantastic customer experience will require engineering design, cloud services, coders creating bespoke solutions, and training artificial intelligence. Repetitive tasks may be removed through the use of robotic process automation and agents can be supported by AI systems that listen and advise on the next best action.

The process of designing a modern customer experience is no longer focused on planning to have the capacity to answer a certain volume of calls. It now requires the client and customer service specialist to look at those customer interactions, to explore the channels used and how the customer journey may evolve to help the business transform.

What if you posted helpful videos on YouTube, describing solutions to the most frequent customer questions, and that action eliminates 10% of customer calls? Then add a highly intelligent Generative AI solution that handles around 30% of the remaining calls. Suddenly the call volume has almost halved, but the questions will be more complex because customers reaching an agent will only have problems that Google and the AI could not answer.

Designing a customer journey where positive customer interactions and customer satisfaction are the expected outcomes is far more complex than just specifying how many agents should be answering calls.

A modern customer service specialist will not only explore how to improve the process today, but will also plan how these customer interactions can evolve over time: what will your customer service process look like next year and the year after? Are you exploring new channels or even the metaverse? Are you changing the way your agents are trained and supported so they can spend their time trouble-shooting more complex problems?

Any company that needs support with their customer service processes today should ask potential partners how they would plan a customer experience road map into the future, rather than defining the solution in an RFP and naming a price.

It’s hard to develop strong partnerships from the RFP process because the client has already decided what they want. They just want to know the contract price for whatever is listed in the RFP.

We need to evolve more mature processes across the entire industry so companies that need help with their customer service processes can feel comfortable asking what is needed and what is possible, rather than just asking how much will it cost to outsource the existing processes.

Modern customer service demands a strong partnership. Contact us today to learn more about how Teleperformance can help you through digital business services!

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