This is the second installment in a series outlining practical criteria for evaluating B2B service providers. Be sure to read:
- Part 1: Successful outsourcing: how to select B2B vendors
- Part 3: Why vendor industry and product focus are so important
- Part 4: How to evaluate a vendor’s commitment to innovation
- Part 5: Selecting vendors who can grow with you
The success of any outsourcing engagement extends far beyond the products or services you’re buying. Your ultimate success depends on the provider’s leadership, as well as on the team that will be handling your account day after day. Because, unlike product features, commitment, and trust aren’t commodities: they come from the people on the team.
Evaluating a vendor’s leadership
Examine the service provider’s leadership team. Review each executive’s background and tenure. How passionate are they about the customer problems they’re addressing? Here are a few indicators that leadership still retains their zeal for their business mission:
- The founding team is still part of the company’s leadership. Most founders have a deep passion for the businesses they start.
- Non-founder management team members should have a background in the service provider’s industry or have spent a good portion of their careers in that type of business.
- Leadership has a long tenure at the company, indicating passion and commitment.
Finally, ask executives what excites them about the company and the problems they’re solving.
Evaluating a vendor’s team
Some vendors excel at sales, but once you’ve signed the contract, you might find that you’re shunted off to a junior-level staff member who doesn’t understand your business.
Before you reach that point, find out who’ll be supporting you on a day-to-day basis in each of the regions you operate or plan to operate. A dedicated account manager gives you a consistent point of contact. Ensure those team members have the qualifications and technical capabilities to ensure a successful engagement. Find out who’ll be available to answer questions.
As part of your due diligence, ask about employee retention and turnover. With churn rates of 13.2% and 11.4% respectively, technology and professional services have some of the highest levels of turnover. Customer service shouldn’t be a revolving-door position in your partner’s organization.
Evaluation questions to ask a vendor
- What excites you about the customer problems you’re solving?
- Who will be my account manager? What’s their background, and how long have they been with your organization?
- Who will support me in the regions where we do business? What’s their background, and how long have they been with you?
- If we have questions, who will be available to answer them?
- What’s the average tenure of your customer service representatives?
- As my business grows, how will your team scale to support me?
- What’s your employee retention rate?