How To Introduce Change to Long- Term Clients
Instituting meaningful change across a largescale business is a daunting task. Many within the organization, from management to front-line workers, will initially resist any shift in their daily activities. “We’ve done it this way for years. Why change things now?” The key is understanding, explaining, and executing these whys, which can be done through clear leadership, defining goals, and continual team alignment. At DATAMARK, we have a proven history of assisting our long-term partners through seemingly impossible changes, whether they be related to logistics, finances, or other back-office support services. This diverse business book has allowed us to boil down the fundamentals of introducing change.
Clearly Define the Change and Align it to Business Goals
Before beginning any change, a simple question must be answered: What needs to change, and why does it matter? Because Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) is constantly evolving, subject-matter expertise and the ability to identify areas of weakness are essential. For example, the industry was built upon back-office mailroom functions. Much of that has become automated in the last decade as companies put forth concerted efforts to become less paper-heavy. To maintain or improve efficiencies, it’s critical to understand the tech and automation behind lower-value tasks. Streamlining these processes then allows companies to focus on higher-value work.
What are we automating, and how are we automating it? Where can we do it quicker and with less touch? Can we offer options where our partner’s customers do less work? There are many tools out there that can be used, such as IVRs (interactive voice recognition) and bots. What systems best fit the needs of our partner? These questions must be asked, too, because the client needs always drive end goals. Part of the value we bring is that we offer innovative ideas and solutions as the subject-matter experts in the field to determine if they’re good fits for our partners. Every business will have different needs and different requests. Some want a higher-value, personal-touch approach (less automation). Others want as few transactions as possible. Clearly define what needs to be changed and how the solution will align with the business goals.
Provide the Case for Change
The most consistent case for change in most organizations is how outsourcing essential business functions allows the organization to focus on its core business. A tire company, for example, needs to make tires that will take care of you and your vehicle, keep you safe, and get you from Point A to Point B. We want them to focus on making tires rather than handling a contact center.
Currently, in the BPO industry, we’re all dealing with the consequences of a tight labor market that resulted from the “great resignation” during the COVID pandemic. This decreased supply of workers seeking entry-level and service roles and has led many companies to reevaluate what to do and how to pay for it. This is particularly true in markets that have seen a significant upward shift in pay levels over the past couple of years. How do I continue to operate and keep my company in business without putting myself out of business by paying too much for work we need to get done? Offering insight into addressing these issues is a core catalyst to inspire change.
Communicate Changes to Management First
Once changes have been defined and a solid case for them is established, the leadership team must be involved. These leaders will inevitably trickle information down to their employees. As such, they are getting their buy-in from the get-go and cannot be overlooked. Engage them, get their feedback, and determine why some details will work and others won’t. No decisions should be made in a vacuum. Focus on the whys, not the how, who, etc. Why are we doing it? What’s the importance? Why is this the direction for you, the client, and the company? Understanding the vision behind the change will explain everything else.
Obtain Management Support for Change
You’ll push a rock up a hill if the leadership team isn’t on board. Getting the support of leadership, foundationally, is a step that needs to get done to achieve goals in a consistent and timely manner. It’s detrimental to change if you don’t have an aligned team in terms of vision and strategy. When individuals are not aligned, have a conversation with them to discuss the strategy and why it’s being implemented.
It’s not necessarily bad if team members are not initially aligned. Ask them why they’re pushing back so strongly, and listen to what issues they have. This can improve the overall results. The more significant concern is once the plan is in motion. At that point, everyone needs to agree to go forward. If someone works counter to that, coach them and advise them that it can be highly detrimental to the company. Once a critical mass has been reached, you need to get everybody aligned and reset the expectations of where we’re trying to go and what that will look like for everybody.
Involve Employees in the Change
Whenever significant changes are implemented, or there’s a large-scale shift in direction within a company, an important step is organizing a campaign to pull the entire team together. This can be achieved through town halls or roundtable sessions where objectives are discussed at a high level. This is where we are, where we’re looking to go, and how we plan to get there; this is your role. From here, feedback from front-line workers can further fortify the strategy.
They Understand the Process just as Much
In many cases, they understand the day-to-day of the business better than anyone else. Allow them to poke holes in the plan and listen to their concerns. During this process, reinforce with them the different layers of management. Tying this back into the vision when conducting coaching conversations, talking through performance, and working through action plans will help ensure that performance metrics are where they need to be. Everything you do must be aligned and pointing in the right direction. Periodic check-backs are good to redirect as needed.
When working with front-line workers, emphasize the importance of what they do. At DATAMARK, we have a group that supports non-emergency calls that come in through the emergency system. We have a team that helps financial organizations pay bills. We have skilled personnel in healthcare. The list goes on. The point is that they all make a tremendous impact on individual lives. They provide exceptional value and make people’s day. Sometimes, reminding them of their impact can bring on significant change. What does your job do when you do it well, and how can slippage negatively impact others? Highlight the significance of doing the job as effectively as possible and how they play into that.
Implement the Change
Now that leadership is on board, and we took into consideration the opinions of front-line workers. It’s now time to implement the change. In similar fashion, defining roles on both sides is vital (i.e., the BPO company and the client). Who is the subject-matter experts that we’ll work with to understand their business better? Or negotiating with for contracts? Who are we working with on a day-to-day basis? From here, clarify the final roles of who is responsible for what. Clearly defining these and comparable duties ensures a cleaner line of communication and that nothing drops off.
In BPO, effectively implementing change involves aligning with the client’s core purpose. However, it is something that you can’t rush, and needs time. Many businesses will attempt to artificially speed up an implementation project, which can result in missing expectations or failing to achieve the defined goal. Due diligence must be done. The right talent must be acquired, a thorough training plan must be implemented, and the ideal systems must be leveraged and optimized. Rushing these objectives can completely derail all the hard work and turn the implementation into a disaster. A well-thought-out and deliberate process is key to performance.
Regarding timelines, they fluctuate depending on the client and the job’s complexity. Are they currently using an in-house system? Will we need to build something from the ground up? What does their talent profile look like? Will it take a while to hire the talent and train them? Many client-specific factors play into the timeline.
Follow-Up After Implementation
Once the implementation is complete, leadership must stay on top of the day-to-day and monitor how processes are going. Initially, there’s usually a level of micromanagement to ensure everything is going in the right direction. Staying ahead of day-to-day interactions pays dividends down the road. In this regard, metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play a critical role in us (the BPO side) being able to provide insights and feedback to clients. What trends are we seeing? Are we experiencing any performance gaps? Metrics and KPIs can tell a story in a lot of different ways. Having a gut feeling is never enough.
At DATAMARK, we have regular touchpoints with all of our clients. Some are daily or weekly, while others are monthly or even quarterly. The frequency varies depending on our partners’ needs. The touchpoints ensure strong alignment and eliminate gaps between expectations and our delivery. We always keep the lines of communication open and healthy to stay aligned with business objectives over time.
Celebrate the Change
Part of the DNA of our organization is celebrating successes and milestones with employees. For instance, our longest-standing client relationship is over 30 years. Hitting that 30-year mark was something we were able to celebrate with clients and within our organization. Milestones like this create a family. Similarly, only poor-performing organizations fail to recognize top performers and those who have vital successes. We intimately understand that specific roles can get heavy and challenging daily. Calls and back-office functions can be draining and take much effort. We make a point to identify leaders putting forth the required action to exceed expectations. Part of the secret sauce of any excellent BPO company is taking care of the people taking care of clients, and the business. We’re all on the same team and working toward the same goals. Taking the time to pause, reflect, and celebrate is instrumental to any performance-driven organization.
A Partnership That Lasts
When you choose DATAMARK for your BPO services, you choose a partnership that will last through the numerous challenges associated with successfully bringing about valuable change. This commitment to our partners is why our average contract length is about 17 years. In the light of you being successful, we are successful. To see how we can help your business implement change, please feel free to contact us here. For more insights, subscribe to our email newsletter and explore our content on LinkedIn.