Call Center

Choose Your Business Partners with Care

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Conference planners sometimes ask me to sit on a panel. The common format is that each panelist makes an initial presentation, followed by a Q&A. Other times the presentations are longer, with no time for questions.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Most of my panel experiences have not been good. For my first one, my fellow panel members dismissed my suggestion to coordinate our presentations. I went last and was alarmed when the first panelist covered some of my planned remarks; the third person addressed most of the rest. I needed to come up with new content at the last minute.

Once, at an early morning panel, one of the panelists stayed up all night partying. Sitting next to me, he smelled like a brewery. His speech was slurred, his judgment impaired, and his humor – some of which was directed at me – was not so funny. I spent the entire time praying he wouldn’t get sick on me. I doubt he realized he made a fool of himself and demeaned the rest of us in the process.

Another time I thought I was safe. Three of us discussed our remarks in advance, but the fourth person was vague, implying he would ad lib something aligned with our presentations. He went just before me. The first two people gave practical advice, as was my plan, but the third guy diverged into high-level theory, giving a well-conceived strategic vision for the future. He outclassed us all – and I had to follow him.

Not surprisingly, I no longer agree to sit on panels. I’m fine with solo presentations, where success or failure sits solely on my shoulders, but keep me away from group presentations.

In business, we often have occasions to partner with others. Like my panel opportunities, these seem easy to do, require less prep, and share risk. The key word is seem.

Here are three areas to consider:

Affiliate Marketing: Affiliate marketing is performance-based promotion, where one entity (a person or an organization) pays another entity for each lead or sale generated from the first entity’s customer base. Often done via email, there is little cost and a potentially high payoff. Bill stuffers is another example. At a basic level, a company allows an ad aggregator to place relevant promotions on its website. The payoff is pay-per-click revenue.

Recently I bought a tutorial from someone I met at a convention. This person added me to his mailing list and began blasting out affiliate marketing pitches on a weekly basis, with multiple messages for each promotion. I grew weary of the hype and eventually unsubscribed, even though I was open to buy future products from him. Because of his implied endorsement of the people he promoted (some who I deemed questionable) and his unrelenting marketing for them, he lost me as a customer.

Strategic Alliances: Sometimes we seek opportunities to better serve clients by working with other businesses to provide a one-stop solution. A basic example is using an interpreting service to communicate with callers in languages not covered by internal call center staff. A more involved example is a telephone triage operation working with a medical answering service to provide a unified experience.

When seamlessly integrated, the caller doesn’t realize the handoff, and interaction occurs flawlessly. But when there’s a problem, the caller sees only the initial call center, blaming it for any shortcomings of its partner. Reselling products or services is another example, as is bundling services provided by other businesses. In all cases, we can succeed and fail based on what our alliance partner does or doesn’t do.

Outsourcing: At times it makes sense to outsource work, such as low-volume third-shift calls or high-volume overflow. Other examples include passing along certain types of work, such as an inbound-only center outsourcing outbound calls, a sales operation outsourcing customer service, or a financial services call center outsourcing other verticals, such as media or telecom. In each instance, our reputation is partially placed in the hands of someone else. Can we risk it?

Whether it’s affiliate marketing, strategic alliances, or outsourcing, we must proceed with care, not allowing someone else to control our reputation or results.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.