When a company decides to outsource their customer communications to a service provider, that doesn’t mean the work is done. The vendor must be monitored and managed to ensure that they’re complying with negotiated service level agreements. Savvy customers take managing their vendors to the next level – by conducting periodic audits for quality controls and best practices.
An audit is more than a site visit or quarterly performance review. An audit requires a multi-day site visit to monitor operations at times with significant volumes of print, mail and fulfillment. During the visit, the auditors examine technology, review software and workflow, inspect security controls, and interview select employees and management. If possible, the auditor will follow a production file from receipt, to print, to insert and presort.
Following the site visit, a report should be created that identifies all deficiencies, risks and remedies. Review the report internally, to ensure that everyone involved agrees with the issues presented. Make sure that there’s consistency on rating the severity of a deficiency and associated risks.
For example, the auditor may note there isn’t any scheduled preventative maintenance (PM) for the equipment. This should be identified as a deficiency with moderate risk. Equipment that has regularly scheduled maintenance performs more consistently and breaks down less often. The remedy is simple – add PMs to the calendar.
The report should be reviewed with the vendor, allowing them the opportunity to respond. For example, they may want to provide important information that the auditor didn’t receive during their visit. The original report can be updated with the vendor’s comments, and become a working document for future discussions. Good vendors see audits not as a “gotcha”, but as an opportunity to improve their operation.
Outsourcing is an important strategy in the customer communication process. Well planned, executed, and shared audits improve service and expectations – for clients and their service providers.