When Finding The Right Dealership Services Provider Don't Forget To Ask These Questions.

Picking the right company for your business is serious business.

When dealerships look to outsource some of their staffing and training to an external services provider, they do so expecting significant operational and financial benefits.  To what extent those benefits are realized, however, is largely dictated by the people and capabilities of the services provider they choose.

While outsourcing staffing and training services can ultimately save a lot of money and time, managers can’t take this decision lightly.  Some managers seem to view the process in an off-hand way, in effect saying, “We’ll give it a try and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try another company.”  However, there can be significant risks to this approach.    A service provider’s failures can impact a dealership business; including lost reputation, lost revenues, and lost customers.

That’s why taking the time before hand to thoroughly research prospective vendors is such a worthwhile investment. By eliminating the cost and headaches of a failed outsourcing relationship, and the time and effort required to start the process again, businesses will be in a much better position to maximize the benefits they’re looking for, and see the gains faster and for a longer period of time.

The fact is there are a lot of staffing and training outsource companies, some excellent, some not. Further, the right service provider for one business may not be the best for another. To guide those in the process of searching for a new services provider, we’ve listed a few questions that decision makers should ask prospective staffing and training outsource companies.

1. Do You Have Proven Experience?

The last thing your business needs is to have a service provider that’s learning on the fly. You need a staffing services provider that has direct, long-standing experience in the services you’ve decided to outsource. People in your business who have relevant experience should ask detailed questions, and ensure the answers they’re given speak to operational expertise.

Also, try to assess how and whether a service provider can meet longer term needs. Try to look at the emerging requirements. While it’s most important to find a fit that works now, the better a staffing and training services provider can grow and adapt along with your business, the more value you’ll realize from the relationship in the long term.

2. Who Will Our Day-to-day Contacts Be?

We’ve all had this experience: Vendor representatives come in during the sales process and amaze everyone with their savvy and expertise. After the contract’s signed, those folks are never seen again, and you’re left with junior team members still finding their way. This can be particularly frustrating when things don’t always work out as planned.

It’s therefore essential to Identify and interview the people who’ll be day-to-day contacts for account management and technical support. Treat it as a job interview, and get a detailed understanding of their approach to communication, their experience, and their makeup. Look for tenure, both with the service provider and within the market segment.

3. How Quickly Are Services Provided?

What is the typical lead times required until the service is fully deployed? What services are included in the overall service cost, and what are one-time expenses? Getting clarity and honesty at this point can be vital in terms of expectation setting, and can provide a lot of insight into the vendor. Look for vendors that approach this upfront process as the building of a long term relationship, rather than a one-time transaction.

4. How Strong is Your Business?

To work with a staffing and training services provider and enjoy value in the long term, future viability is most important.  Do a vendor’s claims sound too good to be true? If so, they very well may be.  Another key to viability is a track record. While, “past results are no guarantee of future performance,” a long track record is hard to beat. If they’ve made it through the past 5-10 years, the managed services provider must be doing some things right.

Finally, take a look at the customer base—does one customer represent the lion’s share of revenues? In addition, look at how the customer base maps to your business. If they have experience with customers that are similar, whether in terms of size, or business model, that background can be a strong selling point.

5. Can I Speak with Customer References?

Talking to a staffing and training services provider’s customers is probably the most vital step of all. It’s a critical way to verify that the service provider’s answers to all your other questions are accurate and forthcoming. Does the customer attest to the company’s claims of being responsive to inquiries? Does the lead time the customer experienced jibe with the commitments the vendor is making? Also, look at the tenure of the customer’s engagements. Here again, long track records are great to see.

While ultimately you’re going to need to have trust in what these customer references are telling you, try to verify whether customers have an investment in the service provider’s business or otherwise have a stake in the vendor relationship that may influence their responses.

6. Do You Outsource Any Parts of Your Infrastructure to Other Staffing and Training Service Providers?

As prevalent as staffing and training outsourcing is today, it can make perfect sense for staffing and training service provider to outsource part of their operations to an external provider. However, it is important to understand this up front. What you don’t want is to encounter an issue and start seeing finger pointing among various outsource companies. If a vendor does use external services providers, make sure you’re clear on accountability, escalation processes, and commitments. Also, take a look at the vendor’s vendors, where they are located, what was the vetting process, and how many years have they been working together.

7. Can I See Your Contracts and Service Agreements?

Early on, try to assess the agreements you’d be getting into if you move forward with a staffing and services provider. Get clarification on what the obligations are. What kind of commitments do they make, and what happens if service levels are missed? Do they offer a performance guarantee?  If so, what is it and how will it be implemented?  What happens if you want to terminate? What are acceptable grounds for termination?  Here, beyond the specifics of the agreements, you can also infer a lot in terms of how the service provider stands behind their people and obligations.

Conclusion:

Making a staffing and training outsourcing decision doesn’t need to be a leap of faith. Asking the right questions and drilling down into the information you gather can give you the best odds of selecting a services provider that will help your business in the long term.