3 Key Tips for Providing Member Support in Combined Programs

If your company is like most companies these days, it’s likely that you serve your employees with multiple programs provided by multiple vendors.

That’s certainly not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a great way to assure that you are offering your people the best of the best. But when multiple vendors are serving an employee group, there is a potential for problems.

Perhaps the most likely problems to result from a multi-vender scenario revolve around member support. When the vendors don’t work in synchronization to provide support to a company’s employee base, employees are likely to become frustrated, demoralized, and even non-participative (to the extent that they have that choice).

You might even have experienced the dark side of multi-vendor programs yourself.

Ever had a problem that you needed to resolve, an issue that needed attention, or perhaps just a question that you needed answered? If you ended up feeling a bit like a pinball, batted around from vendor to vendor, then you experienced firsthand the result of vendors failing to work as a team.

Preventing that scenario requires that vendors work together. And that’s something that doesn’t happen by accident.

The ChipRewards team has a great deal of experience in serving employee groups in conjunction with other vendors. And over the years, we’ve learned that providing great member support in a multi-vendor scenario hinges upon three key issues.

 

1) Know the Flow

It’s important that each vendor analyze the member support flow process of each of the other vendors. Analyzing the member support flow should provide the following:

  • The answer to this question: Which vendors will be handling what type of member inquiries?
  • Documentation of a formal plan for handling member issue resolutions among all vendors

Ultimately, analyzing the support flow should clarify for all involved:

  1. How member inquiries are investigated and resolved
  2. The target turnaround time (on average) for each member inquiry
  3. A formal agreement clarifying the types of member inquiries to be handled by each vendor

Failure to analyze the support flow is a great way to assure that employees end up feeling like that proverbial pinball as they get bounced around from vendor to vendor. And without a coordinated plan in place between vendors, the average resolution time for employee issues is likely to be badly bloated.

 

2) Define a Common Language

Virtually every company on the planet has a vocabulary that’s unique to the company. That unique vocabulary may consist of no more than just a few acronyms, or it may be far more extensive.

But no matter the size of a vendor’s unique vocabulary, it’s important that vendors be proactive in assuring that each is speaking a common language when interacting with your employees. Imagine the confusion and frustration that could result when an employee must deal with two (or more) vendors that use different terminology to refer to the same thing.

And it may be more than mere semantics that leads to confusion. The different corporate cultures that your employees might experience as they deal with different vendors can also be rather jarring.

Naming conventions applied to programs; terminology; jargon; cultural attitudes — all should be tailored so that interacting with one vendor is very much the same as interacting with another.

The overarching goal?

If an employee contacts a vendor, and that vendor must transfer the employee to another vendor, it should seem like an interdepartmental transfer within the same company. It should NOT seem like a bounce from one company to another.

 

3) Monitor with Metrics

The effectiveness of the teamwork between vendors should be measured and tracked with hard numbers, and not just with vague impressions. Sure, you can get a sense of how things are going just from the general sentiment of the feedback from your employees. But it’s important to be able to refer to concrete measurements when evaluating the performance of vendors.

And that requires having a system in place to track the key metrics that can serve as indicators of vendor performance. The most important metrics to measure can vary from program to program, but the following are among the metrics that will matter in most any program:

  • First response time (ideally broken down by communication vehicle: email, phone, etc.)
  • Average resolution time
  • Call volume
  • Employee satisfaction (measured through periodic surveys)
  • Quantity of unresolved issues
  • Quantity of logged employee complaints
  • Successful resolution rate

In many instances, monitoring social media can also yield very telling indicators about the quality of the experience your vendors are providing to your employees.

Gathering these metrics and tracking them over time can provide invaluable intelligence about what your vendors are doing right, and what they are doing wrong.

 

Just One Bad Apple…

Each of the above tips share one common requirement: coordination between vendors.

Each vendor that serves your employee base must be willing to interact with other vendors. Each must be willing to communicate and coordinate with other vendors. Each must be willing to share metrics with you and with other vendors. And each must be willing to exercise a bit of flexibility when necessary.

Put simply, serving your employees as a unified team — and not treating them as pinballs — must be as important to ALL of your vendors as it is to you. After all, just one falling domino can knock the entire group down.

So perhaps the single most important tip for providing member support in combined programs? Be very careful in choosing the vendors that will be serving your employees.

Josh Smithey
josh.smithey@chiprewards.com