When looking for a managed service provider to operate a key function or process in your organization, it can be challenging to know which criteria matter most. After all, you want good value for your investment, but you also need a partner who will scale and grow with your organization as it evolves. Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify providers who can offer both.

Though two or more service providers may look similar when you compare the kinds of basic services they perform and their prices, you should consider other factors before making a selection. Here are the key characteristics you should look for—and expect—in an ideal managed service partner:

10 Factors to Look For When Selecting a Managed Service Provider

1. Industry Expertise

Regardless of the service, it’s likely some of your organization’s needs are shaped by your industry. Given the norms and legal requirements that vary by industry, it’s essential to work with a service provider who possesses the knowledge and experience of working with organizations like yours. 

In background screening, healthcare organizations must work with a background check company with proven success in meeting industry-specific requirements for screening candidates and employees. For example, while some screening services may be similar across industries, such as a criminal records search or a social security number (SSN) trace, a healthcare employer needs a screening company also skilled in conducting sanction checks and credential verifications.

2. Accreditation

Depending on their area of focus, service providers may be accredited by an industry association. Industry accreditation is one key characteristic affirming a provider’s ability to operate at the highest standards of work quality, compliance, professionalism, and other areas.

For background screening providers, accreditation by the Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) is an indication the provider meets strict standards set for all background screening companies. Any screening company not accredited by the PBSA is likely to perform to varying standards for compliance, business processes, professionalism, and accuracy in screening.

3. Automation Technology 

A quality managed service provider should possess the technology capable of helping you automate manual processes and improve work efficiency—and it shouldn’t be just any technology. There can be a noticeable difference between service providers who use proprietary software designed to meet client needs and those using third-party, white-labeled technology designed for service providers rather than clients.

When evaluating a service provider’s technology capability, you should also look for software capable of integrating with your existing systems, for example, background screening technology integrated with your applicant tracking system (ATS). Ultimately, the technology the provider offers should combine with human analysis and judgment to help you work more efficiently.

4. Customization to Meet Your Unique Needs

Providing the basic level of service is an entry-level qualification for managed service providers, so it’s critical to select a provider who can customize its offerings to meet your specific needs. 

If you seek a service provider who offers customized, innovative solutions, you’re not alone. A Deloitte survey revealed 71 percent of company executives want service providers to innovate rather than merely improve back-office functions. So instead of engaging in a provider relationship where services are offered almost like a commodity, you should expect a provider who listens to your needs and configures solutions capable of supporting your organization’s goals and growth.

[INFOGRAPHIC] Key factors to consider when comparing background screening  service providers »

5. Efficient Turnaround Times

Given the pace of business today, you don’t have time for slow or inefficient service providers. However, you also recognize that a fast service doesn’t help you if it is full of errors, compliance risks, or missing critical information. 

Thankfully, when you work with an experienced and capable managed service provider, you can achieve both efficiency and accuracy. In the case of background screening, it’s possible to work with a provider who offers industry-leading turnaround times coupled with quality. As a result, you get accurate background data to help you avoid making poor hiring decisions and damaging your organization’s reputation and bottom line.

6. Comprehensive Services

A provider offering a limited selection of services is likely to have trouble meeting future service level agreement expectations. Therefore, it’s essential to work with a provider who offers a broad range of services your organization may desire down the road. For example, in background screening, your current needs may include the “basics,” such as a criminal records search, SSN trace, employment verification, and drug screening. But later, your needs may expand to include services such as continuous monitoring or fingerprinting.

7. Transparent Pricing

With any service provider, you understandably want to review the fees associated with specific services. However, by looking deeper than the upfront fees, you can begin to see the difference between a provider who offers value versus one focused solely on profitability. 

One way to understand if a service provider offers transparent pricing is to ask if you’re paying only for the services you use or if you’re also paying for bundled services, some of which you may not even need. It’s an important question for helping you understand the value you’re getting for each dollar invested in a service. Though bundled services often promise value, they may be little more than an attempt to charge you for services you won’t use.

8. Compliance and Risk Management Support

Just about every service your organization utilizes is governed by some kind of federal or state regulation. For example, in background screening, compliance is so essential that it can mean the difference between getting accurate background check results and taking actions which might put you at odds with background screening laws such as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). But when you work with a compliance-minded screening provider, you get help navigating applicable laws so you can spare your organization costly lawsuits, fines, and other penalties.

9. Quality Assurance Processes

No managed service provider will say it isn’t committed to quality, but not all vendors possess the necessary quality assurance processes. When evaluating a provider, be sure to look for proven processes designed to avoid errors and reporting inconsistencies. Instead of accepting verbal guarantees from a salesperson, ask questions about the processes the service provider relies on to consistently deliver quality.

10. Customer Support

For the level of service you require, you need more than an online knowledge base or an overseas call center operating outside of your time zone. Instead, you need a partner who listens to your questions and offers solutions to address any pain points as they emerge. A managed service provider who works as a trusted partner offers the following customer support: 

  • A dedicated customer success manager to work with you
  • Responsive U.S.-based phone support
  • In-platform direct messaging services to meet your needs 

How to Select the Best Managed Service Provider for Your Organization

Evaluating managed service providers is often a detailed and lengthy process. According to RFP360, the average RFP process can take an estimated 6-10 weeks. To use your time wisely, you’ll need to distinguish between the many different options and determine which will work best for your organization. To achieve success, you should design a thorough RFP process taking into account all the critical variables important to you. 

Take the following actions to operate an RFP process to identify the ideal managed service provider for your needs:

  • Do your due diligence: Perform some initial research to help weed out providers not worth inviting to your RFP, for example, those with lots of poor online reviews and those not accredited by a reputable industry association.
  • Speak to prospective providers early: Conduct a discovery process so you can share your expectations with prospective providers and hear their approach to service delivery. Often, a 15-minute conversation with prospective providers can do wonders in helping you determine if a provider is aligned with your needs and should be invited to the RFP.
  • Ask deeper questions: Include RFP questions covering not just what providers do and for what price, but how they do it and the ways they deliver value over the long term.
  • Involve relevant stakeholders: Make sure all the necessary stakeholders are involved in selecting the provider, including internal champions, process owners, and end users.

Build a Lasting Service Provider Partnership

With all the available options, determining which service provider is the best one to meet your organization’s needs isn’t a fast and easy process. However, by considering the necessary variables and operating an RFP process focused on more than just price, the right choice will rise to the top of your list of prospective providers. 

When evaluating background check companies to help improve the effectiveness of your hiring process, you can identify your ideal partner by reviewing criteria such as price transparency, technology integration, customization, and many more. To learn the eight key factors to consider when comparing background check companies, download our Competitor Comparison infographic.

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