Structuring Success in a New Client-Vendor Relationship

By Avis D. Bullard, Christy Tedeschi and Tari Hall

When it comes to running a business, there are certain processes an organization is naturally apt to do. For tasks outside an organization’s core competencies, however, it can be wise to seek an outside vendor. This was a realization the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) faced when seeking to manage its certification fulfillment program.

While an organization may prefer to keep processes and tasks in-house, the benefits of outsourcing can include reducing costs (which translate into savings), while allowing employees to do what they do best, as management guru Tom Peters states[i]. Additionally, outsourcing has the potential to produce better outcomes while improving accuracy and efficiency, which are essential from a quality performance perspective.

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) faced the challenge of effectively managing its certification fulfillment program. There are many facets in fulfilling certificate orders, including generating the excel spreadsheet to create the approved certificates, proofing certificates, and then printing, packaging and shipping them. Plus, BPS offers additional products such as framing or additional certificates. BPS chose to streamline this process by having one vendor manage certificates, frames and lapel pins.


Outsourcing has the potential to produce better outcomes while improving accuracy and efficiency, which are essential from a quality performance perspective.


BPS operates a complex certification program that includes 12 different pharmacy specialties such as pharmacotherapy, ambulatory care and geriatric pharmacy. Each specialty needs a certificate for initial certification and recertification, resulting in 24 different certificates generated for fulfillment, which is no small feat. BPS staff were managing these activities in-house, which led to a discussion about ways to improve the method of handling the program. BPS wanted to reduce time spent on sourcing their products through multiple vendors. The staff concluded it was inefficient when certificates were printed by one vendor, pins were ordered from another, and staff spent hours packaging mailing tubes.

The BPS Director of Quality Assurance wanted to make the fulfillment process easier and also improve customer service. BPS has a commitment to candidates that a complimentary certificate and lapel pin will be sent to certified pharmacy specialists within 90 days after notification of certification. By outsourcing the certificate fulfillment process, BPS saw major opportunities to meet certificant expectations for receiving their certificates faster, increase delivery reliability, improve the quality of the certificates using newer technology like watermarks, and decrease turnaround time. These opportunities were part of BPS' continuous process improvement initiative. One of the most critical steps in outsourcing is vendor selection, so timing worked out well when the BPS staff stopped by a certificate vendor booth at the ICE Exchange in 2017. After a brief overview of capabilities, BPS set up a meeting with the vendor to learn more. The main benefit for BPS staff was finding a solution to create efficiencies in the printing and delivery of certificates and related items.

After careful consideration, BPS decided to partner with the certificate vendor on a consolidated fulfillment process. The company designs and administers an online platform where certificants are directed to claim their products from a BPS-branded site. Certificants preview their certificate, which helps eliminate printing errors. Driving the certificants online can bring in some non-dues revenue when a certificant upgrades to a framed piece, because BPS shares in a portion of the extra revenue. This service offers additional value to certificants who can receive their certificate framed and ready to hang, while increasing BPS brand exposure.

BPS also instituted a performance scorecard with their new certificate vendor as they do with each vendor relationship. The scorecard measures selected performance criteria, the highest weightings placed on vendor service performance and product quality. The vendor is evaluated quarterly on their efficiency and this particular company reached a score of 100% as of the second quarter of 2019. Vendors can also benefit from the scorecard by learning new ideas to improve efficiency. The vendor can than proactively apply the lessons learned to their current roster of clients.

In continuing to foster and strengthen their relationship, BPS and the certificate vendor routinely touch base to discuss potential issues and avoid pitfalls. While working with the company, the BPS Certification Manager felt that creating a pre-constructed timeline for the 90-day turnaround window created transparency, which allowed BPS and the vendor to work more effectively. The timeline gave the vendor an idea of what to expect on certain dates and BPS knew what to expect from them. The goal was to get the certificate orders out to the certificants quickly and accurately. When BPS determined certain launch months would result in a higher volume of certificates, the vendor and BPS set up a schedule to assure that delivery wasn't negatively impacted so recipients could expect the standard delivery time. Certificants are the lifeline of any certifying body so a designated customer service representative from the certificate vendor replies to all inquiries within 24 hours.

The new process to handle a large volume of pharmacy specialty certificates has been very successful. BPS had a specific need and outsourcing the process to a trusted certificate vendor has resulted in improved efficiency and greater customer satisfaction, while freeing resources to work on other certification activities for quality improvement.

[i] Peters, Thomas J and Waterman, Jr., Robert H. In Search of Excellence; Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies (2004), HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.

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