Perfecting Service Management

Issue #40

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship(Part 3): The Account Team
by Craig Bailey

This is the third article in the series "Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship," where we discuss how managed service providers (MSPs) can effectively manage complex customer relationships while delivering solutions to the enterprise customer. In this article, we will discuss the role of the Account Team.

First, a question: what do you consider the definition of the Account Team? Often the account team is considered to be those personnel who are compensated for the revenue brought in by the account (i.e., the sales person, sales engineer, etc.). In prior editions of the newsletter we discussed the importance of managing the entire customer experience with your firm. To do so requires that personnel at your firm, beyond the sales organization, become part of the account team.

An account team should include every person that is assigned to the success of the account. In order to effectively manage the enterprise customer relationship, a company should strongly consider implementing an "account team" approach, made up of the following members, each with specific roles and responsibilities.

Member: Executive Partner

Roles/Responsibilities: Knows the Account Team and customer on a first-name basis. Removes obstacles to customer success and supports the account team in achieving success.
Key Deliverable: Shares company vision with the customer. Instills confidence in the customer that the MSP really cares about them and the customer knows where they are going and that they are a viable company.

Member: Sales/Account Manager

Roles/Responsibilities: Overall relationship owner.
Key Deliverable: Account plan.

Member: Sales Engineer

Roles/Responsibilities: Overall technical arm of Account Manager for business development.
Key Deliverable: Configuration diagram topical layout of the customer's solution.

Member: Professional Services

Roles/Responsibilities: Responsible for bringing the solution to "Production."
Key Deliverable: Customer's production solution.

Member: Customer Service Manager

Roles/Responsibilities: Responsible "Operations Supervisor" - responsible for the customer's ENTIRE service experience.
Key Deliverable: Operations Review Report which outlines "what we have done for you lately" and provides recommendations to respond to imminent issues.

Member: Technical Lead

Roles/Responsibilities: Operational soundness of the customer's configuration. "No one" touches the customer's configuration without advance notice, counsel and/or approval from the technical lead.
Key Deliverable: Document outlining how to effectively manage, operate, maintain and support the customer's solution. Includes the configuration diagram.

Assignment of the above roles can vary depending on the size and/or complexity of the account and/or product set. For example, some roles may be assigned on an "as-needed" basis (i.e., professional services). Additionally, each role may be a single person, or one person may own multiple roles.

Implementing an account team that includes all personnel assigned to the success of the account, representing each major aspect of the customer's experience with your firm, will ensure long-term success and profitability of the account.

In the next article, we will discuss how focusing on customer service as a "product" can facilitate the proactive management of the customer's entire experience with your firm. If you would like to learn more about overcoming the common challenges that managed service providers face with their enterprise customers, feel free to contact us.

View previous articles in this series

A Logistics Perspective (Part 5): Common Pitfalls in Pursuing Preferred Supplier Strategies
by Craig Thompson

In previous segments we have explored the sense and sensibility of being a preferred supplier, those attributes that are common to preferred suppliers, and some successful approaches to reaching that perception with the customer. In this and the following article, we conclude with concerns, risks and pitfalls that often haunt programs designed and implemented to achieve (and remain) preferred supplier status. We will review these in four main categories: Goal, Customer, Capability, and Realization.

Goal

Probably the best first step in committing an enterprise to achieving preferred supplier status is having a great reason. Ideally, every action of an enterprise is taken in order to realize value increased volume, margin, reduced cost, etc. Due to its nature, becoming a preferred supplier should provide strategic value. I stress this for several reasons: managing a program that differentiates cost and service deliverables to a single customer can be difficult, requires the specific commitment of new and/or scarce resources and builds and relies on the motivation of the rank and file.

Strategic value delivers capabilities for increased long-term profitability, whether through volume or margin growth. Becoming a preferred supplier in order to 'hitch your wagon to a star", increase the net new customer growth rate, achieve lower cost operating capabilities are examples of great reasons. The idea of having one is to provide the common focus of both your organization and your customer to ensure the necessary and appropriate level of commitment to the gain-sharing that will cement the long-term relationship.

Customer

The choice of which customer you are targeting isn't always up to you. Circumstances are always conspiring to create opportunities. Organizations that are responsive and flexible are positioned to recognize and seize those opportunities that offer strategic value. If these circumstances were created by a particular customer, their selection is probably intertwined with the opportunity itself.

One of the most successful programs I witnessed (and was involved in) was driven by a retailer incurring erratic order completeness from several manufacturers in a particular category. This was especially problematic during advertised specials. Our firm had a solid order delivery track record and the customer gradually began to rely on us to back-stop these events at the last minute. Not only did we realize spot volume gains but this preferred status (in one category) was leverageable to other products especially advantageous as this retailer quickly grew to become the largest in the world!

In cases where you identify in advance how you will achieve preferred supplier status and then set about identifying the target customer, you have added one huge hurdle motivating the customer to appreciate/reward (however subliminally) your actions so as to help create the targeted strategic value. Be sure the customer you choose is able to capture the value your program will offer. By the way, would this customer have picked you? Are you already recognized as being a solid supplier? Are you easy to do business with?

The true value realized from preferred supplier status isn't the overt recognition or 'pat on the back' or Supplier of the Month Award of your customer. Rather, it lies in the net value received. In fact, customers who anoint suppliers as 'preferred' sometimes do so with no other increase in net value realized or even intended.

Sometimes the customer's stated desires, if fulfilled, won't necessarily increase overall value at all. This is usually the case when the customer is merely shifting costs back to the supplier. Maybe you, the supplier, can create overall value from this desire (e.g., increasing total inventory productivity through VMI) but, if not, comply with the desire knowing that it won't make you a preferred supplier, just a lower cost one (temporarily).

We will review the final two common areas of pitfall, Capability and Realization, in the next and final article of this series.

View previous articles in this series

Contents
Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship

Recommended Reading

Common Pitfalls in Pursuing Preferred Supplier Strategies

White Paper: Preserving a Healthy Customer Base

About Customer Centricity

 


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Recommended Reading


The article Measuring Customer Relationships: What Gets Measured Really Does Get Managed by Ian Gordon, appearing in the Ivey Business Journal, complements our current series on Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship. On the premise that satisfied customers will defect but customers with a strong relationship rarely do, the article highlights the importance of measuring customer relationships, not customer satisfaction.

 

See the Additional Resources section of the Customer Centricity website for more recommended reading selections.

White Paper:
Preserving a Healthy Customer Base


If you like our articles, you'll love our white papers! Our editing team has been hard at work generating white papers from the many articles we've written over the last year.

This issue's featured white paper is "Preserving a Healthy Customer Base" by Will O'Keeffe.

Conventional wisdom has always held that keeping or renewing customers requires fewer resources than landing new business. At the same time, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to preserve the base of customers they have. This white paper presents eight simple rules for preserving a healthy customer base.

See the Additional Resources section of the Customer Centricity website for more white paper selections.


About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other key operations functions.


In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

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