Perfecting Service Management

Issue #42

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship (Part 5): The Operations Supervisor
by Craig Bailey

This is the fifth 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 expand on the role of the "Operations Supervisor", introduced in the prior newsletter edition.

If properly implemented, the "operations supervisor" role will ensure that effective communications are occurring between the "four quadrants" of the relationship discussed in part 2 of this series (see previous newsletters). This is critical to ensure that the customer:
  • Clearly understands the value delivered, and has a ready answer to the question "what have you done for me lately?"
     
  • Observes the MSP proactively pointing out existing or impending areas of concern
     
  • Is presented the "full context" of day-to-day service and support issues, why they occur, what was done to resolve them and why they won't occur again
     
  • Feels comfortable that they are doing business with a "partner" that truly cares about their success

The operations supervisor is a role that actually goes by many names (Premier Care Representative, Customer Service Manager, Technical Account Manager, etc.). In a nutshell, this person orchestrates ALL operational activities for a specific account / customer. This role is typically filled by personnel assigned to the success of a handful of "key" or "major" accounts. Alternatively, various aspects of what is discussed below can be provided to all customers if the appropriate processes and tools are in place to effectively "bubble-up" information on a proactive basis.

A key responsibility of the operations supervisor role is that of conducting a periodic operations review process for each of their assigned accounts, in which all members of the account team participate, along with the customer. The frequency of this process and depth of the reporting that is reviewed should be commensurate with the complexity (both technical and business-wise), strategic importance and volume of activity associated with the customer. Following is a template of an operations review report.

Operations Review Meeting & Reporting Template

In the next article in this series, we will provide an in-depth overview of the operations review process.

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.

 

Relationship Management For Cross-Functional Projects
by Kathy Pagones O'Neill

Today's most successful organizations have instituted flexible processes to enable cross-functional teams to achieve business objectives. The customer service organization is often the business sponsor of those initiatives that directly touch the customer. It is often the responsibility of the sponsor to own or delegate initiative or project oversight responsibility. A substantial piece of this oversight is developing an effective relationship with the matrix project team.

Depending on the size and functional breadth of the project team, there may be a number of relationships that the project manager must develop and manage. Relationship management best practices can help to ensure effectiveness and comfort in this role.

Our article this week offers some relationship management practices to consider when faced with the challenge of managing a large, matrix project team. These practices may be intuitive and common sense to many, but those who are newer to the project manager role may find them useful.

Successful relationship management can be achieved when:

  • appropriate and effective rapport exists among the project manager and the project team
     
  • there is a shared understanding of expectations
     
  • credibility of project oversight is established and recognized
     
  • a common understanding of project status is known

To achieve this state, we propose a focus on four key areas:

1. Cultivating relationships
2. Ongoing communications and follow-up
3. Meeting management
4. Meeting commitments

Cultivating relationships

It's important that everyone on the team knows who is on the team and that an opportunity to develop a shared understanding of goals and expectations exists. A project kick-off meeting is an effective forum to achieve this step. Team introductions followed by a review of project goals, organization, and communication channels will enable a common understanding of deliverables and role expectations.

Ongoing communications and follow-up

Project communications encompass one-on-one, small group and mass communication. All three are critical to sustaining effective relationships. Defining a communication strategy prior to the kick-off meeting and refining it as the project progresses is a proactive way to ensure the necessary communication channels are in place. The communication strategy may include a communication recipient list and what they "need to know when", a status report template, the schedule of team and sub-team meetings, an issue tracking and resolution template, etc.

Demonstrating active listening helps to establish an environment where team members feel their input and concerns are being heard. Project team members need to know where they can go to express concerns and the appropriate approach to reporting issues. Identifying and communicating these processes to the team will help to sustain effective relationships across the team.

Meeting management

There are many courses and books devoted to this topic so we will just touch upon it here. It's important to recognize that there are different types of project meetings, (e.g., status, design, issue resolution, etc.) and the approach taken to manage each meeting is dependent its objective. The communication strategy may offer guidelines to team members on how to conduct the various types of meetings.

Excessive meetings or improperly managed meetings may negatively impact the relationships among the team members. The project oversight leader can help set the example by running meetings according to the agenda and within the allotted time, being prepared, and demonstrating active listening.

Meeting commitments

To meet project objectives, commitments made by all team members must be met. This expectation must be established up front as an operating principle. This should be established initially at the kick-off meeting and then monitored as part of the status reporting and communication process. Again, the project oversight manager can set the example by delivering on her/his commitments to the team and other project stakeholders.

In summary, the relationships among project team members are shaped by a spectrum of individual experience levels, skill sets, and personality types. The project manager should take advantage of identified best practices to help establish project structure and approaches to work within the organization's culture to help facilitate positive, constructive relationships within the project team. We touched upon only a subset of these practices in this article but it may help to guide those new to the role to seek out additional practices that may work within their organization.

Contents
Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship

Recommended Reading

Relationship Management for Cross-Functional Projects

Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for Successful Growth

 

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Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for Successful Growth

Save the date: May 7, 2004

For those of you in the metro-Boston area, we invite you to join leading technology executives for a fast paced discussion focused on strategies for transforming your technology into a sustainable and successful business. The forum, entitled Strategies for Successful Growth: Building the Emerging Technology Company, is being presented by Gadsby & Hannah, LLP. Customer Centricity president Craig Bailey, along with senior executives from some of Massachusetts' greatest technology companies (EMC, Teradyne, Sonus Networks, Kewill), will present their perspectives and strategies for leveraging assets for maximum profit.

The event will be Friday, May 7, 2004, from 8:00am–10:45am, at Babson College's Center for Executive Education, in Wellesley, MA. To register, contact Dianne Willens at 617-345-6968 or dwillens@ghlaw.com, or click here for more information.

Recommended Reading
A hot topic these days is the outsourcing of customer call centers. David Myron's article Hot Spots in the February 2004 issue of CRM Magazine provides a comprehensive evaluation of nearshore and offshore options, including a comparison chart of providers by geographical region.

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

 

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We strengthen overall company performance through better service delivery and management.

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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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