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
- 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
View previous articles in this series.
Relationship Management For
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
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
- a common understanding of project status is known
To achieve this state, we propose a focus on four key
1. Cultivating relationships
2. Ongoing communications and follow-up
3. Meeting management
4. Meeting commitments
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.
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
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
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.
Managing the Enterprise
Relationship Management for Cross-Functional
Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for
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Upcoming Panel Discussion: Strategies for
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or
click here for more information.
hot topic these days is the outsourcing of customer call centers. David
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.
Additional Resources section of the Customer
Centricity website for more recommended reading 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
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