Perfecting Service Management

Issue #48

Tuesday, July 6, 2004


Amateur or Professional – Wait for the Bullet or Fall on the Sword?
by Craig Bailey

In our previous article "Amateur or Professional – Big Project/Little Project, a project just the same" we covered a real-life scenario that resulted from poor project management discipline and how it was remedied. What we promised to cover this time was the handling of the customer meeting that became necessary as a result of our causing significant impact to the client's business.

Preparation for a client meeting, of this nature, is absolutely critical. This includes identifying the goals and objectives of the meeting, the key topics and who will cover each. In this particular situation, where we had caused the client business impact, it became even more crucial to adequately prepare the chronology of events to demonstrate to the client that we completely understood what actually happened. After investing several hours extracting this information from the various personnel involved in the incident, we had our summary ready. A few of us put on our suits and went to visit the client.

The opening moments of a meeting such as this are the most crucial. After introductions, my opening went something like this:

"The reason we are here is because we caused significant impact to your business, probably even more significant than we realize. I am here to tell you that I take 100% responsibility for this and commit to you that it will not happen again. What we'd like to do is provide a walk-through of what happened, our key learns and what we've done to ensure that this will not happen again."

The client went with my lead, and we had a VERY cordial meeting. All well and good…I didn't realize the impact of this approach, on this particular client, until many days later…

The IT person of this particular client, who was in the above meeting, was on the phone with one of my customer service staff and commented that "My boss was ready to rip your boss a new one. Because he came right out and said "we screwed up" and took full accountability, all the venom that had built up immediately evaporated."

To be clear, this is an example of a best possible outcome, but I assure you that taking this approach consistently provides significant benefits:

  • You will ease tensions in even the toughest situations of this nature. Clients (reasonable ones at least) know that "shtuff" happens. They simply want to be assured that you understand the impact to their business and the details of what actually happened. And, that learns from the experience were taken into account to put things in place to ensure that there will not be a recurrence of a similar nature.
  • The client's confidence in you/your firm will increase because you are willing to stand up and confirm that a mistake was made and that you aren't one to make excuses.
  • Finally, your support team will observe you standing up to "take the heat" which will truly enable them to focus on what they do best (the "technical stuff").

In summary, the major lesson learned is to be proactively humble. I could have walked into the client and taken a bullet in the head. Instead, I elected to fall on my sword. By self-inflicting the pain and criticism, I created a more constructive environment that encouraged the client to move forward on positive actions and conversations.

View previous articles in this series.

Exploring Outsourcing: Eliminating Vendors
by Kurt Jensen

In previous issues we explored the most basic definition of outsourcing, RFP development, the importance of internal consensus and initial management of RFP responses. The process to this point has likely identified several respondents which have dropped to the bottom of the list due to examples as follows:

The pre-RFP response period – Did the vendor appear to want to participate? In at least one recent response the vendor positioned themselves as "…being lucky to do business with…" Another example which might push a vendor to the bottom of the list is being handed off multiple times due to ownership issues. Life events happen, but if the vendor cannot figure out who in their organization owns the RFP response, imagine what will happen in the course of operating!

Normalized compliance – The respondent does not comply in areas agreed upon by other respondents. Keep in mind if all or the majority of respondents disagree with a compliance point it may be a result of error, confusion or an un-reasonable point.

Normalized pricing – In all likelihood at least one respondent priced themselves out of consideration. This could be due to being out of touch with a competitive market place or for example specializing in Tier III support when Tier I is required.

Selecting Oral Interview Participants

Selecting vendors which will progress to the next step in the process, oral interviews, can be very challenging. A blend between qualitative and quantitative evaluation will be required in addition to intuition.

Qualitative – Examples include successful experience in your industry, quality control methodology/results, references and culture. While each of these areas involve impressions, opinions and feelings, it is best to quantify each on a comparative basis (think Excel matrix).

Quantitative – Examples include years in business, profitability/financial wherewithal, scalability (up and down), centers/seats and of course pricing. Depending upon your business requirements, a comparative analysis based upon matching models will serve to highlight oral interview considerations.

Intuition – How do you feel about the respondent? Weight to intuition will likely be a result of discussions, nuances and your gut. The most basic question to ask yourself is, "Do I feel this vendor can do the job, interact with my company and will I feel good about cutting the check each period?" You may be surprised with your answers.

Vendor Elimination

At this point in the process you are literally faced with eliminating respondent vendors. Often times these folks have invested considerable resources into the response (you will recognize the ones that didn't) and each deserves due consideration. However, do not forget the mission at hand – selecting a vendor you will pay to get a job done. Upon decision, there are three key interaction points as follows:

Appreciation for participation in the process – While being disappointed, everyone appreciates being acknowledged for effort.

Presentation of decision to eliminate – If you have reservations about this difficult delivery, try writing a script and practicing.

High level reasons for elimination – Avoid diving into specific details at this point. You never know, you might engage them again later in the process.

The next step in the process is Oral Interviews. The stakes are higher and require significant management. In the next issue we will explore the Oral Interview process and key management points.

Contact us if you would like to share outsourcing or RFP experience. If you are thinking about outsourcing, we can help you manage the process, while you focus on your business!

View previous articles in this series.


+ Amateur or Professional
+ Exploring Outsourcing
+ Recommended Reading
+ Benchmark Survey

+ Speaking Engagements


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Recommended Reading
The CIO Insight article "Self Service: Help Yourself" by Laura Rich presents a series of brief case studies to demonstrate how four companies realized tremendous savings by implementing self-service Web sites for different self-service user groups (employees, suppliers, contract salespeople and retail customers). If you are considering moving your customers to online self-service, learn from these companies (Children's Hospital Boston, Pratt & Whitney, Prudential Financial, and Eastman Kodak) to ensure your investment achieves its intended benefit.

Benchmark Survey
A big "thank you" to all of you who participated in our recent, first annual Customer Service and Delivery benchmarking survey. We are currently processing all of the responses and preparing the summary report. The report will be made available later this month to those of you submitted responses and included an email address.

Speaking Engagements
Need more help with Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship? Customer Centricity has been delivering presentations on this topic to interested organizations. Contact us if you would like a presentation tailored and delivered to your company.


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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