Amateur or Professional – Wait for the Bullet or Fall on
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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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
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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