Amateur or Professional Because the Contract Says, Make
How many times, as a service professional, have you been put in the
position of fulfilling on a customer contract that included unreasonable
terms? Terms that set both you and the customer up for ultimate failure.
How you handle this situation will determine if you are an amateur or
The (real-life) scenario: A contract is written such that your company, a
Managed Services Provider (MSP), owns the customer's internal IT
software change management process governing multiple software development
teams' use of the hosted server environment that your company manages.
During the initial implementation meetings with the customer, the service
team is repeatedly asked "what is the status of our change management
process?" The service team, totally disoriented with this request,
continues to provide non-committal responses and ineffective updates as
they flounder with this contract requirement. The customer can't take it
anymore and escalates to management (you).
Upon review of the situation, and contract, it is clear that this specific
item in the contract does not serve the best interests of the client or
the MSP. As such, a conversation needs to take place to renegotiate this
particular term. On comes the suit, and it's off on a plane to visit the
In my case, the approach taken for the customer meeting went like this
I requested a meeting with 2 key client personnel: the project leader that
we interact with on a daily basis (below the power-line) and the business
manager responsible for the outcome of this relationship (above the
power-line) recall the
I met with the project point person first to learn more about what she was
trying to accomplish, her approach and assumptions based on the contract.
I learned that she was simply trying to operate within the bounds of the
contract, holding our feet to the fire, regardless of it being reasonable
I subsequently met with the business manager who was responsible for the
(business) outcome of this project and relationship. My lead-off comments
were that of acknowledging the contract as something that smart people at
both of our firms put together. However, neither of us were part of that
process. I then pointed out a particular term that was troublesome for
both of us, apologizing on behalf of our company. I indicated that, while
this is a contracted term, we need to change it or we can look forward to
mutual failure, which is something that neither of us wanted. The client
We then went back to the client's project leader to indicate that she
needed to develop and facilitate their change management process for their
internal resources. My service team subsequently got back to doing what
they do best, NOT trying to wrestle with contracted terms that are not in
our area of expertise or best interest.
Key learnings and principles:
Just because the contract says it, does not make it
If the contract does not support a mutually beneficial
/ successful relationship, renegotiate terms.
Go "up the food chain" above the power-line to resolve
The next edition of our newsletter will share additional scenarios of
"amateur or professional."
View previous articles in this series.
So far in this series on Outsourcing, we have discussed the importance of
creating a clear and concise RFP and presented strategies for narrowing
the list of vendors to proceed to the next stage. In this article, we
cover that next stage: Oral Interviews.
Oral interviews allow you to gain a better understanding of respondent
capabilities and commitment. Participants for oral interviews are invited
based on the outcomes of each previous point of evaluation. The stakes are
considerably higher at this point, and closely managing the process is
important. High level examples of challenges to be aware of include:
Vendor costs Up to this point, vendors have spent considerable
time and effort developing their RFP response. However, now they are being
required to pay for business travel (airfare, hotel, ground
transportation, etc.) which adds up quickly.
Internal Coordination Certain decision makers or subject matter
experts need to have their schedules coordinated in order to attend all
presentations or facets of each, relative to their area of expertise.
Hierarchal Consensus In a
previous newsletter article, we touched upon the importance of
high-level and cross-functional consensus. If a vendor was eliminated
prior to oral interviews, you will find out at this step if they are
connected and if there was true hierarchal and cross-functional consensus
("bring them in anyway').
Managing the Oral Interview Process
Similar to previous steps, managing the oral interview process has several
Agenda It is important to provide all participants an agenda. It
sets expectations for the allotted time period and allows all participants
Vendor Preparation Providing vendors an advanced list of
questions is important. This list can establish the focus and direction of
the presentation toward those areas either not covered in the RFP or which
are of greatest concern/interest. A few examples of important areas to
spend time covering are as follows:
Similar Industry Engagements Does the vendor
currently service similar outsourcing requirements?
System integration How does the vendor manage the
Communication Channels What type of communication
channels are being offered?
Quality Control How is quality measured and managed?
Branding If branding is required, how do agents know
how to brand the contact?
Group Discussion It is extremely important to follow a vendor
presentation with an immediate internal discussion. The owner of the
process should take notes and press participants for their thoughts and
ultimately a ranking of the vendor as compared to other participants.
The result of the Oral Interview step is the further elimination (or
selection) of vendors with whom you will begin to negotiate a contract.
For vendors who have made it this far in the process, it is important to
provide realistic expectations regarding the likelihood of obtaining your
business. While these conversations can be difficult, they are usually
appreciated and may serve you later if negotiations break down with the
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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Jason Compton's article
"The Challenge of Retaining Customers" in CRM Magazine presents
a study of loyalty programs and customer satisfaction. The study examined
factors affecting customer loyalty in 3 industries: telecommunications,
retail, and financial services. The study's conclusion: "loyalty programs
can provide insight, but can't buy loyalty."
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 distributed
in the next couple weeks to those of you submitted responses and included
an email address. In addition, we will be contacting 10 randomly-selected
respondents to receive their choice of CCI apparel.
Need more help
with Managing the Enterprise Customer Relationship? Customer Centricity
has been delivering presentations on this topic to interested
Contact us if you would like a presentation tailored and delivered to
About Customer Centricity, Inc.
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