Amateur or Professional – Avoiding the Swirl
by Craig Bailey
Proactively managing your customers' perceptions of and experiences with
your firm is critical to ensuring their satisfaction and loyalty. This
becomes especially complex when there are many company personnel who have
the opportunity to interact with the customer. If these interactions are
not well orchestrated, you can easily become caught up in "the swirl
factor." Here is the real-life scenario…
The Managed Services Provider (MSP) and customer have been down a tough
road but are still committed to working together to turn things around. At
a routine status meeting with the customer, the MSP suggests that a
monitoring audit take place of all system components that they are
managing, on behalf of the customer. This audit is meant to ensure that
all critical components of the customer's configuration are being
monitored at the appropriate intervals. It is agreed that subsequent to
the audit, an in-depth review will take place with the customer to discuss
remedial actions. The customer and the MSP (at least those personnel at
the meeting) both understand that updates/changes to monitoring will
likely result from this audit.
Back at the office, the MSP service manager promptly opens a work ticket
requesting that the monitoring center perform this audit. So far so good.
The individual in the monitoring center dutifully performs the audit and
emails the results of the audit to his customer contact (who wasn't at the
above mentioned meeting). The customer contact receives the audit results
out of context, identifies several critical system components not being
monitored and escalates internally - "they're doing it to us again." When
the customer's senior management learns of this situation (namely, that
the MSP is not monitoring several critical service components), they
escalate to the senior management-level of the MSP. Let the swirl begin!
Many people from the MSP and the customer are now "spun up" in a highly
emotional and reactionary state. Had this audit request been better
orchestrated, the customer's perceptions would have remained neutral to
positive and the heightened stress-levels (of all involved) would have
A better approach to this scenario would have been for the MSP service
manager to request the audit, indicating that the results should be
provided to the MSP account team for internal review and discussion of
next steps. Subsequent to the internal review and agreed upon course of
action, the MSP account team would then review the results and
recommendations with the customer "in context."
In closing, the key principle is: Orchestrate all customer-related
activities and communications, keeping in mind, once again, the
four quadrants. Each customer-related task is NOT a discrete activity.
Even the most innocent actions and information, taken out of context by
the customer, can result in significant problems.
View previous articles in this series.
Exploring Outsourcing: The Final Analysis
Previous articles in this series have outlined a linear progression toward
narrowing down possible outsourcing vendors. Actions in the process such
as normalizing pricing, sifting through vendor compliance and oral
interviews/site visits have taken place. At this important stage in the
process, you are likely in one of two situations: vendor negotiations or
Entering negotiations – this important step will further clarify
information provided previously and dig into specific details of the
ongoing relationship (or at least it should). Issues such as service
levels (performance against), reporting and terms need to be covered in
detail. Remember, entering negotiations in good faith is not a commitment
to do business, but certainly is where the rubber hits the road on
virtually every topic previously presented at any step. Like other steps
in the process, it is forward movement in a process designed to ultimately
educate and empower you to make a decision.
Analysis paralysis – this is a trap which can send the whole process into
a time consuming and sometimes confusing tailspin. Analysis paralysis most
often occurs as a result of evolved baseline requirements such as changes
in desired service level or adjustments to language requirements. Each of
these important requirements is typically the direct result of information
presented (or discovered) thus far in the process. New discoveries are a
good thing – they tend to help prevent misunderstandings in the future.
However, unless the evolved requirement(s) impact the short list of
vendors by changing it, keep moving forward toward negotiations!
There is one very important vendor which may have been missed, forgotten
about or otherwise misunderstood: your internal support structure! In the
first outsourcing article, we touched upon scalability, process
leverage, capital conservation and core competency focus as cost
components to consider when outsourcing. If the internal support structure
is being compared against outsource pricing, it is important to compare
apples to apples as best as possible. The following are eight quick
example questions to ask yourself.
From a top level perspective:
Scalability – Are you able to forecast volume in a way
that allows you to ramp staff up or down accordingly?
Process Leverage – Are you able to maintain and build
upon existing processes to produce desired results?
Capital Conservation – Can you keep your CRM software,
servers and facilities in pace with your growth?
Core Competency – Does keeping it in house enhance
your ability to deliver against your core competency?
From a more detailed perspective:
Scalability – Is your internal model delivering the
same service levels as outsourcers have promised?
Process Leverage – Will your internal model deliver
consistent results, intelligence or gain efficiency over time?
Capital Conservation – Does your cost comparison
include the purchase and/or maintenance of required tools and
Core Competency – Does your firm want to focus
resources on this layer of service delivery?
you can answer all of the above questions with a confident 'yes' (and the
price difference is favorable), your exploration into the world of
outsourcing has helped validate your internal model and there is no need
to outsource. However, if you answered 'no' to any question above, in
order to effectively compare apples to apples, you will need to determine
the cost to "upgrade" your internal model and then make a proper
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
+ Speaking Engagements
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Data Management: Getting Clean by Debra D'Agostino focuses on a very
common business problem: data integrity. As Ms. D'Agostino writes:
"Sophisticated business intelligence tools give executives greater
'visibility' into their company's operations than ever before, but they're
useless—and even self-defeating— if the underlying data's not clean." This
article presents the challenge and offers a basic methodology for ensuring
President Craig Bailey
will be a speaker at PDMA's (Product Development and Management
Association) 7th Annual
"Voice of the
Customer" conference on December 7-10, 2004, in San Francisco CA.
Presentation materials will be available for download from CCI's website
closer to the conference date.
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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