Perfecting Service Management

Issue #51

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Amateur or Professional – Avoiding the Swirl Factor
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. But wait…

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 been non-existent.

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
by Kurt Jensen

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 analysis paralysis.

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 very 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 facilities?
  • Core Competency – Does your firm want to focus resources on this layer of service delivery?

If 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 comparison.

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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Recommended Reading
CIO Insight article 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 data quality.

Speaking Engagements
CCI 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.

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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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