Making IT Outsourcing Work – Series #3
In previous articles we’ve discussed what changes are necessary on the client side and what important things a client should do to find the right partner. In this article we’re going to consider the key things that an IT Outsourcer must have in place to deliver the best levels of service in both the customer experience and technical support areas.
This article is aimed at those who work on the supply side of the fence – it outlines the things I consider to be most important to successfully deliver IT Outsourcing services.
Get your model right
In today’s “always-on” world the expectation is that people can use their systems at any time, from any location. They don’t stop working at 6pm and so why should you?
To be able to support this at a reasonable price it’s usually necessary to have in place a global operation that makes use of the right people, doing the right jobs, at the right time. This can be extremely difficult to achieve; overcoming language and cultural barriers and making sure that everyone continues to pull in the same direction.
Many outsourcing organisations have tried, and usually failed, to meet this challenge by themselves outsourcing functions such as the Service Desk to an external partner in an area of the world where labour is cheaper. In most cases this has proven to be a false economy - while it might reduce your operating costs and therefore make services cheaper for your customers, it usually doesn’t result in the quality or consistency of delivery necessary to underpin great service.
The answer lies in the end-to-end processes and supporting technology that you deploy across your organisation and then the management layer on top to make sure that everything is being done as it should to meet your quality standards.
The physical location of resources is almost irrelevant if you’ve got quality processes that span the delivery organisation underpinned by the right systems that make working together in a globally-disparate environment a seamless experience.
This means building your service organisation on the foundation of Best-Practice service delivery and management processes, such as the ITIL framework, and then configuring your toolset (telephony, ITSM tool, remote monitoring & management, etc.) to support those processes. Those processes deliver the outputs that allow you to effectively manage the service and to take action should any quality issues arise. Only then can you carve up processes to be delivered by different teams in different regions to support the “always on” community.
If you don’t have the processes, you don’t have control…and if you don’t have control very quickly quality issues will creep in, resulting in unnecessary and embarrassing failures that delivers a poor service to your end customer – eroding their confidence and, ultimately, losing you the contract.
Know your customer
The Customer is King. You know that much, right. So that usually means whatever a customer asks for they get (so long as they keep paying the bills) – but how do you accommodate all of those requests for individually customised services and still be able to deliver a scalable, repeatable service which leverages economies of scale and allows you to remain competitive? It’s a challenge!
We invest a lot of energy in getting to know our customer. Every customer is different – they have differing levels of maturity and understanding in their organisations as to what “IT” means, they use different terminology and they’ve all got different processes on their side of the fence with which we need to interface.
Unless you understand all of this, and more, about your Customer you’ve got no chance of delivering what they want in the way they want it. You really need to get intimate with their business, developing relationships with key stakeholders across a variety of communities to understand how they want services to be delivered – when you’ve done this you’re much better placed to understand if what they want is really different or whether, which is usually the case, it’s a slight variation of what you’re already doing.
If you repeatedly beat your customers around the head with the mantra that “our standard way is best” and that “customisation costs” you might win some support from the commercial manager, but the business will feel like they’re being ignored and (in time) you’ll lose out.
You need to work with the customer, educating key individuals as to how you deliver your services alongside listening to their needs and working out how to tweak your standard delivery model to meet their needs. Usually this doesn’t result in wholescale changes to your internal process – it’s normally a case of being flexible with the customer touch-points (how they log calls and how you follow-up, what information they want in their reports, onsite support protocols, escalation paths, etc.) and applying a bit of customisation to make sure they’re happy.
If you’ve got your model right in the first place, making these sorts of changes should be easy and not require any major changes that result in additional costs or complexity.
Employ the right people
The final point is to make sure you’ve got the right people – even with great processes, tools and a customer-centric approach all in play; if you’ve got the wrong people your customers will soon get fed up.
Assuming you’ve invested in the processes and supporting technology, it will become apparent very quickly if someone isn’t doing their job properly…this happens in all walks and the only treatment is to deal with it professionally and quickly. This is straightforward management.
That aside, it’s vital that everyone in the service delivery operation recognises that the clue is in the title…the keyword here is SERVICE.
Consider this - you go on holiday to a hotel and the room was great, the food was great, the beds were turned-down, the pool was clean, etc…nothing to complain about, everything is as it was described in the brochure…but every member of staff you interact with was grumpy, badly dressed, looked preoccupied and if you (dare) ask for any assistance you were met with a grunt – what would your experience be? Would you recommend that hotel to a friend?
Of course not.
The same applies in our world. You can deliver what’s on the tin, but it’s the attitude of the people serving the customer that makes all the difference.
This isn’t as simple as only employing those that turn up to an interview smartly dressed, well-mannered and with a smile…that’s a pre-requisite! Surely you wouldn’t have hired them in the first place if they didn’t.
This is about having the controls in place to monitor individual’s display of service-excellence on an ongoing basis and a) publicly rewarding fine examples on a regular basis, and b) swiftly dealing with any problems that arise. You need to get your customers view as well as forming your own…remember they’re the ones receiving the service and it’s their experience that counts.
Importantly, never forget that it’s a two way street…if once previously happy staff have turned into a disgruntled bunch, it’s normally down to something more than the individual – you need to also be prepared to take a good hard look at yourself – have you given them the right support and training? Are the rewards to going the extra mile enough of an incentive? Are there enough staff to cope with the workloads? Have you introduced a new process or change that’s hard to cope with?
Staying on top of this can seem an endless task but it is vital to success – happy employees deliver great service. I hope you’ve taken away some useful pointers in this series of articles. If you’ve like to know more, feel free to contact me by dropping me an email, adding a comment on the blog page or just pick up the phone and give me a call…we’re always happy to help!
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Transputec Ltd.