If my outsourcing dashboard is so green, why am I so miserable?



 

How often are outsourcing relationships considered “performing” when it comes to meeting SLAs and hitting cost reduction targets, but when it comes to the service experience, the client (and sometimes even the provider) considers the deal an utter failure.

Providers, take heed. The days of trading service for cost is over. Increasingly clients today are seeing outsourcing as a customer service, with provider performance no more than table stakes. Green SLAs across the board are no longer the primary measurement of success; rather, the quality of the outsourcing experience is becoming a major factor. Although it may sound trite, customers expect to be happy; a smile on the retained team’s face is as important as ticking off the boxes on cost, efficiency and quality.  Without some level of service bliss, it is impossible to expand the model, or a relationship for that matter.

What drives unhappiness? It often starts with the proposal process. Clients naturally want to receive what they have been promised when the provider is wining and dining them. Yet, while the sales teams make assertions about performance during the heat of seduction, what is actually delivered by the operations team often misses the mark.  Unfortunately, no sales process can guarantee that the work will be delivered as promised, with the quality of the experience that the client expects. The dissonance caused by differences in culture, age, experience, relationship to work and personal responsibility, and many provider teams take the view that as long as the bills are being paid, they are doing their jobs. And that puts a frown on the faces of the client.

But it’s also due to the condition I call ‘same room, different beds.’ According to Finance Leaders on Sourcing Success , conducted on finance outsourcing and shared services contain (ACCA Global: Finance transformation: expert Insights on outsourcing and shared services, January 2012, Jamie Lyon and Deborah Kops, authors), finance leaders are almost unanimous in saying that there is natural misalignment in the buyer-provider relationship when they outsource, and that solving for it is paramount to meeting expectations. There is broad acknowledgement that lack of alignment in terms of each party’s rewards and incentives negatively impacts finance delivery–and a lack of focus on people at the expense of getting a deal done and implemented.

Some clients are just plain grumpy about outsourcing. Although they talk the talk, deep down an inability to adapt to a new model, a feeling that they’ve given up control, and that no one will deliver as they do will always result in deep disappointment. In these situations, nothing the provider ever does will be right.

But most often, unhappiness is due to unrealistic expectations. Clients forget that outsourcing is a bit more than throwing processes over the transom, and do not prepare to make critical organizational, operating and attitudinal changes that make or break outsourcing success.

Whatever the discontent, it’s critical to examine its source. It might be that the client wasn’t ready for outsourcing. Or the provider over-promised. Or perhaps outsourcing’s just not the silver bullet the client imagined. Regardless, it’s time for the provider to acknowledge that clients just want to be happy.

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