There are no industry standards for measuring customer satisfaction in the global services industry. In their absence, supposed discontent can take on epic proportions and all feedback can appear negative. Kops discusses elements of an approach that customers should aspire to implement
According to an oft-quoted industry statistic of indeterminant attribution, approximately 80% of all outsourcing contracts fail to meet expectations. And factor in the comparable stat for captive centers (also illusive as to source) of 50% and, to use the vernacular, “there sure are a bunch of unhappy campers out there.”
Are these numbers really an accurate reflection of the success rate of global services implementation? Or are they rumors that result from a lack of verifiable evidence? Is the root cause of this failure to meet expectations an inability to achieve cost savings, or is it a result of disappointment in the quality of delivery? Are global services customers so disillusioned and unhappy, or has industry lore substituted for fact in the absence of rigor in definition and measurement of customer satisfaction?
“Nobody is doing it well [measuring and effectively managing customer satisfaction],” proclaimed an industry expert at a recent SharedXpertise training session. And he’s right – there are no standards for customer satisfaction in the global services industry. Without baselines and benchmarks, no JD Power of the offshoring and outsourcing industry, promulgating measurement of delivery performance and descriptions of supposed discontent can easily take on epic proportions.
GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE
To which benchmarks should customer satisfaction aspire? In the absence of protocols that yield reliable evidence, informal reportage reflects the extremes, and far too much weight is ascribed to the experiences of those vocal, unhappy campers. In a vacuum of context, all feedback appears to be negative.
Transitioning service delivery from a vertical employment model to a contractual (internal or external) relationship changes the balance of power and associated roles and responsibilities. But measuring the drivers of that balance is left out of the change. The management of customer satisfaction often starts and stops at the drafting of the outsourcing contract or the internal services specification. Inserted as a de rigueur clause, most providers and clients pay lip service to the need to measure and manage effectively, yet very few expend the effort and cost to take a pre-transition baseline and implement much more than informal mechanisms on a casual basis. And, internal services operations cannot boast a better track record. As internal operations are increasingly compared to offshoring options, captives have no choice but to increase the level of commerciality with which they treat their customers. Staff monopolies simply no longer exist.
Many relationships think they have a customer satisfaction program in place. Other relationships go a step further, using such devices as annual pulse surveys to assess the voice of the customer in order to identify areas of dissatisfaction, an early warning system to suggest potential problems. Few invest in the implementation of structured programs linking service-level agreements and key performance indicators to customer perception, linking value and satisfaction and enforcing new ways of working.
MEASURING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
First, when a program is well designed, implemented and administered, it informs services delivery, pushing it to the next level of client effectiveness. The feedback gives the provider cover to “do more of, do less of or eliminate” certain tasks, streamlining processes and promoting efficiency. When the customer feels his voice is heard, he emotionally invests in the relationship, dealing more effectively and supportively with process failure or fault. Second, these programs help both customer and provider deal with the root cause of relationship issues, allowing the parties to isolate quantitative from qualitative aspects of delivery and more easily resolve problems. Last, in aggregate, customer satisfaction is critical to measure the entirety of the effectiveness of global services implementation. The ability to determine, based on concrete evidence, whether global services customers are truly unsatisfied will help advance the industry.
COMPONENTS OF GOOD CUSTOMER SATISFACTION PROGRAMS
Many programs languish in contract language. As a result, measurement is only an aspiration on paper, not a discipline that informs good delivery.
A good program is comprehensive, balanced, can be easily assessed in light of stated performance goals, is consistently administered in a disciplined manner, and has several key attributes.
Defines the customer and their expectations. Do you know who your customers are and what they expect? Many service delivery operations listen to all parties without discrimination. Depending on the functions and processes in scope, global services generally have several customer segmentations — the sponsoring function, the business line, the end user and in some cases, company vendors. And, within the segmentation, the voices of all customers should be not be weighed on an equal basis. Because of business criticality, volume or pace of change, some may have more of a voice in delivery. Ascribing value to the source of customer feedback is a key first step; the 80-20 rule often applies.
Measures all aspects of the perfect service experience. Accuracy and timeliness are relatively easy to measure, but delivery only succeeds when behavioral needs are met — the quality of the delivery interface should be considered by the customer as empathetic and responsive. If processes are adhered to but the experience is wanting, the customer will be dissatisfied.
Trains the customer to use clear mechanisms to respond to complaints — and adheres to them. Providers think picking up a phone to respond to complaints on an informal basis increases customer satisfaction. While this is the right resolution for certain high-risk situations, enforcing documentation requirements using defined escalation procedures will force the customer to analyze the root cause in advance of complaining and alleviate some of the whinge factor.
Aligns with measurements that impact the business. Many programs are based on measurements that do not tick and tie to overall key performance indicators or agreed service levels. Client satisfaction is not managed in isolation from the rest of the contract, but dimensions aspects of the program.
Manages by fact. The hallmark of a good customer satisfaction program should be the ability to get right down to the facts behind an incidence or a response very quickly. Often, the source of dissatisfaction may not be within the purview of service delivery, but rather the fault of the customer who lets the invoice age on his desk, or assigns the wrong cost code. Managing by fact is the best defense against an unreasonable customer.
Transmits and receive messages simply. Most customer satisfaction programs are over complicated. There are at the core only a few objective vectors to measure — timeliness, accuracy ease of use. Asking the right questions, and coming back with clear, concise answers is a key part of the program.
Balances the scorecard by measuring both positives and negatives. Focusing on what is wrong — in a transparent fashion — rather than right is a natural approach to customer satisfaction measurement. Measurement is an iterative process, and all measures work together to assess the full effectiveness of global services delivery.
Includes response models. The majority of customer complaints and concerns are predictable in nature. Mapping expected breakpoints and their associated relationship implications as part of delivery is imperative to better managing customer expectations, and repairing incidences promptly.
Does not confuse governance for a customer satisfaction program. Robust governance programs do not substitute for customer satisfaction programs; rather satisfaction measures and mitigations are a key component of good governance.
Does not allow customers to use the program as a distraction. Rampant expressions of dissatisfaction are sometimes a proxy for the services version of tissue rejection. The ability to get to the root cause of satisfaction is critical to keeping the measurements clean.
BARRIER TO MEASURING CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
Customer satisfaction is earned; it is not by right or a natural outcome of a change in business model. Effective programs take funding, commitment, discipline and strategy. Implemented successfully, they go a long way to build better global services relationships.