Are you aligning service delivery with business objectives?

SSON News and Analysis
Posted: 07/09/2012


SSON: Gary, what are the key questions that Shared Services leaders should be asking themselves when it comes to delivering good customer service?

G Critchley: There are four key areas a leader in Shared Services needs to focus on, and I think the first one is people - Shared Services is a people business and developing an exceptional team is essential. Therefore Shared Services leaders should be asking themselves the following: are you developing an exceptional team? Do you have people who work as a team? Do you offer opportunities to thrive? Your people will deliver the service will ultimately define your brand.

The second area concerns delivering best-value trusted service. Do you care about getting it right first time, on time, every time, and are you cost-responsible? There is a mix there between quality and value and having control over what you do.

All of those things will build credibility, and again that will build your brand as a Shared Service operator.

The third area is about continuous improvement. Are you demanding continuous improvement and innovation? Do you keep your processes simple? Do you eliminate waste? Do you look for ways to improve things continually, at all levels of your organisation? If you are doing that, then you’ve got a great team, you’ve got great trust and a cost-effective service solution. But also, you’re continually improving that service solution.

The final area is, do you drive wider stakeholder success? Are you liberating your business partners? Are you freeing them up to look after their core competencies, be it buying, selling, sourcing, whatever they may be involved in. Do you support business growth and change with pace and control? Do you deliver solutions that save time and money. Are you helping your business partners with commercial insight?

Four key areas, really, about people, service, improvement and then liberation of business partners.

SSON: Customer service is all very well and good, but you need to align service with business objectives in order to be successful, of course. How are you doing that at M&S?

G Critchley: Particularly in a finance Shared Service environment - and a vast majority of what we do is finance, or certainly end-to-end business process related – i.e. the difference between business objectives and control. But it’s about finding the overall right answer for the business. We achieve this by making sure we have a cost-effective solution, making sure that innovation pushes us down an efficient and effective route, and by helping our people understand the necessity for compliance and how compliance can produce more efficient and effective business processes. By taking these steps we can ensure faster solutions, which ultimately results in better service for our customers. What’s really important in a retail business is finding answers and solutions within our existing processes that will further enhance the offer for our customer. It is essential we remain competitive, both in terms of availability and price.

SSON: Leading on from that, how do you engage the different functions in a partnering relationship?

G Critchley: Taking it to a more granular level, we partner heavily with all of our functional areas across the business. We operate a business champion structure, where champions have one-to-one relationships with key stakeholders and customers across our business. They will talk to them, at least weekly, on a non-transactional basis to understand their level of satisfaction with service and how the interaction is working. They will also meet with them on a face-to-face basis and interact with them socially. So you are building a real network, which builds long-term and sustainable relationships. I think that is really important.

SSON: Based on your experience, what is the most successful approach, in your opinion, to problem-solving service issues?

G Critchley: There are a number of key elements. The first key element is dealing with facts and not fiction, or certainly taking the emotion out of the problem. By sticking to the facts, you’re likely to remain credible and this makes a big difference when it comes to problem-solving.

The final element, and one that I keep coming back to in this discussion, is having the right people, developing skills and the skill-set and the culture, so that people are outcome-focused and change-positive. They see problems as opportunities to move things forward; they see them as an opportunity to solve the problem; and they are outcome-focused. They can clarify what the desired end-state is and understand how they can help the business partner to get there.

SSON: What is the greatest stumbling block to customer service in a Shared Services environment?

G Critchley: Shared Services can often be perceived as a low-cost solution, and some people conceive that as low quality. I think perception and brand are really important. That is why getting the things right first time and having the right service interaction is key, because that builds your brand. Once you can build a brand that’s really built on getting things right and being action-oriented, that can overcome that particular stumbling block.

Remoteness is often a stumbling block, because Shared Service Centres are often located in areas where labour arbitrage can be gained, and that can lead to remoteness. Therefore it is important to make sure that your visibility remains high and your profile is sustained, helping you to remain influential and get the right answer for the business.

SSON: You are going to be speaking at our Shared Services and Outsourcing Week in May. What are you looking to gain from taking part in the event?

G Critchley: I’m looking for emerging trends in Shared Services - what are the next steps to really drive the industry forward. I think Shared Services has got a massive role to play in business in terms of ensuring that efficiency and effectiveness are maximised. I’ll be looking for new ideas and to meet all of my colleagues and peers who are out there practising, either on an insource or outsource basis.


Gary Critchley will be speaking at The Shared Services and Outsourcing Week 9th - 11th May 2011 at the Raj in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. For more details, please visit the website:, or call freephone: 0800 652 2363 or email:

SSON News and Analysis
Posted: 07/09/2012


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