5 Steps to Getting Real Satisfaction from your Shared Services Customer
In last week’s column, Rakesh Sangani listed 6 reasons why a SSC should invest in a Vision, based on a popular breakout session that he and four other practitioners ran at Shared Services & Outsourcing Week (Europe), last month. Here, Simon Brown, one of the other collaborators, explains how to move from Vision to Customer Satisfaction.
The last thing shared services leaders want to hear from their customers is " I can’t get no satisfaction!"
If you want to find a way to keep your internal customer satisfied the best place to start is to decide who your customer is, and then get close and stay close to them.
Step 1: Define your customer
Is your customer:
- Hierarchical: the Corporate Leadership Team, a Governance body such as a Customer Board?
- Functional: the GBS, Finance, HR functional leadership team? or
- A Consumerof your products and services – the employees of your company?
And could your customers be more than one of these groups? Usually the answer is: Yes!
So if you want to meet and manage expectations it’s important to recognise up front that the needs and expectations of each customer type will be different and that your communication messaging needs to be tailored to these differences.
As you start your shared services journey, always recognise that one of your customers lies deep in the long grass, within your own function.
For example: when setting up HR shared services, the traditional HR Generalist roles are transitioning out or morphing into HR Business Partners or Centres of Expertise, and these HR folks can be highly sensitive to the emerging HR Shared Services sprouting up within the function. Communicating with them as a customer to exceed expectations and overcome resistance as you strive to become a true and equal partner requires an almost exaggerated focus on driving customer satisfaction within your function to win your own function over.
If you don’t get it right here they won’t support you getting it right across the organisation!
Step 2: Do you understand what drives customer satisfaction?
There are a range of views about what makes up the DNA of customer satisfaction:
- is it based on logic and facts?
- is it political (based on vested interest groups)? or
- is it an emotional experience (a perception from the eyes and heart of the beholder)?
Often, shared services organisations starting out tend to follow the logic tree and aim to justify their existence and the value they add by proving their service through data on transactions, outputs, or on meeting Key Performance Indicators aligned with business objectives.
Service or Operating Level Agreements are set up to measure performance in each process. Yet there are many stories where shared services have hit green light performance levels on all processes but the customer is still not happy.
So, we cannot underestimate the need for emotional engagement with the customer, to form a close and involved relationship and to build trust if we truly want to win them over. If the choice is between strutting around to prove your performance and "customer love," always choose customer love!
Step 3: Measure your customer satisfaction
The best way to do this is to be direct and timely: Ask the customer what they think and feel about the service they have received. Here are some tips:
Do it"in the moment." Short 10-second surveys completed at the end of each transaction or requests that ask the customer to rate with a smile, straight line, or a frown (or very satisfied, satisfied or unsatisfied) are great for this, and can give you an instant view on customer satisfaction. Response rates typically are in the 15-20% range.
Periodic Surveys, which are simple and take less than five minutes to complete, are also good for collecting feedback. Use free survey monkey format so the results are easy to analyse. It’s good to do these every 3 months in the first year of your transformation journey, then every six months and every year thereafter. A response rate of more than 35% can be achieved by using regular reminders, sending first mail to be read in the morning emails, or offering prize-draw incentives.
Focus groups, where volunteers are invited to discuss their views about the products or services in a context where their feedback will help continuous improvement, can also be useful to gain insights, create engagement through the dialogue, and learn what it’s really like to stand in the customer’s shoes.
Step 4: Monitoring progress
Monthly or quarterly meetings with the Customer Board or stakeholder engagement one-to-ones can help you stay close to the customer at each milestone on the transformation journey.
A regular routine in the early stages helps to sustain the partnership approach of creating the change together with your customer, and you get to hear about the pain points andearly warning signals immediately, and can make adjustments to service before the noise gets too loud.
Step 5: Optimising your customer satisfaction
Use all opportunities to enlist your customers, involve them, and keep the dialogue going to get their buy-in for every move you make and every step you take.
- Do year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter comparisonsto promote your top three processes and services and share the top three priorities for on-going improvement. Involve your customer’s insights to get it even "more right."
- Don’t be afraid to market and sell the benefits of your products and services. If you don’t do this it’s an opportunity missed. Think of your shared services centre not as a low key factory of transactions but as a bright and classy supermarket with a great range of fresh and useful consumables ready to be bought – NOW!
- Identify and enlist senior leaders or key influencers in the organisation who support what you are doing and can act as sponsors or change champions to spread the positives, and share the good news from their own, "I’ve used it, and it works" examples.
- At another level, use peer-to-peer recommendations: sound-bite quotes and endorsements from satisfied employees, staff or works council representatives, published in the company newsletter, on the website and in colourful one page pdf billboards, are very effective and really do help market your products and services as credible, useful, reliable and, yes: satisfying!
Look out for part 3 next week.