by Esteban Herrera

Do you really want to win that outsourcing deal?

Sep 22, 2015

Turn your outsourcing customers into raving fans and your work will sell itself.

layered image of male executive holding thumbs up in CMYK
Credit: Thinkstock

In my last post, I offered my take on why service providers lose business. In this post, I’m going to suggest one way to win it. Though most outsourcing service providers pay lip service to the idea of delighting their customers, how many really achieve it?

Never mind delight; let’s face it, outsourcing satisfaction levels have always run low. And this means service providers are missing an opportunity. While it has gotten harder and harder to win and retain business, many service providers are simply focused on the wrong things. Solutions, price, margins, innovation, risk and service levels are all important parts of the equation, but they are relatively meaningless if—at the end of the day—you don’t have a delighted client. What does customer delight have to do with winning new business?

One simple story will explain why.

In a highly competitive “bake-off” for a $200 million transaction, a service provider team from, let’s say, company ABC filed quietly into the room for the second round of oral presentations. Seated in the room already were 25 client employees who had gathered for two days to hear six such sessions. At first, the team from ABC seemed just like all the others: intelligent-looking engineers dressed in slacks, blazers and well-pressed shirts. Their leader stood up and gave a four-minute introduction about why this pursuit was important to ABC. Then something remarkable happened: the second speaker, who we will call “Mark,” took the floor and said:

“My name is Mark. I’m the CIO of XYZ [a well-known, multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 brand], and we have been satisfied clients of ABC for the past six years. I’m here to answer your questions about the good, the bad and the ugly of going through this process, and I won’t hold back.”

When we all picked our jaws up off the floor, we began to process what had just happened: a very busy senior executive of a powerful and successful company had given his day to endorse a service provider in a highly competitive selection process! He flew two hours each way to spend 90 minutes answering questions from his service provider’s prospects.

Boom. Game over. Only an extraordinarily delighted client would do something like that (although I am sure he got something in return—and there is nothing wrong with that). Not only did ABC win the day, they won the work. At the end of the hour and a half, when Mark excused himself to catch a flight back home, the pursuit team took over, but it didn’t matter much what they said. The deal had already been sealed by the most qualified advocate—an actual client.

Why this doesn’t happen more often is beyond me. It’s a brilliant tactic that will rarely fail.

So let me issue this simple challenge to service providers: Aim to delight 80 percent of your clients 80 percent of the time. This means that, if you have 100 clients, you will have 64 advocate CIOs willing to make your case for you at any given moment. This is not an unachievable challenge; other kinds of businesses would fail if they achieved only an 80 percent satisfaction rate.

So what are you are waiting for? I look forward to hearing from your delighted clients when we meet again on the next pursuit.