Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Taking Business Client centric

This was posted on Ambie's Blog on Sunday 10 May 2009

There is story told in almost management every management seminar, class or workshop. There was a telephone company which was leading the market with large customer base. They outsourced their billing and customer support to a company called Alice services in wonderland. There was a proposal in the telecom company to club the bills of one customer for different services. For example, if a customer has 3 phone connexions, one for office, one for personal and another for his wife they would be clubbing together the bills of all the three. This arrangement was to check the paperwork and reduce the billing expense.
Customer were given an option to choose for it or ignore it. The next month, there was a call volume spike at Alice services, with customers who opted for the new joint billing finding it difficult and wishing to return to the previous state. Now that the Alice services have no clue what to do in such a situation. The customer were pressing for a restoring previous status or threatening to close the account. There was no SOP for such a situation.
Alice services were given the business of soliciting new accounts and also closures as and when necessary. So, when customers insisted on closure if their demands are not met, they opted to offer closure, as they have no specific instructions for such a situation, and customers were also demanding a quick solution so, checking with client was also not feasible. The client realized the impact after a week and a loss of hundreds of accounts. Then a roll back of the scheme was announced and alterations made to take necessary care for the business to stay. But the damage had already been done, smarting from that took a lot of time and money.
This is one of the banes in outsourcing, but there is another side to this issue also. Taking everything to the clients. To service a customer's special request, the outsource partners would wait and get the clients approval, by which time the customer would have gone out of hands.
The same happened in a place where one of my friend works. He was with a team that handles critical issues and dissatisfied customers. His team was trained by the client and they were deciding on the solutions to be provided for the customers. Once there happened a management change and the new manager didn't know an iota of the business intricacies. He was much concerned about the industry basic standards of TAT, on-time calls, and metrics like same day case closure, delayed case closure etc. The business was of a nature that the customer's were to be taken care of in every possible way. When freebies were to be stopped due to recession-bite, these guys still managed to get it in a different way for the customers.
But the new manager insisted on metrics through numbers. He didn't care for appreciation letters, praising mails etc. He wanted numbers to show that he mattered. When client came up with new work arounds, he would not question back as to the nature of the customers the team was handling. Had he done so, the clients not so business conducive proposals would have been scrapped at the start. Without discussion, the client's proposals were implemented and when results shot back they would still take "gaalis and golis" from the client and go around with the new work around.
None seemed to have realized the famous words of Jack Welch,"If an idea doesn't stand for a no holds barred discussion, the market place would kill it ruthlessly". The manager had his infamous justification, "If client says crow is white, crow is white. Because he is client and it is his business." Finally some of the people who were veterans in the business were sent off as they were not doing their "allocated job" and were asking too many questions. Now people who were retained in the business are looking around for opening elsewhere.
Well, what is the moral of the second story. BPO businesses should been run client centric. But making it centered around the client and according a demi-God status to the client would definitely ruin the business for the client- they are also humans and would err by nature- consequently to the outsource partners.
It should rather be a cooperative effort by both the client and the partners right from choosing the people to run the business. People who run critical business should atleast have a minimum business intelligence, rather than a "Yes Minister" attitude. The business managers and leadership team should dare to question the client on his proposals keeping the business in mind. Outsource employees should have the feeling of ownership towards the part of the business they run for the client. This attitude could be brought through by training, orientation and encouragements by the outsource management and the management of the client.
Jack Welch, Louis Gerstner and Lee Iacocca have developed a sense of ownership for GE, IBM and Ford respectively and they succeeded because of that. For that matter, take any of the successful business managers. They own it, they win with it. If you don't feel you own something, you will have indifference towards it. If you have indifference towards it, you will not care for it. If you don't care for it, you're not fit to run it, be it business, family, nation or a bicycle. Business managers need to develop a sense of ownership towards the business they manage to successfully run the show.


At 21 May 2009 9:36 PM , Blogger Vijay Kumar said...
You are right. In many situations, the customer requires to be educated so that they can articulate their needs better.

No comments: