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10 IT outsourcing tips to become a 'very important customer'

Stephanie Overby | July 4, 2013
Follow these simple steps to show your IT outsourcing provider a little love and get more attention than other customers in return (without giving away too much).

5. Go Public. Outsourcing can be a dirty word these days, but the sound of a satisfied customer is music to a supplier's ears. "Quality client references will win many more clients and help them move to higher value services," says Phil Fersht, founder of outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research. The customer VIP will go even further.

"We have a number of clients where the executive sponsor has stayed so intimately involved in the initiative that they will go on sales calls with the provider," says Michael Engel of Sylvan Advisory. "We have another client who participates in an advisory capacity in the provider's internal service offering development process."

6. Be the Change. You want collaboration? Create a team-based environment. Seeing innovation? Invite key provider personnel to strategy. "Never underestimate the human side of the relationship," says Martin of Pace Harmon. "Providers are more likely to engage if they feel their customers are actively partnering with them everywhere from day-to-day tactical activities through executive business development initiatives."

7. Loosen Up the Purse Strings. If you want more, pay more. "Customers should understand that changes in scope can increase the cost to a service provider in a way that was not originally accounted for in the service provider's business plan," says Helms of K&L Gates. "The customer should want its service provider to make money and maintain its margins-that leads to better service." Give a green light to justified change control requests.

8. Lend a Hand. If your vendor starts failing to meet its commitments, hold off on the finger-pointing and try to help them resolve the issue. "A well-executed outsourcing agreement is an ecosystem where everything depends on everything else," says Hansen of Baker & McKenzie. "If you allow your vendor to fail in one area, you are setting the business up for misery and the vendor up for failure."

9. Pay Your Bills (On Time). Sounds simple enough, but plenty of customers delay large payments to their IT providers to help their own cash flow. "Service providers have little recourse," says Helms of K&L Gates. "It ends up being a real annoyance-or problem-for the service provider. "

10. Be Nice. It's not unusual to see a provider go above and beyond to create a smooth outsourcing transition only to get nailed to the wall by the customer the first time their performance lags. Don't be that customer.

"This doesn't mean that you should tolerate suboptimal performance," says Hansen of Baker & McKenzie. "But it's important you remember that you are doing business with people, and people appreciate some good will every once in a while."


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