You don’t get satisfied customers by trying to be the best at everything. Sometimes it’s better to outsource certain tasks. But how much should you outsource if you want to increase customer satisfaction?

Being the best yourself or outsourcing?

As an IT department, you would prefer to be the best at everything. But IT is such a broad field (and a rapidly changing one, at that) that it’s impossible to know everything down to the last detail. This realization forces many IT departments to make far-reaching decisions: what are we really good at ourselves? And what should we leave to others?

See things from your customer’s perspective

Realizing that your customers might be better served turning to others for some services may be painful. But it’s also a very powerful realization. It shows you’re truly focusing on your customer and that you’ve made your department’s ego secondary to your customer‘s needs. After all, working with external parties requires entirely new skills, such as developing a more holistic, strategic vision.

The traditional silo mentality is getting outdated. Partnerships are becoming increasingly integrated, and each party gets more shared responsibilities. This is a very challenging transition for many IT departments, because it involves ceding control and responsibility to external parties.

To make outsourcing work, you need to stop focusing on separate elements, instead starting to look at things from your customer’s perspective. This generally means that you have less insight into the processes behind your service delivery, particularly when the systems used by the various partners are not integrated.

To make outsourcing work, you need to stop focusing on separate elements, and instead start looking at things from your customer’s perspective.

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Green on the outside, red on the inside

A common pitfall when outsourcing services is to want to keep tight control. I often see IT departments that intend to cede control, but don’t really do so. For example, they might impose all sorts of requirements and preconditions on external partners (rewarding and punishing them) using service level agreements.

What IT departments often don’t realize is that by imposing these preconditions, they are merely creating the illusion of control. An oft-used SLA that illustrates this perfectly is the requirement for a number of processed calls per hour. Some customer service departments assess their customer-friendliness by looking at the number of calls being taken. As a result, employees might simply pick up the phone and hang right back up to get their score up.

This is known as a ‘watermelon SLA’: green on the outside, red on the inside. It’s when you meet your SLAs, but don’t achieve the goal behind those SLAs, namely satisfied customers.
If you do want to develop a specific KPI, then at the very least make sure that your KPIs revolve around customer satisfaction. For example, you would be much better off asking how customers felt about the conversation they had with the customer service department.

Working on a solution together

In the end, setting up KPIs and fines is not that effective when it comes to collaborating with external parties. After all, when organizations work closely together it’s usually very hard to determine who is at fault for something going wrong.

When something does go wrong, try to focus on working on a solution together. If you get stuck in ‘he said, she said’, your customer will suffer. This often happens in the construction industry, where projects are sometimes on hold for years on end because a big error has occurred and the parties involved can’t come to an agreement on who is at fault.

Do you find yourself talking about preconditions and requirements a lot with your new partners? That’s a clear sign you’re not a good fit for one another. It means that you lack trust, and like in any relationship, lack of trust is a clear breaking point.

Letting go 2.0

If you want to increase customer satisfaction, you have to accept that you’ll need to involve other parties. You simply can’t learn to do everything well.

On top of that, you will need to learn to cede control, even if doing so may be hard at first. Your trust might be broken. But eventually, you will find partners that are willing to bear their own responsibilities in this process and are happy to work with you on putting your customers front and center. And that increased customer satisfaction is what you wanted to achieve in the first place.