Clients must not be feared or taken for granted. All parties should give the respect that the engagement or the contract requires.
A fundamental rule of excellent customer service is to build relationships on mutual respect, clear communication, transparency, and the fundamentals of governance required therein. It is a fact that customer happiness is the ultimate cornerstone of a healthy contract relationship. A service provider should aim to develop the right chemistry to forge a partnership with their counterparts to cement this relationship.
For any sustainable partnership with a client, appeasement should not be used to manage expectations. An eye should be kept on contract deliverance with all aspects of the contract taken into account. The service provider must ensure that all the key pledges meet the commitment, and there is no trust deficit between the parties. In any contract engagement, it is not the individuals that matter but the underlining terms, with the alignment of clear and concise client engagement.
I have often seen contract managers start toeing the line of individuals in the client organization instead of following the contract governance. They are often resigned to managing the whims of the individuals in the client organization rather than the contract itself. These are common issues for the service industry at large. These practices take focus away from contract governance and direct it towards conflicts and arbitrations. These deviations put the entire contract governance in jeopardy and increase organizational risk.
Client vision and needs must align with the body of any contract, and if there is any misalignment, then it should be resolved at the beginning. The service provider should correct this through mutual discussions and deliberations and not fear a confrontation. Conflict resolution should seek a positive outcome. For a healthy client relationship, an escalation matrix can address such issues. In the absence of such an engagement matrix, the contract teams on either side often take control and don’t let things escalate.
A service provider must ensure that there are no bad alliances between the engagement team that could deviate the path of governance. The principle of the “Customer Is Always Right” must not be followed as gospel truth. The client can be corrected if they are stepping outside the governance framework. An excellent professional should use their professional attributes, tact and competence to manage such complexities.
Excellent customer engagement is where the client and contractor both respect the contracts and work to forge a partnership that elevates the service delivery standards, ensuring that all Service Level Agreements and compliance strengthen the bond as one team with a common goal.
In the growth and success of EFS, our client engagement holds the beacon. Our impressive customer retention of 95% over a decade would not have been possible without excellent customer support. With some of our clients, we have had almost three cycles of renewals. These relationships include some of the top 50 Fortune 500 majors and sizeable local government entities. Out of these a few client representatives have left a lasting impact of true partnership, building an imprint of perfect governance, respect, and sustainability in their relationships. At EFS, we salute these organizations and their contract managers for no recorded escalations that needed conflict resolutions. Instead they have sought to build long-term resilience and value-added support.
Having built this impressive outcome and achieving near a 100-mark retention in the last ten years, I can say the client can always be managed with tact and care to meet the desired results. The ground rules for all engagements need to include respect for the contract that the service provider has entered. It is critical to respect contract governance, and each party must uphold their pledge.