tim-sernettWritten by Tim Sernett, Small Business Accounting and Finance Advisor for Entrepreneurs

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much trust and faith we’re asking our clients to invest in us and our service. They’ve made the difficult decision to outsource an important business process. They’re trusting that we will treat them and their information with the same level (or higher) of respect and integrity as an internal employee would.

In addition, they hope to gain better results in terms of timeliness/relevancy of information, accuracy, and receive coaching on how to use financial insight/foresight to drive their companies forward.

I’m blown away by the trust they’ve put in our ability to hold up our end of the bargain…and I’m honored and proud of the many long standing client relationships we have.

I’ve been thinking about this because I’m doing the exact same thing with my own company…outsourcing our marketing efforts. Marketing and selling aren’t strengths for me (go figure, an accountant who struggles with marketing), so I look to outside experts to guide me on what to do, when to do, and how to execute. And with some marketing tasks I simply want an outside firm to take it off my desk and get it done right.

While outsourcing our marketing processes, I’ve had some good and some bad experiences. It’s the bad experiences with outsourcing that have motivated me to honestly assess and work on improving our own client processes. If your customer’s don’t have a great experience, all the marketing in the world won’t help sustain the growth of a bad product or service.

After reviewing the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’ve boiled things down to come up with five keys a great outsourcing experience depends on:

1. Setting proper expectations.
Whatever the selling process is, it must go slow enough to make sure there’s a clear understanding of what the client’s expectations are. Before the work is ever started, there must be a mutual understanding of the expected results and the process for achieving those results.

It’s equally important for the service provider to make an honest assessment of their firm’s abilities to meet those expectations. If we were to proceed without the confidence that we can meet the customer’s expectations, not only would we doing the customer a disservice but we could also be hurting our reputation in the marketplace.

outsourcing2. Accountability and transparency.
Even though I may want some marketing tasks completely off my desk and choose to outsource them, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be informed on the who, what, where and when. I expect the service provider to be transparent enough with me to let me know timelines, assignments, etc.

Not that in the outsourcing relationship I get to dictate any of processes, but I do get to dictate outcomes. And it’s easier for me to be satisfied with the outcomes if I’m provided insight into the processes and timelines. It comes back to expectations – this is the service provider’s chance to set and meet expectations when there is buy-in on the outcomes and timelines.

3. Communication is everything.
Every bad outsourcing experience I’ve had involved a lack of communication. With a system for regular and timely communication in place, it makes it so much easier to NOT screw up on points 1 and 2 mentioned above.

With regular communication both sides should always know if expectations are being met or if adjustments need to be made. With regular communication the customer should feel like the service provider is being accountable and open about meeting the outcomes.

4. Opening the door for feedback.
Customers need to be allowed to provide feedback if expectations and outcomes are/aren’t being met. This is a byproduct of good communication. Taking it a step further, it’s incumbent on the service provider to create an environment of honesty and safety, allowing customers to be totally open with feedback.

As I said in the opening paragraph, our customers have taken a huge leap of faith in us with a key business process. They must be allowed to provide feedback on whether or not their expectations are being met.  

5. Innovation and process improvement.
In my opinion it’s up to the service provider to make sure they keep their customers up to speed on the latest business developments that affect their area of expertise. They must always be aware of newer and better ways of delivering their services while keeping themselves and their customers on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest tools, programs, and technologies.

So I’ve “walked the walk” in taking the outsourcing leap of faith with my own firm’s marketing programs. I’ve seen from the other side of the table the peace of mind that comes with a great experience…as well as how frustrating it can be when it doesn’t go well. I’ve set the bar high for my own firm by identifying what I believe are the five keys to a great experience. It’s now up to us to hold ourselves up to those standards…and to do the same with those we trust with our own outsourced services.

If you have any questions about this post or anything else we can help you with, give us a call at 913.649.1040.