I recently attended the SIA’s Executive Forum and as always found their Voice of the Customer panel interesting and insightful. Hearing directly from the buyers of our services is invaluable and gives us an opportunity to learn and improve in our own delivery of IT contract staffing services. There were many sessions and speakers sharing their knowledge and experience and I encourage to listen yourself to get the full benefit but here are two things that I think were particularly useful to hear.
Customers Value Accountability
Repeatedly, people talked about wanting a staffing agency that takes responsibility and finds solutions. Naturally they expect us to fix our own mistakes but they really value the firm that helps them with any problem, even if they themselves created it. One panelist commented “when you do something that protects our brand or makes us look good,” you’re really adding value. They want to work with people who are empowered to make decisions and don’t have to “check with the boss” before every move. Taking ownership of the relationship with your client and truly making their CW challenges, your challenges, takes time and effort. You have to be committed each and every day and the effort has to include the whole team, from the owner/CEO to the client service representative on the ground to your receptionist. What I take away from the conference is a strong reminder that clients’ expect this kind of effort and attention and it can really differentiate your firm.
Communication is Critical
Whether it was discussing the importance of a single point of contact, the desire for transparency and authenticity in negotiations, or the critical need for more complete and accurate requisitions and feedback on submissions, everyone agreed that communication is paramount. The level of service that clients expect from a “great” contract staffing partner demands that you know them and their business well and that requires, among other things, a certain level of communication and contact. These days though talking to your clients isn’t always easy. VMS, MSP, a desire to streamline processes and vendor neutral policies have combined to severely reduce or even eliminate the opportunity for contact.
Regular readers of Staffing 360 know that I have bemoaned this development before but I was pleased to hear that clients are recognizing this as well and some are taking steps to address it. For example, one company with a vendor neutral policy which prohibits direct communication with hiring managers has a weekly conference call that gives all firms recruiting on their behalf the opportunity to speak with hiring managers. It’s especially helpful with the harder to fill positions or those requiring highly specialized skills and experience. Another staffing leader, with a team of 25 CW professionals, encourages his staffing vendors to focus on developing relationships with his team instead of wining and dining him.
I’m glad to see people recognizing the value of personal contact and finding innovative ways to encourage it without sacrificing efficiency. I hope we’ll see more of this kind of thinking because a lack of communication makes real success nearly impossible.