Working relationships are sometimes the hardest to understand and mend. It is crucial to be an important client, so as to achieve a dependable working relationship. It is also crucial so as to not get onto the infamous ‘blacklist’.
Steve Martin, a partner with Pace Harmon, an outsourcing consultancy was quoted as saying, “Being at the top of your provider’s priority list will inevitably inure to your benefit over the long haul. And figuring out how to get there without having to buy your way into this elite club is worthwhile.”
The fine line of tread to get to being an important client is not in fact all that difficult. Here are a few outlines to getting to the desired position.
The very first day that a relationship is formed sets the tone for the rest of the contract period and beyond. Since the relationship is definitely going to be in the vicinity of long terms, there is no advantage to being rude. Shawn Helms, a partner in the K&L Gates law firm’s outsourcing and technology transactions practice arm, said, “This is a long-term relationship. There’s no need to fight for every point in the negotiation. Taking a hard line approach or asking for unreasonable, out of market terms creates ill will from day 1.” When beginning negotiations and even just before drawing up contracts, look at the partnering firm as having some setbacks and do not expect a version of perfection.
Lay all the cards on the table
As with any other relationship, full disclosure is an important catalyst to a good working equation. Asset inventory, number of resources supporting operations and current performance levels are the fine print that need to be revealed at the earliest to avoid any bad blood.
Although it may seem like small details, full disclosure will definitely help seal the trust between the two parties in a contract. The details will definitely help the provider in drawing up accurate plans and delivering those on time.
Stash the contract away
The contract is a very important document. This does not however mean that it has to be referred to at every turn in the contract. Most industry experts and insiders agree that the spirit of the contract is far more important that the fine print within the contract.
No contract, set out before the work is completed, will cover all the negotiations that helped overcome problems. The problem solving approach to the contract term seems to win more providers over rather than a word-to-word interpretation of the contract.
Prizes win hearts
Potential to earn extra money over the contract period is a good way to keep the provider interested in further deals and amply motivated to fulfill the current deal over and above the set terms. Across the globe, performance that receives appreciation spurs better performance. Clear links between performance and financial prospects mean that the providers are likely going to give you their best.
The current global economy is unsupportive of outsourcing. However, in a hostile environment antagonizing the few providers is not conducive to business. Word of mouth publicity is the best form as often reiterated in the business world. The words of one satisfied customer will likely win the provider ten other clients. The words of appreciation will also put the client in the golden books of the provider. Increasing the client base for the provider translates into enabling them to offer more quality and higher value services, a win-win situation for both the parties.
The power of active participation
More people are likely to respond and work better when in contact with other humans. The human side of the relationship is often lost in translation. An active partner will likely draw out active participation and a higher sense of involvement from the provider. The line, is however fine and should not lead an over-bearing relationship where every point becomes a debate.
Michael Engel of Sylvan Advisory spoke of the power of human involvement when he said, “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. We have another client who participates in an advisory capacity in the provider’s internal service offering development process.”
Getting what you pay for
The ancient adage of you get what you pay for holds true in this working relationship. Costs that are not necessarily accounted for right when the contract is inked may crop up over a long period. This is especially true in the current times when the global economy is instability personified. Justified control changes should be approved if you want to remain a client who receives quality work without the hassle of running after the service provider. Loosen the purse strings in order to receive work that is above and beyond just satisfactory.
Helping with meeting deadlines
The world is not a perfect place. There will be times when deadlines have to be postponed due to unavoidable circumstances. Helping the vendor resolve the issue causing the delay will create an ecosystem of trust. When the vendors deliver quality work on time, the client’s business succeeds and vice versa.
Paying up on time
Although it may seem like a small issue of time, in the long run it can make or break relationships. When you pay on time, without having to be asked to pay, the vendor or service provider is likely going to gladly take work from you again. What may seem like a small payment might help the service provider’s cash flow significantly. As with any industry, consistent cash flow is a basic necessity. Helms of K&L Gates was quoted as saying, “Service providers have little recourse. It ends up being a real annoyance or problem for the service provider.” In reference to clients not paying bills on time.
It is human to err. Sometimes mistakes are genuine oversights and should be accepted as such. It so happens that most service providers will work hard right up to the end and one small error will cost them the follow up contracts.
Performances can sometimes lag due to unforeseen circumstances. Do not nail your service provider for simple errors that can be easily remedied. Hansen of Baker and McKenzie was quoted as saying, “This doesn’t mean that you should tolerate suboptimal performance. But it’s important you remember that you are doing business with people, and people appreciate some good will every once in a while.”
Therefore, instead of thinking of the service provider as a slave who has to deliver everything as promised on time, think of them as human beings. The human connection cannot be reiterated enough in this equation. It is undoubtedly the key to a successful working relationship that will definitely get you in the golden page of clients in every service provider’s book.