There are many flavours of shared service organisation with huge varieties in functional scope, complexity level of transactions and scale. In my opinion one thing that sets the better shared services apart is their focus on the second S… namely Service.
High performing shared services I’ve come across often demonstrate six common Service attributes:
1) Their leaders and teams actively seek, listen and act customer feedback on a regular basis. They use this as a key input to better align their service offerings to evolving customer needs. Even in periods when customer feedback is expected to be negative, they actively seek it out!
2) They go to often incredible lengths to get to know the business that they are serving better. A major Fast Moving Consumer Goods who has a Finance and Accounting captive centre in Manila routinely flies and seconds shared service team leaders (and “agents of the month”) into Australia to meet and better understand the nuances of their Australian business.
3) They look to exceed customer expectations, every day. A prime example of this is a major oil and gas business which actively monitors customer personnel who are seeking out information on the Group Business Services intranet site. If their search takes too long and they are clicking through too many web pages, the shared service team pro-actively make an outbound telephone call to see if they can help them and resolve their issue. Whilst I wouldn’t advocate this approach in every situation, it provides a clear example of how some shared service look to wow their customers.
4) They seek to make it as easy as possible for their customers to follow the ‘happy route’ through each shared process. Often with Australia’s geographically dispersed workforce this needs careful consideration. Traditional channels of email / intranet may be inappropriate for some ‘blue collar’ operational teams and alternative channels involving mobiles and handhelds may yield better process adoption, increase transaction speed and reduce errors.
5) They “walk in their customers’ shoes” and look to the outcomes their customers are seeking from each process. They seek to tailor their service levels (within cost/efficency constraints) and continuous improvement programmes and engagement channels to each customers segment’s process goals.
6) Finally, and possibly most importantly, they train everyone in their shared service team on service with the associated skills of phone and email etiquette, listening, influencing and managing (and then exceeding) customer expectations.
Increasingly I’m seeing shared services in Australia take a greater service focus. I see this as critical to a successful shared service organisation. If you have any perspectives on great (or poor) shared services or outsourcing customer experiences, I’d love to hear about them. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.