Congratulations if you have a service account team member who really understands your needs. But don’t assume that person will always be there. People change jobs and when they do, there’s likely to be some disruption. Here’s a few tips for employers and the service providers to minimize that disruption and ensure a smooth transition.
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Service account teams change; are you prepared?
Posted on 06/21/2019
Death and taxes. It’s said those are the only things we can count on in life, but I’d add one more to the list. People leave jobs at inconvenient moments in time. It’s a fact of personnel management. Yet, when a service provider account team member leaves for personal reasons or to take another job, clients often become indignant, or worse, totally freak out. How could they leave? We’re right in the middle of a system upgrade! How will we manage?
In response, we remind them that when they bought the technology, they bought the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. Further, people change jobs. Think about your own work history. According the most recent data from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer was 4.2 years in January 2018, unchanged from January 2016. (A Statistics 101 refresher: median is the midpoint value in set of numbers; that is, half of wage and salary workers have been in their current job less than 4.2 years and half more than 4.2 years.)
A look at the tenure of younger workers (more likely to be employed in client account roles than older workers with more tenure) exacerbates the challenge related to account team turnover. Millennials, especially, drive turnover trends as the workforce’s largest population. The BLS reports that between 1983 and 2016, U.S. workers age 25-34 years consistently show the shortest tenure with a high of 3.2 years in 2012 and a low of 2.6 in 2000. While all age groups showed a low tenure in the 2000s, the youngest generation in the workforce remains consistent in their short tenure across the nearly 25-year range, hovering around a median of three years. The bottom line: It’s simply not reasonable to expect that the assigned account team, most likely made up of younger employees, will be there for the life of the software or client contract.
Employers that lose members of their account team do risk possible disruption. A little is to be expected and is manageable. However, the onus is on the service provider to prepare for account team transitions to minimize disruption.
Acknowledging that turnover will happen, here’s a few tips for both employers buying technology and service providers of the technology.
Stop requesting the names of individuals assigned to your accountas part of the RFP process. It’s not reasonable to ask a provider to commit talent before they know they have the work. Further, they can’t guarantee an individual’s availability (remember, no indentured servants).
Before you buy, ask providers about account team transition plans. The provider should have a documented process to ensure a smooth transition with minimal disruption to the client.
Be mindful that you’re not buying the salesperson. Sales charisma can sway decision makers (it’s their job!), but you’re unlikely to have contact with that person after signing a contract and introduction to the service account team. Focus on the product you’re buying…not the individual selling the product.
If you experience problems not easily resolved after an account team change, use the escalation path provided but have a little patience. Even the best-prepared new team member will need a little time to get up to speed. Give it up to a month (watch for progress during this time) before expecting things to run as smoothly as before the change.
Know that you WILL lose people — to competitors, promotions or personal leave — and have a detailed transition process in place to ensure a smooth hand-off.
Let the client know you have a succession plan, when needed. Don’t wait for a change before assuring your clients that you’re prepared. (Consider making this part of your sales pitch.)
Foster a culture that enables adequate transition time, including (when possible) outgoing and incoming account members working together to transfer knowledge beyond the technical details documented in the sales process. Notes about the client’s communication preferences, hot buttons or other unique characteristics can minimize the impact of change.
Give your clients a little extra love during account team transitions. Recognize that they are nervous and want assurance all will be OK. Pick up the phone and let them know you’re focused on their account.
While the fit between a client and an account team is important, employers aren’t buying people. But they are buying more than just technology. They are buying the company’s structure, processes, training philosophy and operating models, which includes succession planning. People come and go, but smart service providers prepare with a documented knowledge transfer process and smart employers ask about transition plans as part of the buying process.
Gruppo Marcucci (GPM), a division of Gallagher Benefit Services, Inc., provides outsourcing intelligence and associated consulting to stakeholders in the Benefits and HR Technology & Outsourcing industry. Our in-depth understanding of the service provider market and our vast experience sourcing and implementing solutions is key to our clients achieving full operational success.
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