CWS 3.0: December 5, 2012

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2012: The Year of the Customer

As we come to the close of yet another year, it’s entirely appropriate to reflect on the year that was. 2012 saw great change in the marketplace, not just from the standpoint of consolidation in the industry but also in the continuing sophistication of the buyers.

One of the most refreshing things I’ve seen in 2012 was what I call “the rise of the customer.” And I don’t mean the contingent workforce manager — I’m talking about the end user of the service. I think that CW managers realize the strategic value of competent providers and the recognition that contingent workforce management is exponentially more difficult if not impossible if the end-users are unhappy. For example, while 2009 seemed to be driven entirely by cost savings, 2012 was driven by finding new ways to “delight the customer.” This is a great indicator of how our industry has evolved. While we often mention customers and consider them in the context of the end users, a CW program’s customer base is actually much larger. It’s important to recognize that we have both internal and external customers, direct and indirect.

Internal customers are those customers who are internal to your organization — your hiring managers as well as their assistants and support staff, your IT department or your shared services center. Most project teams obviously include HR to represent the customer, but there’s also finance, compliance and facilities departments to consider. These are all internal customer groups that have disparate expectations and desires and while sometimes their objectives may conflict it’s the CW manager’s job to mediate and resolve those expectations to the best of his or her ability.

Obviously your staffing suppliers are your external customers, as are your managed service and/or vendor management system provider, if you have them. But what about other suppliers to your business? I worked with industrial locations in addition to on-site staffing providers, and had integrated maintenance, repair and operations suppliers that interfaced with the MSP and staffing companies on a regular basis. It would be a mistake to not involve them in some fashion. It’s always a great idea to involve external customers in discussions to develop a deep understanding of what they would expect from a contingent labor arrangement if at all.

Delighting the customer is in an admirable objective that can ensure a much greater chance of long-term success. But by remembering to include all of the interested parties in your contingent workforce program — both internal and external — you can be sure what you provide represents everyone’s collective best interest.

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