SI Review: March 2013

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Straight Talk From the Customer

Ready for Review

Being prepared for supplier performance evaluations can help improve ties, business

By Jeannee A. Hoppe

It comes up every three months: the quarterly business review — a time to review progress, want to be sure the people you send are right for the task in case changes to the program or service contractual commitments and a great time for the two-way performance feedback/how can we help each other loop. But often, these meetings are treated as an afterthought. Then there are those companies that conduct these assessments only once or maybe twice a year. Regardless of timing, we get so caught up in our daily work that we don’t prepare for these meetings as we should, and lose the opportunity to take advantage of ways these meetings can help improve our programs and relationships with each other. While, it’s the client or the MSP that conducts the meeting, you can get organized and shape proceedings so both sides benefit. Here are some tips to help the process.

Make it simple. I believe the quarterly business review is a critical forum where both parties have equal incentive to participate. QBR presentations should be simple, easy to read and to the point. If any SLAs are being reviewed, language relating to them should be pulled directly from the contract to ensure the proper measures are reflected.

Previous audits. There is a tendency among all of us to treat each review as the first. You as suppliers should come armed with the highlights of the previous review. Briefly review what was discussed and subsequently achieved to set the right tone for this review. This way, attendees are not spinning their wheels rehashing issues already dealt with.

Plan ahead. Often, staffing partners and clients focus on the wrong things during quarterly business reviews. To keep on point, it may be a good idea to send any supporting, underlying data (numbers, statistics) ahead of time so that all parties involved can be prepared. That way, the meeting can be more about actions that come out of supporting data as opposed to parties trying to validate the data during the meeting.

Stay on point. Also, the meeting should be geared toward performance, so don’t come in planning to make a sales pitch. If you have suggestions for other service offerings that you believe will help your client’s program, set another meeting. Anything discussed at the quarterly business review should be related to current SLAs. In addition, if you have strategic pointers to discuss, schedule a time to talk about that.

Keep it consistent. Keeping a similar look, feel and tone from meeting to meeting helps make the process go much smoother. Targets and goals being discussed should be the same each time (helps understand trends) and a consistent agenda helps ensure time is used as efficiently as possible. Key metrics should be compared quarter over quarter or even YTD if appropriate.

Send in the right folks. It is easy to have a crowded house when it comes to these meetings, and that’s something both the staffing firm and client want to avoid. At the same time, you need to be decided upon right then. Therefore, a list of participants and roles should be defined before the meeting, and communicated to one another. If there’s a specific issue you wish to address with your client, communicate that ahead of time so the right person can be included on their end as well. Make as many decisions as possible, this helps both sides make quick changes to impact the program immediately — when there is follow-up needed with leadership on either side, the item can get diluted and take precious time to resolve.

Save some time for feedback. This is a great opportunity to have a conversation on program or supplier performance improvements — and it goes both ways. You as suppliers have access to best practices and what works at many companies; there is a great opportunity to share with a client some improvements or innovations that you see.

By using these techniques in supplier performance conversations, buyers will find that the conversations with vendors are productive leading to a more effective but harmonious relationship. Conversely, suppliers will find that the customer is appreciative of the effort that their teams are undertaking. The ability to take the criticism and turn it around so business can be conducted more efficiently helps the bottom line. And growing the bottom line is a great way to cement the partnership.

Jeannee A. Hoppe is global program manager, contingent workforce solutions for 3M.

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