Building a Sustainable Base of HRO Clients

Last week’s Infosys BPO analyst day, which I blogged about the day after I attended, got me thinking about what it takes to build a sustainable base of long-term client relationships. This is important for HRO vendors and clients where contracts are multi-year, and services can be complex, difficult and expensive to transition. Fifty percent or more of an HRO vendor’s organic growth can be from long-term customers.

During analyst day, ADP brought in several clients for us to meet with, and Infosys BPO brought in five customers for group and one-on-one meetings. Sure, clients are carefully selected for such opportunities, but it’s still a nice show of vendor confidence. So let’s use this to cover two elements in building a strong foundation for profitable client relationships.

Provide a consistently high level of services across all customer segments.
Many early HRO clients felt the quality of their service experience relied too much on a particular account manager, service team or location, whether they were a big dog client or not, as well as their own ability to actively “manage” the service provider.

The Infosys customers represented different service lines, including HRO, sizes from small/mid to large market, with both U.S. and global coverage, and ranged from a brand new client still in transition to a client that pre-dated the formation of Infosys BPO in 2002. Think about that for a minute. It is possible to build and sustain a consistently high level of HRO services, service centers and personnel across all services, segments and regions, even given the higher rates of turnover common in many offshore locations. Not easy, but possible.

Be a strategic partner and grow your business without “selling.”
Another common HRO complaint is the lack of innovation once the services are up and running. Regularly bringing the client relevant and knowledgeable suggestions and best practices on how to improve processes and practices keeps the conversation on scale and scope open and ongoing. Even if clients choose not to act on the suggestions, they appreciate the thought. But note I underlined relevant and knowledgeable for emphasis. Every client wants to know you understand and care about its unique business needs, and that you have the domain experience and expertise to be a strategic partner. In a strategic partnership, the client feels it can do more with you than on its own.

HRO buyers, when assessing vendors, consider talking not only to clients most like your company, but also to clients of different services, sizes and geographies. Ask service providers about price, performance, customer satisfaction and what percent of organic growth comes from current clients.

HRO vendors, how consistent is your service experience? How well do you continually build and reinforce your brand as you grow and globalize? Think you’re a strategic partner? Is the evidence present in growth of mature accounts, sole source opportunities and inclusion in business planning? Do your clients bring new projects and service opportunities to you? They will if you are a consistent and trusted strategic partner.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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