Insights from Gallagher’s HR & Benefits Technology Consulting Practice
Death and taxes. It’s said those are the only things we can count on in life, but I would 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 to take another job for personal reasons, some clients overreact as if the sky is falling. 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 to 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. 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 are a few tips for both employers buying technology and service providers of the technology.
- Stop requesting the names of individuals assigned to your account as 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.
- 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. 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.
You’re buying more than just technology
While the fit between an employee and the account service team is important, remember that you are buying much more than just technology and a set of services. The full package includes the provider’s organizational structure, processes, training philosophy and operating model, 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.
To read what else you get when you buy technology, check out my previous article, What You’re REALLY Buying When You Buy HR Technology and Support.
Contact us if you are facing challenges with your current service provider team and would like to discuss how Gallagher’s independent expertise can help mediate and deliver success through our “marriage counseling” services.
About the Author
Rhonda Marcucci, together with Ed Barry, co-leads Gallagher’s HR and Benefits Technology Consulting Practice. Their team provides unbiased, well-researched HR technology and benefits administration consulting including sourcing advice and service provider capability audits. Rhonda’s extensive and broad-based experience in finance, accounting, administration, strategic planning, information systems, sales and marketing, and operations is instrumental in helping clients identify a comprehensive strategy and execute against it.