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Breaking the Shared Services Stigma
As a leader of a creative shared services organization, you know better than anyone the challenges of servicing internal departments while competing with freelancers, other ancillary internal groups, and external agencies. Many times, you’ve lost the battle for work before you’ve started because of the stigma that comes with being an “internal creative services team.”
Here are six things that you can do to Break the Shared Services Stigma.
“The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.” –John Russell, President, Harley Davidson
- 1. Know and clearly articulate your services. A common mistake of shared service leaders is attempting to be all things to all groups and not developing subject matter expertise and exemplary work in focused areas. Sometimes, exemplary service is knowing what you don’t do well and not doing it. Develop your brand of great creative and exceed expectations by developing and promoting the services you have the capabilities to do well. Ensure that capabilities, pricing, and the creative engagement process are outlined to include client expectations. For services you don’t offer and overflow, provide vetted outsourced partners. Clients will appreciate a referral instead of a project that doesn’t hit the mark.
- 2. Provide exemplary customer service. Always. The biggest complaint of surveyed internal clients for shared service or support organizations is customer service. A lack of engagement, sense of urgency, and accountability of internal delivery teams is a stigma often associated with internal teams where a mere slap on the wrist is the only consequence of poor delivery. Not only do external freelancers or agencies compete in cutting-edge creative, but they also compete with internal teams in how they manage client expectations and projects—and most importantly, how they handle disappointments. After all, they don’t have the benefit of automatically being funded out of client budgets. They have to pitch, earn, and manage every client project they get. Is every member of your team clear on the importance of exemplary service? If not, a simple lunch-and-learn can get them on track. I’m guessing your partners in learning and development or HR would be happy to help pull together an internal training session that can be beneficial beyond measure.
- 3. Add value. It’s your company. It sounds like a cliché, but adding value is a simple and effective way to drive and retain business for your shared services organization. Similar to articulating your services, the value to internal clients doing business with your organization has to be outlined. Competitive pricing and institutional knowledge are givens. Creating an experience that reduces customer effort is a different story. According to Harvard Business Review, the #1 most important factor in customer loyalty is the reduction of customer effort. Walk through the engagement process from their perspective and identify the opportunities where you can do things better, faster, more effectively, and less expensive without compromising quality. After a project, always take the time to circle back with your client to ensure all expectations were met, and ask them to articulate the value in working with your team on that particular project. Pretty soon, you’ll have a list of quotes not just for your intranet or collateral, but for an executive sponsor within your organization that will drive projects—and in some cases, mandate to leverage your team.
- 4. Engage with business units and go get the business. Who better to know your customers and their challenges and needs? Being an internal creative team has its challenges, but the advantages you have are the access to internal teams and the sponsorship of your executives (in addition to institutional knowledge and previous experiences/assets). So what are you waiting for? Meet with your existing customers to do a review of what you can be doing better and to build a pipeline of what they might need over the course of the next year. For new or dormant groups you’ve not worked with—or even “forbidden” groups like marketing who refuse to work with internal teams—engage, be proactive, and ask for the business. At least ask to compete on the creative, to be given an opportunity for projects, and to prove the capabilities of your teams. You’d be surprised what focus, clarity, and engagement can do for your business.
- 5. Know your stuff. Be the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Changing your position with any customer starts with their perception of your knowledge, skills, and ability to deliver. Focusing your services allows you to build expertise, stay on top of trends and (most importantly) educate your customers on the trends that catch their attention. Educating them about creative trends and determining whether they would or would not be good for their projects (based on your understanding of the factors) is a great way to engage with clients and begin the shifting of perception. Developing subject matter expertise requires your organization to be nimble, informed, and committed to becoming industry leaders at what they do. It is a great development opportunity for your team—which leads to the final step towards Breaking the Shared Services Stigma:
- 6. Attract, hire, and develop top talent.
Don’t hire B’s. Despite the competitive employment market, you have an opportunity to build a tiger team of creative experts by:
- Leveraging the big company benefits and pay: This is often not comparable with high-end agencies who often pay with the experience of their brands.
- Building a creative culture – even within your structured corporate walls: This enables an environment for design-build thinking, innovation, creative collaboration, and freedom (within brand) that can help to build an award-winning design/creative team that attracts top creative talent.
- Hire not just for skill and talent, but also for fit: Building a high-performing creative team requires many moving parts and trusting various aspects of the process to equally talented colleagues. Hiring just for creative talent doesn’t work with competing personalities or if qualities like holism and customer service aren’t a priority for an employee.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” –Charles Darwin
The stigma of being a shared services organization can change with your willingness to drive change. If you’d like to discuss this blog or ideas specific to your organization, email firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author: Eliana Hassen is a strategist and marketing star who has spent over 20 years working with Fortune 500 brands and their creative service organizations (and video teams) on optimization, execution, and performance.
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