Ensuring Repeatability – The Key to Efficient Delivery

By Anna Kennedy

As your reputation and your customer base grows, one of the most significant challenges is maintaining the quality of your work, even while you’re expanding your staff. A good problem to have, of course, and definitely better than the opposite of not having enough business.

A team that has managed up to now with fairly informal ways of doing the work for your customers, which involved a lot of reactive response and on-the-hoof thinking, can suddenly find itself stretched to breaking point. You know who your good people are and you want them working on every project, if possible. So now your top person is managing five clients, not two, and everyone is working 50- or even 60-hour weeks. You get the dreaded call from one of your newest customers – it’s not happy. It signed a contract two weeks ago and nothing seems to have happened. It’s thinking of cancelling.

What’s gone wrong here? You can break down this complex question into two groups: things to look at in the sales process and things to consider on the delivery side.

How can sales ease the transition into delivery so that the handover goes smoothly? Check out these tips:

  • Get delivery staff involved in sales: This doesn’t mean that they do the salesperson’s job – rather that, when the discussion gets serious, they’re involved. Introducing a committed prospect to the delivery team does three things:

    • It allows an introduction to take place. As a result, the delivery team doesn’t just show up as strangers on Day 1.

    • It allows delivery to listen for the detail of what the customer needs. Delivery people are the experts and they can provide invaluable input. (If you’re in sales, you may be sweating at the thought of involving delivery. Won’t they mess up the sale? Skip to the final paragraph of this article to find out.)

    • You’re able to back out. Tempting through it is to stay connected to the customer, salespeople need to be working 100 percent on new opportunities. Let the delivery team take over and pull you in when they need to.

  • Get your process worked out for delivery: The more customers you have, the more you want to use your best practices:

    • Have a contract that works for everyone. Your contract should show what you’re going to do, what your customer is going to do and what the terms are. Make sure that the contract is really clear and use a lawyer if you can to check it over. Without a contract, you can’t tell what ‘done’ looks like.

    • Create a handover process. Both sales and delivery should be clear on how the handover process is carried out. Don’t leave it to chance or to verbal communication or a bunch of emails. Things will get lost, dropped and forgotten.

    • Make sure that your methodology is clear. Get your delivery process into some kind of document that delivery follows every time. Share it with customers so they know ‘how this is going to go’. It avoids many misunderstandings.

    • Have a communication plan. Customers want to know what’s going on. Keep them informed at least once a week and pick up the phone too.

    • Review at the end of the work. Get the customer’s feedback and use it to improve your process.

Obviously, the better your team is aligned around how your firm delivers and manages the customer experience, the more repeatable you’re making your service. Here are the benefits:

  • You can reuse all sorts of materials that you created for one customer for others.

  • The team knows what’s coming next, and so spends less time ‘sorting things out’ and more on getting the work done.

  • Customer dissatisfaction goes right down, work is delivered faster and you get higher profits.

You may find even more value in repeatability when you have more than one or two customers in a given industry. In such cases, investing in industry-specific marketing materials and campaigns is worthwhile, because you’re more likely to close a deal if you’ve worked in that vertical before. Customers love that. Plus, you can make your services specific to the vertical, where relevant. Very high value!

When you get delivery involved in sales, be prepared to do some internal training and coaching. Make sure that delivery staff understand the purpose of any meeting they’re attending, what their role is and when you’re going to turn to them for answers to questions. If they’re going to do part of a presentation, ensure that they rehearse. Nothing beats good preparation.