Interviewing New Service Provider Relationship Manager – Ask the Tough Questions!


You are in the second year of a service provider relationship, and your first relationship manager is ready to roll off to a new assignment. Your service provider has offered two candidates to interview – what should you ask them?

You’ll want to know how they perceive the service provider’s role: you need someoSuper-herone who is experienced and smart, with the wits and wisdom to discern when things need to be changed or improved. You want someone with the guts to stand up for what is right – no matter which side that might be. You need dedication to governance ideals, to innovation, to a good and peaceful relationship, and to working together with each player in the environment. Here is a list of questions you might consider asking your two candidates, by category.


  • What is your experience in managing other relationships? What were the areas you found most challenging to the relationship?
  • If you could change one thing about your last engagement, what would it be and why?
  • Have you found situations where you would have recommended the client organize themselves differently than they were? What was the situation and how would you have changed it?


  • What kinds of governance meetings do you think are important in a services relationship? How do you see the service provider’s role in the governance meetings?
  • How would you help your client ensure that the services remain aligned to the business needs?
  • Do you think that the contract must be amended from time to time to keep the relationship in synch, or should the contract be a static document?


  • What do you think makes for the best service delivery structure in a services relationship?
  • How important do you think service levels are in a relationship? The statement of work?


  • What are the things you think make for a successful services relationship?
  • How do you approach problems in the relationship?
  • What are the things you think are most damaging to a services relationship, and how do you work to ensure that these challenges are addressed?
  • How do you approach the paradox that it is your job to deliver services to the contract and budget, while the client is motivated to get whatever they need to manage their business requirements?


  • What do you think your role is in ensuring that innovation is encouraged and developed in the services relationship?


  • What is your perspective on working with other service providers in the environment? What is the best way to work together effectively?
  • How do you plan to work with the client’s retained IT organization?

Business Process

  • What are the strong points of your company’s approach to business process with clients? What would you change if you could?

When you know each candidates position on these areas, you will be in a good position to make a truly informed and three-dimensional decision about who is right for you – and if neither candidate meets your criteria, ask for another one.

About the author

Cynthia brings 25 years of experience helping clients develop their sourcing governance and service management design. Having worked with more than 50 organizations to improve business management and service management processes in both single-provider and multi-provider environments, Cynthia has become a recognized expert in sourcing governance, vendor and contract management. She currently serves as the architect for ISG’s service methodology and global integrator of its products and services. Cynthia works to leverage ISG’s accumulated intellectual property resources to help enterprises create effective transformation and governance capability, and maintains a continuing role in the Strategy and Organizational Change Enablement practice.