“Renewing Your Vows” – a Valentine’s Day Guide for Service Providers


People like me, who have been married for many years, often choose to renew their vows to remind themselves of why they got married in the first place and why they want to remain that way.

While I’m by no means the first person to suggest that outsourcing relationships are like a marriage, the idea of renewing vows reminds me of recent RFPs I’ve seen and conversations I’ve had with clients. One of their top concerns is a desire to be “re-courted or won over again” by their vendors. In effect, clients are saying that they no longer “know” their vendors like they did a decade earlier. Nor do clients believe that their vendors understand how they themselves have changed and what their needs are today.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and as a seasoned veteran of both marriage and the outsourcing industry, let’s looks at how you as a service provider can spice up a long-term relationship that has become a bit too comfortable.

Rock the boat:  My wife is a creature of habit; I know her favorite meal is a medium-rare filet mignon, a loaded baked potato and a Caesar Salad. But when I recently introduced her to some Latin-influenced Chinese food, she loved it and asked why I had waited so long to share those dishes.

Similarly, if you’re a service provider and everything is going well (SLAs and KPIs are green), that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about  rocking the boat. Clients often don’t realize that you have additional services or different engagement models that are a better fit than what you’re doing with them today. Don’t wait for an RFP or for clients to ask, take a deeper look and change their choices in a way that might pleasantly surprise them.

Location, location, location:  Relationship therapists often suggest that couples should experience a change of scenery to put a spark back in their marriage. Vendors that were India-centric a dozen years ago might still be delivering in the same manner today, even though they now have delivery centers all around the world and a much more robust Global Delivery Model (GDM).  With clients becoming increasingly more global in their offerings and operations, a new delivery location might be just the trick to add a spark back into your client relationships and highlight the various values you can provide.

What do they need?  Clothing, jewelry and perfume have always been sure hits as gifts for my wife. But as the mother of four active and demanding daughters, I recently realized  that a gift she would truly appreciate would be a trip away from all of us!  Clients’ positions also change over time – in relation to their industry, their size, their revenue or even their stability. You might have capabilities, alliances or even products that would help them today. You won’t know if you aren’t offering those new capabilities to your clients.

KISS – (keep it simple, stupid): This is my wife’s favorite response whenever I embark on solving problems or giving advice. You should also keep this in mind as you woo your clients. Don’t do a full marketing blitz on them, they won’t like it.  Think long and hard about the message and only tell them relevant things about who you are today as compared to when they hired you.  Emphasize why they should want to remain “married” to you.

Impress your clients, care for them, win them over – and enjoy the second honeymoon.

About the author

Jan Erik has more than 30 years of experience as a client. At both American Express and Ameriprise Financial, he lead vendor management offices and managed strategic outsourcing relationships. As an industry analyst at Forrester Research Inc., he conducted and wrote research on the topics of innovation, the future of outsourcing, sourcing models, risk, governance, captive centers, testing and alternative markets. As a service provider at Infosys, he was accountable for helping clients improve the relationship and value they were getting from their outsourcing engagements. At ISG, he has worked as an advisor and consultant assisting clients and service providers implement service integration and management (SIAM) models and the governance processes that support them. Now, as a director and principal analyst with ISG Insights, he continues to research, analyze and write about the industry.