Netsolutions Case Study: Your Baby is Ugly

The Importance of Honesty in Client Relationships

Famous for their fabulous client Christmas parties, we asked Netsolutions’s General Manager how they continue to retain their clients’ loyalty when the party’s over.

As part of our Insights program, 9Strategic undertook a survey of Melbourne-based IT infrastructure specialists, Netsolutions’s clients recently. Netsolutions count ANZ, Coles, Westpac and Australia Post among their diverse client portfolio.

We were impressed by the high level of customer satisfaction among their clients so we asked Erin Harte, Netsolutions’s General Manager, the secrets to their client service program. 

How would you describe your client base?

Quite a varied group but they are all so interesting and engaging because they come to us with a strategic need for change and they need it now.

How do you describe the pervading attitude towards client service in your industry?

It may not be unique to our industry but I see many businesses that are operating in a very self-centric rather than client- centric way. Of course our industry is gaining notoriety for out-sourcing functions to offshore locations which simply means they are placing cost before service, plus limiting their own agility and onsite response capabilities. It has a greater impact on clients than people are willing to admit.

Is it common for clients to be with an IT service provider for the long term? Or is there a “churn and burn” mentality?

There is a real mix. Again, it applies to any industry, not just IT. We spend a lot of time asking “Who are we servicing?” and working towards a long-term client-base. This requires bringing value to the table and creating cultural alignment with our customers.

What do you believe is the single most important factor in retaining your clients?

Work your arse off! Seriously, what is the point of your business if you don’t know who your clients are and what’s important to them? We invest time to understand our clients’ businesses drivers and their technology dependency. It’s a combination of knowing who you are; who your clients are and then plenty of hard work. You can apply the same rules to anything – from business to sport.

How do you measure if your clients are satisfied with your service?

Traditionally it was simply through our natural project-related communication but we are maturing in this area. Undertaking the customer insights process with 9Strategic has really brought home how critical it is to have the real data, not just assumptions about your customers. Although we try to communicate frequently with all our clients to gauge their satisfaction we intend to make the Client Insights Program a formalised annual process.

If you discover that a client may not be satisfied with your service how do approach them/resolve this?

We try to take an engineering approach to any client issues that arise. We ask ourselves: Is it due to our skill level or focus or is it simply a case of our needs becoming divergent? If the values and culture of service provider and customer do not align the relationship will never work for either party. It is never an easy conversation to have with a client but you always need to be upfront and honest.

You don’t believe there is a place for the traditional model of “sales people” in your business – how does this reflect your attitude towards acquiring and retaining new clients?

We took the decision a few years ago to not have traditional “sales” people, that is people rewarded on commission. The past four or five years has seen the need for Businesses to become agile while also providing new levels of ‘always on’ to their iPhone carrying, work from anywhere staff and clients. We decided that the “doers” must be kept close to the people who need the doing – the customer, without “interpretation layers” where short term and long terms needs often get misused. It was a risk at the time but we have found levels of customer satisfaction have increased and our business has really benefitted in terms of sales. Everyone in our business should be a salesperson for our business and our values.

What is your approach to conflict resolution? Do you have a standardised process?

Sometimes conflict is necessary. We sometimes get people referred to us when something has gone wrong and they perceive they need a quick fix. You can’t pretend everything is fine, you have to be honest. Conflict will often arise from frustration from either side but it can also point to a lack of partnership.

How do you get feedback from your clients? Is this standardised?

As I mentioned earlier we are moving from more informal ongoing client communication to a more formal, standardised process. We have become aware that we need to develop new client strategies because, for example, some of our long-standing clients think we only offer one service and aren’t aware of our full service offering. We are also spending more time identifying who among our clients are our true advocates and at the other end of the spectrum, we have recently identified a real profile of new clients who will never align with our business drivers and goals.

Contact us to discover more about how 9 Strategic’s Insights Program can assist your business deliver better client service.