Service as a Differentiator: What is Great Service in the HR Technology Industry?

Dec 21, 2017 9:16:43 AM / by Ben Eubanks

Business value. That's the ultimate goal of HR technology adoptions, and our latest research shows that businesses adopting modern HCM technology see more value than those with more antiquated systems. It also showed that business leaders outside HR were more likely to say their HR technology systems were strategic contributors to employer value instead of merely being repositories for administrative information.

It's been a banner year for HR technology, but as most of the industry slows down to catch its collective breath as we approach the new year, I have been running through my notes from a variety of meetings and briefings with vendors in the industry this year (including at the 2017 HR Technology Conference and Expo). One area that I heard more about this year than in years past had nothing to do with technology stacks, cloud deployments, or unified databases. That area was service.

It's a common joke in the SaaS world that vendors collect a check and then check out for the next year until it's time to renew the contract. While this thought isn't confined solely to HR technology, it is all too easy to feel like this is the case. While great companies are always re-selling the customer on features, functionality, and value provided to the business, there are plenty of horror stories about this process going awry as well.

One reason for this is that technology selection processes, despite extensive training and education being available, are still poor at best for many employers. It's incredibly complex, especially at an enterprise level, to evaluate technology options, determine processes, and ultimately select the one that will best help the firm to reach its goals within a reasonable budget. Each step of the process is an opportunity for this service chain to break down, leading to unhappy buyers and potentially shredding HR's credibility within the organization.

[Case Study: How GM's HR team was able to secure funding for a new employee recognition system through the use of business cases to navigate internal business requirements.]

With that said, this concept of great service was repeated not by just one company, but by multiple in my interactions at the recent event. I wanted to point out a few examples of what this looks like in practice so that practitioners can have an idea of what to look for in the process. Additionally, vendors should taken note in order to have something to aspire to as well.

Examples of Great Service in HR Technology

  • Using a spectrum of real references, not just positive ones

PeopleStrategy, a midmarket HCM suite, goes out of its way in the reference checking process to add value. It does this not just by pointing prospects to a raving fan of the product, but also by connecting potential clients with a current user that had an issue or problem that required intervention by the vendor. This helps to present a more balanced approach and is a great lesson, because we all know that when things are going well, the job is easy. It's when things don't go so well that everyone has to buckle down to make everything work.

In reality we all know that everything isn't "sunshine and roses" when it comes to working with vendors, so why try to act like this does happen and set yourself up for failure as a technology provider?

  • Attention diminishes the perception of a problem's impact

TalentGuard, a platform focused on holistic talent management and career pathing tools, is no stranger to the challenges of implementing new software. The firm's founder told me that when a major client was on the verge of going live this year, there was some concern about a variety of small "fixes" that needed attention. While there had been progress against the checklist over time, it was very close to go-live and the full list wasn't resolved. Instead of plowing ahead blindly, because the items were scheduled to be completed prior to turning the system on, the vendor actually focused on the reservations and explained the process for getting them resolved.

In this instance, the mere fact that attention was given and the issue was acknowledged served to reduce the fear and frustration on the part of the client. After all, when you look at it objectively, adopting an enterprise HCM system has a profound impact on the sponsor and/or HR leader's long-term credibility. In the end all of the issues were resolved prior to going live on the system, as promised, but by taking a high-touch approach to the situation the client walked away feeling cared for and the technology provider was able to build some relational goodwill, which is highly valuable in an ongoing relationship.

Practitioners, as you look to the year ahead you should absolutely be challenging your vendors to bring service to the table in order not just to attract you as a customer but to retain your business long-term. Vendors, you need to be looking for ways to add value in every interaction with your clients, and hopefully these examples present some ideas and opportunities for you to exceed expectations.

Ben Eubanks

Written by Ben Eubanks

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