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How to stand out in a crowd: Customer Sat


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May 17, 2007

How to stand out in a crowd: Customer Sat

Steve Hamm

One of the key issues confronting the top Indian IT services firms is how to differentiate themselves from one another. If the top five companies all offer essentially the same array of services, how does a corporate customer chose between them? On the surface, it seems like that leaves only price as the deciding factor. And, in many situations, I'm sure that's the way it will work out. But I don't think that means that price is the only lever. Over the long haul, customer satisfaction will be the key differentiator that separates the best IT services companies from the pack.

This issue came up last week, when I conducted a "fireside chat" at the big Software 2007 conference in Santa Clara, Calif., with S. Mahalingam, TCS' chief financial officer. I asked him about how TCS differentiated itself from the other top Indian outfits, and he ticked off the array of services TCS offers. But Infosys, Wipro, and Satyam offer the same portfolio, so I asked him again. He really didn't have an answer.

My answer is this. Delivering IT and BPO services that truly satisfy customers is extremely difficult. Over time, the Indian companies that do this consistently over a wide range of service offerings will gain the reputation as organizations that truly deliver the goods. TCS recently began a global branding campaign and is spending a ton of money on advertising. I'm sure that will increase awareness of the company and help it win some business. But that's not how it will gain brand equity. Customer satisfaction is how.

08:45 AM

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It is true that customer satisfaction will help companies in the long haul. But it is not true that all these companies are alike. In my experience, there is a vast difference in the way the talent pool is groomed. Some companies more than others focus more on soft skill training in addition to core software or technical grooming. Some companies put greater emphasis on software quality, coding standards, documentation, etc more than others. So although all the companies are in the same field, their internal makeup is quite different and the mantra for customer satisfaction would vary vastly for each. Also when a customer has to decide, the priorities of that company will dictate who they go with. For instance, it will have to be a fine tradeoff of cost vs confidence.

Posted by: Ram at May 18, 2007 03:54 AM

Steve,

You make a good point that customer satisfaction is the key; I guess it is a factor in retaining and growing customers. However, I don?? agree with the fact that customer satisfaction is the ONLY way to gain brand equity.

I am no expert on brand management but was thinking of a piece of advice a friend gave when I was writing my book (Offshoring IT Services). He was quoting an old Chinese saying:

??ou may make the best candles in the world?? but you won?? sell any if the world doesn?? know about them.?/p>

Well, a year after the book was published, it still hasn’t got into the ‘best seller’ list though it has sold decently...and I have got some great reviews (and an egoboo); what gives? ;-)

Posted by: Mohan Babu at May 18, 2007 08:29 AM


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