Why a Service Account Manager?

by NIck Frank on March 25, 2012

As a service director, we all know that there are some customers who are more important than others, either because of the revenues they generate or their strategic importance to our business. Often they are the larger accounts, with multiple touch-points spread over a wide geography. For customers with this profile, it is not easy for an OEM supplier to have a coherent services strategy implemented through many service teams. Nor is it easy for the customer dealing with many different touch-points and fragmented inputs to manage their service supplier in a strategic way.

In these situations it is well worth OEMs considering a Service Account Manager, to coordinate activities in a major customer, or groups of customers. In my experience, customers love this this arrangement as it gives them a single Go To point for strategic issues. It helps them take some of the complexity out of their own operations such that they can see more clearly the really important ‘stuff’ that needs to get done. So powerful is this intangible benefit, I have seen customers insist on keeping this role, when the local management have seen it as a cost cutting opportunity.

Although this approach is not so common with OEM’s, within the software and computer hardware industries it has matured considerably where SLA’s are common place.  This industry has developed some good high level guidelines as to what are the key factors in the Service Account Manager’s role . In a recent seminar, a leading writer of services in the IT industry, James Alexander described 4 key responsibilities of the SAM:

  1. Resolution: This is the most important responsibility of a SAM. Get problems solved and to collaborate with the account to stop issues arising in the first place.
  2. Relationships: manage the customer relationship making sure issues are resolved, meet with key executives on a regular basis and use account planning tools to ensure a cohesive approach
  3. Retention: The key to retention is to be good at resolution and relationships. Add to this account specific research to make sure you know what makes the customer happy, and ensure regular meetings are held at different levels of the organisation to review goals, what is going well and what is not.
  4. Revenue: Make sure everyone understands their role in getting new business revenues. The SAM needs to be fully integrated with the sales team to enable effective development of sales proposals. There needs to be incentives for success, but not necessarily financial. Don’t fall into the trap of providing service for free. Make sure a reward is attached to it.

Really good SAMs are really quite unique, as key to their success is their ability to generate trust. They have to have technical capability in order to gain credibility and respect.  But they also have to be able to manage sometimes difficult relationships through being reliable, transparent, understanding the clients perspective and resilient.

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