By Jim Vant, Senior Vice President
In the dynamic landscape of Federal government contracting, where regulations and administrations change frequently, the quest for excellence is unending. To secure business opportunities and enhance customer satisfaction, it is paramount for government contracting (GovCon) teams to continuously elevate their performance levels.
As founder and Senior Vice President of Octo’s Customer Success Office (CSO) and throughout my decades of leading organizations, business units, and teams, I have learned numerous strategies that empower project managers and teams to successfully move toward higher performance, achieving the kind of heightened customer satisfaction that drives positive results.
Customer Satisfaction as Central to the Company
Several years ago, Octo committed to deepening customer satisfaction by developing the CSO which was dedicated to aligning business units with key organizational priorities to maximize value. Unique to Octo in that it was stood up as a separate company organization that would work across all Octo’s business units, the CSO had a mission to increase:
- Investment in program delivery
- Integration of quality and process into each delivery
- Ongoing and customized project management training
- Continual project management and technical management reviews
- Maximization of operational performance
- Corporate tracking of key delivery metrics
- Scalable, measurable customer satisfaction efforts
By providing support and assistance across all business units and teams and by focusing on outcomes, we have succeeded in our effort to add tremendous value to customers and to Octo in the face of constant change.
Enhancing GovCon Performance for Customer Satisfaction
While delivering CSO services for every business unit and project, there were many lessons learned. The process made evident that using the following strategies consistently result in performance improvement and exceptional customer satisfaction:
- Defining the Objective: In the pursuit of higher performance, it is essential to establish a clear objective, which is to achieve optimal customer satisfaction. This should serve as the guiding principle for all endeavors within GovCon.
- Understanding the Customer’s Value Chain: To effectively serve Federal agencies, it is imperative to understand their value chain—to know where a GovCon company and its teams fit in, and truly align services with the customer’s missions and objectives. By integrating with the customer’s value chain, GovCon teams can offer solutions that genuinely cater to their needs.
- Understanding Contractual Intent: Diving deeper into contracts, GovCon teams should seek to understand the motivation and intent behind the agreements. By doing so, they can craft more tailored services and build stronger partnerships.
- Bridging the Gap between Expectation and Delivery: Regularly evaluating customer expectations versus actual delivery of services is crucial. Identifying gaps and addressing them through effective communication and appropriate action helps ensure customers’ needs are consistently met.
- Recognizing and Taking Ownership: When challenges arise, it is essential to promptly recognize them and take ownership. This transparent approach builds trust with customers, as it demonstrates a commitment to finding solutions.
- Identifying What’s Missing: GovCon teams should proactively identify gaps in their understanding or resources and collaborate with customers to innovate and build or even rebuild trust. This proactive approach demonstrates a commitment to excellence.
- Embracing Transparency: In GovCon, transparency can be a powerful tool. Being open and forthright with customers, possibly even more than they are accustomed to, while still respecting boundaries, can foster trust and satisfaction.
- Practicing Collaboration: The entire team should learn how to and be engaged in the customer service process. Encouraging teamwork, collaboration, and open lines of communication fosters a customer-centric culture.
- Balancing Speed and Wellness: While speed in issue resolution is critical, it should be balanced with the well-being of the team to support sustained high performance. Investing in employees and their delivery and understanding contractual scope help create balance.
- Knowing When Change is Needed: Recognizing when the team is not fully onboard with a customer satisfaction approach is critical. GovCon teams should be ready to make necessary changes, whether through personnel adjustments or process refinement.
This list certainly is not exhaustive. But these strategies are the ones that have brought about the greatest successes for our teams, for Octo, and for our customers.
Outcomes of Performance Enhancement in GovCon
The implementation of these strategies has yielded a host of positive outcomes, including:
Securing New Business: Improved customer satisfaction and better aligned services have resulted in Octo winning new contracts and clients.
Reclaiming Contracts: By addressing past issues and enhancing service delivery, Octo has won trust and new work on existing contracts.
Achieving Industry Recognition and Growth: Excellence in customer service has led to industry recognition and growth opportunities. Octo’s acquisition by GovCon and technology giant IBM illustrates the success of these strategies put in motion.
Clearly, the pursuit of higher performance in the ever-evolving world of Federal government contracting is closely linked with achieving high customer satisfaction. By following proven strategies, GovCon teams can not only meet and exceed customer expectations, but also position themselves for future success.