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Trust and confidence—assuming they are alive and well—can help both sides of the outsourcing relationship to analyze and solve difficult problems. But, they have to be earned. They are qualities of a relationship that grow over the long-term, yet there are some simple steps to help facilitate the process.
1. Share problems early and plainly—and ask for this type of openness in the agreement.
Trust and confidence emerge not in heady periods of success, but in the midst of challenge and stress. One OS leader explains, “Honesty is telling the truth when you’re asked a question; transparency is telling the truth, plus showing concerns, gaps, negatives, and being open when you can’t do something.
2. Choose your key contacts—particularly the OS-based ‘client manager’—wisely.
This individual should be chosen as a steward of the relationship. Aside from having excellent relationship skills, he or she should also be a shrewd businessperson, able to ask probing questions and analyze difficult problems. Says one provider executive, “The outsource provider must have the ability to connect and understand the business, and to look at the overall value it can bring to the organization. They need to understand the business pressures we’re facing, and how they can help us meet our goals.”
3. Share sensitive information early.
A true measure of mutual trust is the number of ‘unofficial conversations’ the relationship manager on the client side is prepared to have with his/her counterpart on the provider side. For example, a client may tell the provider about an organizational change before it has been officially announced to help the provider look good to within the own organization: “They’re telling you because they trust you that it won’t go any further…giving you a ‘heads up’ on something that may impact you, rather than leaving you on the back foot.”
4. Aspire to reach a state of mutual, institutionalized trust.
Institutionalized trust is characterized by low attrition and extensive sharing of financial information. Says one provider executive, “You mention the name of the client, and everyone responds instantly. [...] Each institution holds dear the long-standing relationship and understanding that they have. [...] Most companies would point to one or two suppliers where you know that, come hell or high water, that supplier is going to be there for you.”