The 4 R's of Services Account Management

by James "Alex" Alexander, Ed.D.
Services account management is a critical capability for almost all organizations selling and delivering complex products and services. Yet, as customer’s needs, wants, and expectations have grown, so has the role of the high-performing services account manager evolved to meet these new requirements.1

My research and experience confirms that the very best SAMs are masters of delivering on the 4 R’s: Resolution, Retention, Revenue, and Relationships. Read on to learn best practices and to take an assessment to compare yourself or your SAM organization to top performers.

Resolution
The role of the SAM was originally created to resolve problems early, reacting quickly to minimize the time and the negative consequences of important products and services not working as required. This has not changed; customers still highly value having one individual to take ownership when things go south. Yet, everyone knows the value of avoiding problems before they occur, and this proactive component is becoming a much greater area of focus. So resolution is about both solving customer problems early and avoiding problems in the first place.

Here are SAM best practices related to resolution:
  • Put a bulletproof (simple, fast, effective, accountable) process in place.
  • Grab the cape and don the red boots, when appropriate, to solve customer problems before they go south.
  • Put priority on avoiding problems.
  • Collaborate with the account on “who does what, when and how” before issues arise.

Retention
The natural result and the main success metric of account management is retention--extending the services contract. In most cases, creating loyal accounts and keeping 95 percent of targeted key accounts are realistic objectives.

Here are SAM best practices related to retention:
  • Do resolution really well.
  • Do account-specific research to know what it takes to keep them happy.
  • Conduct regular, multi-level account meetings to review goals, what is going well, and what isn’t.

Revenue
As the role of services account manager has changed from being reactive to proactive, top organizations know that gaining new streams of profitable revenue is a natural outcome of an effective SAM program. Actively finding new opportunities and supporting getting more business is now a standard expectation of high-performing SAMs.

Here are SAM best practices related to revenue:
  • Do resolution really well.
  • Do retention really well.
  • Define the SAM’s (and everyone’s) role in getting new business.2
  • Train and support new behaviors.
  • Provide incentives.
  • Celebrate successes.
  • Before you giveth, taketh away.3

Relationships
Today’s high-performing services account manager is all about relationships, both within the customer’s and within their own organization. Strong relationship skills build deep and wide trust within the customer and also with key stakeholders inside your company. The value to the business is blocking out competition.

Here are SAM best practices related to relationships:
  • Do resolution really well.
  • Do retention really well.
  • Do revenue really well.
  • Require SAMs to use account-planning tools on key accounts.
  • Find reasons to meet with executives on a regular basis.
  • Measure relationship-building behaviors.
  • Train and support new behaviors.
SAM Assessment
OK, how does your organization stack up? Take this quick assessment to find areas of strength and areas of opportunity.
Strongly Disagree Strongly Agree
Total score (out of a possible 75) =
60 or higher: Excellent job! Keep it up.
50 to 60: Good. Target areas of weakness.
40 to 50: Concern. Take a hard look at your SAM strategy and organization.
Under 40: Yikes! CALL FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY!
RESOLUTION
1. We have a bulletproof (simple, fast, effective, accountable) process in place. 1 2 3 4 5
2. We grab the cape and don the red boots when appropriate. 1 2 3 4 5
3. We put a priority on avoiding problems. 1 2 3 4 5
4. We collaborate with the account on “who does what, when and how” before issues arise. 1 2 3 4 5
RETENTION
5. We do account-specific research to know what it takes to keep our customers happy. 1 2 3 4 5
6. We conduct regular, multi-level account meetings to review goals, what is going well, and what isn't. 1 2 3 4 5
REVENUE
7. We define the SAM’s (and everyone’s) role in getting new business.
8. We train and support new revenue-supporting behaviors. 1 2 3 4 5
9. We provide incentives. 1 2 3 4 5
10. We celebrate successes. 1 2 3 4 5
11. Before we assign new responsibilities, we take something less important away. 1 2 3 4 5
RELATIONSHIPS
12. We require SAMs to use account planning tools on key accounts. 1 2 3 4 5
13. We find reasons to meet with executives on a regular basis. 1 2 3 4 5
14. We measure relationship-building behaviors. 1 2 3 4 5
15. We train our SAMS on relationship-building skills. 1 2 3 4 5
Interested in learning more? Download our Stellar Services Account Management brochure.
References
1. Alexander, James A. 2011. “Services Account Manager: The New Corporate Rockstar.”
http://www.alexanderstrategists.com/art_sam_rock_star.html
2. Alexander, James A. 2009. Seriously Selling Services: How to Create a Successful Services Business in Any Industry. Alexander Consulting. St. James City, FL.
3. Alexander, James A. 2007.
Transitioning Technical Experts into Trusted Advisors. Alexander Consulting. St. James City, FL.

Jim Alexander is founder of Alexander Consulting, a management consultancy that creates and implements services strategies. Contact him at 239-671-0740 or alex@alexanderstrategists.com.

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James "Alex" Alexander is founder of Alexander Consulting, a management consultancy that creates and implements services strategies. Contact him at 239-671-0740 or alex@alexanderstrategists.com.

RETURN TO ARTICLES >