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Creating a Customer-Focused Shared Services Operation

Without a specific and deliberate focus on the customer, a Shared Services operation is little more than an internal processing center, regardless of the type of services it provides or it’s level of proficiency in doing so.  The bottom line is that ultimately delighting the customer on a consistent and ongoing basis is the one and only accurate measurement of a truly successful Shared Services organization.

Recently, the company featured on a Peeriosity Shared Services Leadership PeercastTM shared its story of opening a new Shared Services operation that now provides 23 services across four process towers, with nearly 900 employees.  This Peercast looked at how the initial design and implementation took place, with particular focus on how the needs of the customer drove its overall strategy and configuration.

A key component of this company’s efforts, and eventual success, in creating a customer-focused Shared Services operation from the ground up was its adoption of a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of the business called ITIL, which was originally developed by the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA).  While originally designed for IT operations, the concepts and methodologies were easily adapted by the featured company to fit with the creation of a Shared Services center.

The basic framework of the ITIL methodology is as follows:

  • Add value for the customer by aligning services directly with what they need.
  • Gain efficiencies and effectiveness with a common approach by leveraging a framework of best practices.
  • Communicate and be understood by adopting a common language for the creation and management of services (internally/externally).

Emphasis is placed on making a major shift from discrete processes to focused services, which greatly enhances the capabilities of the Shared Services operation.

Another key aspect of this company’s approach to creating a customer-focused service center was the extent to which they defined their customers.  Each was classified into one or more of the following roles:

User – Any individual who uses a specific service. 

Buyer – Those with the expertise to balance service content, service Levels, and service cost.  Typically a direct report to a senior executive.

Payer – Those who plan, budget, review, and manage chargebacks.  Typically a Controller or CFO

Stakeholders – Those who are being measured on the net business contribution of the services provided.  Typically senior executives.

Process Partner – Organizations which the provider is reliant upon for the end-to-end delivery of a service, such as IT, ERP platform, suppliers, and vendors.

The presenter then shared a wealth of information regarding governance, customer relations, and communication, all of which can be found on the Peeriosity member website.

Reviewing now the results of a related poll created using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology, the first question looked at where Shared Services could gain the most value from increased customer engagement.  Working together with customers on efficiency/quality issues was the most popular response, with 33% of the companies responding in that manner.  This was closely followed by 24% by developing/enhancing relationships with individuals.

Clearly, all of the approaches listed in the response key can favorably impact customer engagement and should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure adequate attention is being given to them.

The second poll question then addressed the degree of satisfaction that the surveyed companies had with their overall level of customer engagement.  Interestingly, only 20% were “Very Satisfied”, with the majority (50%) being “Somewhat Satisfied”.  While it appears that some companies have made good progress in this area, the majority have some work ahead of them to improve levels of engagement with their internal customers.

Some poll comments shared by the participating Peeriosity members provide additional insight:

Manufacturing Member: Always a delicate balancing act, determining how much to spend interacting with the customer and getting the time to spend with the customer is always a challenge, given everyone’s demanding schedules.

Other Industry Member: Customers expect to have fast answers and to be right the first time, regular general communications by us and also other departments expect their standard reports on time (like AP month-end reports). With this, we reach a 98% of satisfaction rate.

Real Estate & Construction Member: Internal customer relationships are critical in a Shared Services environment and all of the options are applicable to a certain degree, but efficiency and quality are fundamental in making sure the relationship remains a positive one.

Manufacturing Member: We still see much potential for improved process execution. The challenge is to find more time to devote to the root cause/corrective action efforts.

How customer-focused is your company’s Shared Services operation?  Are there opportunities to significantly improve in this critical area?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?


“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees.

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility of all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPolling.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here.

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