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Overburdened Liaisons Face Many Challenges
Overburdened Liaisons Face Many Challenges

by Bernadette Ventura, FMP
Senior Associate
Washington, DC Office

Many of us might remember the business model where companies managed all aspects of their firms, even when they were not a part of their core business, such as foodservice, mail services, janitorial services and so on. However, today it’s much more common to hear “My job was outsourced” than “I started in the mail room.”

For a long time, corporations have outsourced functions like building janitorial and foodservices to companies who specialize in those services. Towards the latter part of the 20th century, more and more companies abandoned the “self-op” model for other non-core functions like mail and copy services, archives, reception services and a host of others – in favor of turning the operations of those ancillary or support services over to companies with expertise in those fields. But who manages all of those outsourced suppliers?

In the early days of outsourced foodservice, there was a “foodservice liaison” – someone who had actual foodservice experience and knew the ins and outs of F&B operations – assigned to oversee the foodservice vendor. But that role has changed. In the case of large corporations, especially those expanding overseas, the foodservice liaison has become a dedicated person with oversight for many foodservice outlets across the nation and/or globe. In other cases, one liaison has taken on oversight responsibilities for foodservice, conference, mail, fitness, reception, security, facilities and other services. Oftentimes, the liaison has little or no experience in many of the contracted services they are overseeing. In all cases, the new “super liaison” has a full plate!

So how does the new “super liaison” monitor performance of multiple locations and/or suppliers in a way that is not counterproductive to outsourcing? How does he or she ensure that Service Level Agreements are maintained and that the suppliers are running the business in the best interest of the host company without micromanaging the supplier?

Customer satisfaction – either internal or external – is one way to measure supplier performance. Periodic (annual or bi-annual) satisfaction surveys are a tried and true approach, though electronic feedback mechanisms have also become popular for immediate customer commentary. The creation of an internal Facebook page and other social media forums allowing running commentary from “customers” is one of the newest approaches.

There are other components of supplier performance though. Expectations should be delineated in each contract, so knowing the contract terms is a very critical responsibility of the liaison. A scorecard system can be developed to assess performance on defined factors. Issues such as quality, safety, and sanitation must be reviewed regularly and to do so requires visual site inspections. Marketing, merchandising, financial and statistical achievements also must be reviewed regularly, but can be monitored more easily from a distance. To ease the burden of managing multiple vendors in diverse functional areas, the liaison can develop a calendar staggering the performance reviews.

It’s important to remember the purpose of the outsourcing to begin with – to shed duties that are not the company’s core business or core skill set. So if managing multiple contracts is not something appropriate for your company, you might consider hiring one company to manage that for you. Feel free to ask me more about how Cini-Little might be able to help through our Virtual Liaison service.

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