Using the Shared Services Brand to Overcome Negative Perceptions

This blog was originally featured on the Shared Services and Outsourcing Network’s website on July 22nd, 2013.

Shared Services often miss the opportunity to communicate the value they provide, and consequently live under a pervasive and somewhat negative perception. This doesn’t have to be the case. Focusing on the Shared Services “brand” is one way to change these perceptions.

Because the origin of Shared Services is rooted in cost cutting, there is a naturally built-in   stereotype that what costs less must not be as good. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Strengthening the Shared Services brand, especially to internal audiences, is a very powerful way to communicate the positive value of a Shared Services model. Aside from the corporate arguments that Shared Services are really about reducing costs, you should be promoting the realization that there is an enormous amount of condensed wisdom in a Shared Services organization. It is, de facto, the central node of knowledge and insight. Imagine if internal customers understood this value and could tap into it. So use the brand to focus their attention. 

 From a brand perspective, what a Shared Services function should do is carefully look at the breadth and depth of value it provides, and then express this through a branding program so that customers can take advantage of it. This means thinking about a number of things:

  • Clarifying the totality of value that you can provide. Not the service, but the true value. This means stepping back and thinking about what you provide in new ways. Consider the old metaphor: “Are you in the railroad business, or in transportation, or even transportation logistics?” Each has a different meaning and carries different levels of positive perceptions (and very different margins). Because a Shared Services offering spans a corporation, it actually has great insights into best practices and tangential services that can further enhance businesses. It’s your responsibility, as leader of the Shared Services organization, to highlight this value.


  • Communicating in a way that your clients understand. Most often, Shared Services fails to communicate successfully to customers how they can access or unlock additional services to benefit their businesses. Imagine, if in addition to providing whatever services your customers expects, you could expand your value by providing other tools, services, insights, information, etc. What we hear a lot from SSOs is: “They should know we can help.” But often, they don’t. Make it a mandate to communicate, clearly, the richness of the value that you provide and the many ways of accessing it. There are plenty of engaging strategies for doing so.
  • Changing the service model. Your clients are generally mandated to use the services you provide (sometimes not). But the big, untapped opportunity is to look at your own client services model and figure out how to build client bonds in new and helpful ways. Think about your services as if you wanted your clients to love you – and ask for more. You can turn around the negative stereotype perceptions by developing a new type of client service. For starters, think about customer service experiences you have had in your personal life, and build on those. An elevated service, no matter what, will most certainly positively shift perceptions of your value.

There are so many opportunities to redefine and strengthen a Shared Services brand. It just requires focus and determination. Future columns will elaborate on how to do this.