Inland Revenue fully expected to learn important lessons at every stage of its Transformation, including after its first release. After Stage 1 in February 2017, we quickly realised we needed a closer understanding of how some of our customers operated and the Account Management team was set up later that month to improve customer and stakeholder management.
From that time onwards, the Account Management team became the front door for external stakeholders and customers for the remainder of the programme. They were the ‘canaries in the coalmine’ providing early warning and identification of issues that could impact our external customers before they became widespread or critical.
The Account Management team managed our customer and stakeholder relationships to help us achieve our strategic objectives for transformation. The team managed engagement with stakeholders, customers and their advocacy groups who were affected and impacted by programme changes and enabled two-way open, honest discussion, communication and feedback between customers and our programme.
The team also:
- understood our customers’ future plans and needs, and helped them understand and engage with our transformation goals
- engaged, advised and supported customers when transformation-driven change impacted them
- made important contributions to design and policy based on their own sector knowledge and in-depth understanding of customer needs
- championed customer issues to ensure the voice of the customer was heard when solutions/designs were being considered or when implemented
- helped our customers and programme teams to stay on track to achieve the agreed outcomes.
Working with other teams
The Account Management team worked alongside teams within Business Transformation and across Inland Revenue to support customers affected by transformation and to make sure the right transformation messages were shared across all customer groups. They worked very closely with the Transformation Communication and Marketing teams.
Having the right people
Our transformation account managers were professional relationship managers with:
- executive-level engagement and influencing skills, with proven experience and credibility in their sector
- the ability to drive difficult decisions while maintaining credibility, support and rapport
- the ability to skilfully line up messaging which was appropriate for the impacted customers
- proven experience in programme delivery and balancing conflicting priorities
- familiarity with a variety of engagement techniques with the confidence to deliver the right mix for their sector.
How the Account Management function adds value
- Established an account management function for all customer segments – not just the traditionally serviced customer segments within IR (tax agents, accounting software developers and others).
- Developed account management relationships with customer groups which only had access to operational level management previously.
- Employed account managers with industry knowledge and credibility — real world experience.
- Took a proactive rather than reactive approach to stakeholder engagement.
- Provided customer views and feedback directly into IR change and policy initiatives.
- Presented a collective view of change impact for each customer rather than a piecemeal view of external impacts.
- Established a successful working partnership with communications and marketing to provide a joined-up engagement approach across all customer segments.
- Initiated customer information gathering exercises to provide fast feedback into the programme on design or policy challenges.
What we learned
For future programmes of work, the account management function should be established at the mobilisation of the programme to make sure that customer and stakeholder engagement is embedded into every part of the programme design and delivery.
Moving to business as usual
The team and function have been so successful that they have been transitioned into the business. This means the key stakeholder management and the relationship management practices can continue after the programme’s completion.