As part of its Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey, SIA asks enterprise buyers their level of satisfaction with both VMS technology solutions and third-party service companies called MSPs. Their responses yield what is known as a net promoter score, or NPS (see box), which, over the last 10 years, has been trending downward for both VMS and MSP.

These and other annual surveys that SIA conducts generate valuable insights into the workforce solutions ecosystem. So why are these scores trending downward?

Here are a few perspectives for consideration.

Seasoned pros. Today, there are far fewer first-generation clients than we have seen in the age of centralized management of contingent workforces. This translates to a more knowledgeable client base that has higher expectations for innovation to bring their contingent workforce programs to the next level and give their users a better experience.

Calculating an NPS

A net promoter score is calculated based on the answer to a single question on a zero-to-10 scale, in this case: How likely is it that you would recommend your VMS or MSP to a friend or colleague?

Respondents are grouped based on how they answer the question:

  • Promoters (score nine to 10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth
  • Passives (score seven to eight) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score zero to six) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word of mouth.

Subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters yields the Net Promoter Score, which can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a promoter).

Stuck in neutral. Through our discussions with enterprise buyers, we frequently hear about their disappointment with their technology and operational support. Many buyers have spent five, seven or even 10-plus years with the same technology and MSP provider. Such long-term relationships can lead to complacency, with all parties becoming comfortable with the “as-is” state. While innovation is happening, new features/functions are commonly released into a VMS in a configured “off” position. Meanwhile, despite it being the MSP’s responsibility to constantly recommend changes and keep a program new and fresh, it is common for MSPs to maintain the status quo.

Bad policy = bad outcomes. But the program office is stagnating also, adhering to antiquated policies and procedures. The VMS and the MSP often take the blame for buyers’ own outdated policies and procedures which contribute to the negative experience. Here, the buyer organization takes a good look at itself to identify and address processes and policies that are painful to the ecosystem.

Back in gear. So how can we stop the negative NPS trend and enable forward momentum for the organization and ecosystem? Start by reviewing the user experience to identify where improvements can be made. Typically, the users involved in contingent work are:

  • Managers. Individuals who are an FTE for the buyer organization who have needs for resources to achieve an outcome.
  • Talent. The nonemployee resources who are ultimately tasked with delivering or producing the requested outcome.
  • Suppliers. The organizations that source the talent; they are typically the employer of the talent and have a contractual relationship with the buyer.
  • Contingent workforce operations. This internal group facilitates and oversees the transactions with the manager, talent and suppliers to ensure policies and procedures are closely followed. These operational teams can be internal (internally managed program, or IMP), external (MSP) or hybrid, which is a combination of internal and external operations.

Together, the CW operations team and the VMS and MSP providers can collaborate to improve the user experience. The manager is typically asked to complete a lot of tasks, such as:

  • Raise the request or work order
  • Write or edit the job description
  • Screen résumés
  • Conduct interviews
  • Select the talent/resources
  • Provision assets
  • Approve time
  • Manage day-to-day requirements

The “ask” of these managers is taxing, to say the least. The bulk of their requirements should be reviewed to see where automation or operations can remove or eliminate the manual effort for these managers.

There is also the experience of the talent. How easy is it for them to get to work and be supported as needed throughout the process?

The supplier experience also requires some attention. For instance, often there is a lack of feedback for submitted candidates or too much competition with unreasonable time-to-submit requirements. Many also experience a lack of strategic alignment and visibility to buyer goals and objectives. These are just a few examples. When contingent workforce programs are able to “partner” with their suppliers and engage at a high level the supplier experience increases dramatically.

Buyer organizations, MSPs and VMS organizations are all aware of the struggles to create an awesome, robust experience. This is an opportunity for the industry to take the steps needed to change the overall experience of contingent labor.

There is a lot of blame to go around for waning satisfaction levels. However, there is ample opportunity to change and to innovate. When the MSP and VMS make the right investments and the buyer works with them to make the user experience more seamless, then programs will gain momentum and the NPS will begin to move in the right direction.