Many contractors fail to stand out, WT study finds

In our latest WT Insider Report, we explore the government customers' perspective on contractor performance, and some of the findings aren't pretty: Half of your customers don't know who you are.

The third leg of our series of Washington Technology Insider Reports exploring partnering has been released. This one focuses on the customer perspective and offers a series of insights about what contractors do well and don’t do well from the government’s point of view.

We started producing the reports on Government IT Contractor Partnering last year when we launched our WT Insider membership program. We made a promise then that as part of the membership we would deliver exclusive market research reports.

In the first report, we looked at what subcontractors thought of primes. The second turned the question around and asked the primes what they thought of the subcontractors. Both of the reports offered critical insights into what primes and subs value and need in the relationship, and where opportunities exist for making your company a preferred partner in the market.

With this third report, we asked government customers questions about their contractors and the value they want contractors to deliver.

We asked questions around critical attributes such as ease of the working relationship, business ethics, customer knowledge, strategic value, technical expertise and pricing.

Some of our findings were expected, such as the desire for better communication and the negative impact the current budget environment has had on the relationship between customers and contractors.

But there are plenty of surprises as well, such as the fact that pricing isn’t a big deal for the customers. In fact, 67 percent rated pricing as good to excellent.

But there is one very troubling finding in our report. We asked the simple question: Is there a single best contractor who stands out overall? The answer is not pretty: 40 percent said there is no single best contractor, while 9 percent said they didn’t know.

In my mind, that is pretty damning. It tells me that nearly half – 49 percent of your customers – aren’t seeing a positive impact from their contractors. Contractors are falling way short.

From the customer’s perspective, it just doesn’t matter who their contractor is. Contractors are just one large group of companies that are indistinguishable from one another.

The report goes deeper into what the 52 percent who could name a single best contractor felt that contractor did well. And here is one of the areas where the report points the way for companies to improve their performance.

The top companies significantly outperform their peers in the areas of technical expertise, teamwork, customer knowledge, industry perception and process. In fact, the top companies deliver even more value in those areas than customers expect. They are exceeding expectations. That’s how you stand out in a crowded field.

Over the coming days, I’ll dive deeper into the report and offer more analysis in areas such as factors in choosing a contractor, the current and future state of the contractor-customer relationship and other areas where contractors can take concrete actions to differentiate themselves from competitors.

There are some eye-popping findings in this report that I don’t think you’ll want to miss.

You’ll need to be a Washington Technology Insider to access the report and our analysis. You can click here to learn more.

In addition to the Insider reports on partnering, we’ve also produced a report on purchasing plans for 2014, as well as a contract award database that you can download. The database is updated daily.

As our Insider program grows, look for more exclusive benefits and analysis that you won’t find anywhere else.

And as always, we look forward to any feedback and suggestions you want to provide.