Since the beginning, “Customer is King” has been the motto for customer service, but too often software companies take a very self-centered approach to engaging with their clients:
- What can I offer them? (Rather then what do they need.)
- How do I want to work with them? (Rather then how do they want to work with me._
If something goes wrong, do you look to place blame or automatically think about how you can learn from the situation?
The key to great customer experience is fostering a longlasting relationship built on trust and delivering true business value to your clients.
Furthermore, the rise of the cloud or software as a service puts even more pressure on software companies to be accountable for their relationships. Gone are the days where you take your money and run. If you don’t invest to deliver true value for your clients, it will inevitably be seen in your customer churn.
So what is true business value?
In short, true business value results from a deep understanding of what a client is looking to achieve and how you can map to that larger initiative, help grow their business and set them up for success. How to do it?
Here are my top five tips for delivering true business value to your clients.
1. Understand the client’s business goals
If you can’t align with a key business initiative of a client, then no amount of selling will create an opportunity.
I start many initial client meetings with the question “What do you need to make happen?” It gives the client an opportunity to discuss their larger initiatives and concerns and allows me to better understand what is driving that customer. If you can align with a key initiative, then the project is already funded and you are already aligned with something that is important to them. Continue to dig deeper with open-ended questions about the nature of the issues that they are trying to deal with as an organization.
Having a better understanding of the client’s overall business focus and key initiatives, regardless of your solution, better prepares you to deliver true value.
2. Quarterly business reviews
Too many software companies approach customer relationships from a transaction perspective. If a vendor wants to have a long term relationship with a client, you need to invest in the relationship even if there isn’t an immediate transaction to be had.
Quarterly business reviews provide the opportunity to stay in front of executive management and understand how their business initiatives are evolving over time and how you are executing against them. This essentially acts as the governance meeting to ensure that you are staying on track and holding you accountable to your work and the relationship.
3. Know how you will measure success
If you can’t identify how you are going to measure success, then you can’t claim victory. Every software vendor claims they can help reduce costs while increasing productivity. But what does that really mean?
The key is to put quantifiable metrics that are directly tied to the value that is being created through this relationship. For example, in my business, if a client is looking to improve customer experience, we rely on CSAT or Net Promoter score to evaluate the impact we are delivering. It shows the client that we are signing up for a real quantifiable impact on their business and keeps us accountable to meet that goal.
4. Be easy to work with
Sounds simple, but the software industry has made procuring software one of the most painful processes in the history of technology. Relationships are plagued by long term contract entanglements just to get price certainty. Is this the way to enter an engagement with customers?
It’s the fastest way to ruin all of the good faith you have built up thus far.
Great customer experience shouldn’t disappear when the contract comes to the table. If you really want to engage in a long term relationship, don’t force them into it with a contract. Work the way that makes sense with their business and you will see the return in shorten deal cycles, increased efficiency and client renewals.
5. Learn from your mistakes
No engagement is ever perfect all of the time, but successful relationships are often defined by how you respond when something does go wrong. In fact, rapid, sincere intervention often results in higher customer loyalty than if the problem had never occurred in the first place.
So when things do go wrong, we are really being presented with opportunities to build customer loyalty. Often software vendors try to think themselves out of a problem rather then use it as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship or even find a new solution.
My personal philosophy in delivering true business value is simple, I ask clients or prospects “what are you working on?” and go from there.
Greg Gianforte is CEO and founder of RightNow, a leading provider of customer experience solutions that enhance interactions across the web, contact center, and social networks.