Is it possible to meet customer expectations?
During a recent work off site, the topic of customer engagement came up and we spent a number of hours working through what “customer engagement” really meant. In a room filled with IT geeks, sales people, marketing people and senior executives there was some robust discussion.
As you would expect, the IT team were very binary in their view, the sales team just wanted to know ‘what the heck’ was going on, marketing wanted to ensure that what ever the communication was that it looked good and was “on brand” while the executives wanted to ensure we provided a positive end to end experience for the customers.
So, after much discussion, we decided that it really came down to a few key points:
- Level setting customer expectations
- Clear and succinct communications
- From a project management point of view, communications must be regular
That was about it, but each of these require a little more detail.
Level setting customer expectations.
This has to start early, Sales are often accused of selling more than the company can deliver, this has been my experience for most of my career. However, I’ve found that a kick off meeting at the start of an engagement can make the world of difference. Create a process, something you can repeat again and again for each new engagement. In this kick off meeting make sure you work out some common ground rules.
Set expectations early. I had a government client a few years ago, their idea of engaging an external consultant meant the consultants would be on-site 5 days a week until the project was completed. However, that wasn’t how we worked and this quickly created a problem because we failed to level set expectations.
Having to go back and level set expectations is difficult and sometimes painful. Use your kick off workshop to establish these “house keeping” type of issues. Most importantly, ensure you understand their business drivers, why are they spending money with you and what do they see as a successful project?
It would be appropriate during this workshop to draw from the milestones outlined in your statement of work or contracts. Validate these with the stake holders in the workshop, is their view the same as the contract negotiators you signed the contracts with?
Clear and succinct communication
There are several ways to ensure clear and succinct communication with clients. One method I’ve used has been to provide a weekly update during a project. For example, each Monday send an email to the client team with the action items from last week. Provide a short update on each point and when items have been completed, don’t delete them from the list, simply mark them as completed. It helps to communicate progress.
Raise the bar, use technology to help you engage
When I’ve had a client implementing Salesforce CRM from salesforce.com, I’ve found the Chatter app a fantastic way to engage. If you’re not familiar, Chatter is an instant message type tool for all users of Salesforce. It’s woven into many aspects of the CRM and can even be used as an approval process for your business processes.
Especially following the CRM Go Live, Chatter enables the client to engage with me directly from within the CRM. I access Chatter via my iPhone, iPad or even via a stand alone desktop app. It reduces phone calls, I can respond pretty much where ever I am.
The Oracle CX suite of applications covers all aspects of the Customer Experience from Sales, Service and Marketing.
There are also many free cloud based apps you can use to collaborate with clients. Google Apps is a great way to have a group of people access a single document. You could also use Drop Box, a free file sharing app which means the team has access to a single document which avoids the need to email the document around to the team. Using these cloud based solutions, the team can work from the most current version of the document.