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System Evaluation Series, Part 3: The Cost of Ignoring Your Customers

In this installment of our continuing series following "Dave" and his evaluation team as they define their five-year technology roadmap, we're going to take a step back to learn a valuable lesson.

The Value of System Review
As part of the evaluation process, Dave engaged his team's solution partner to perform a paid review of the current Syspro system.

Dave was skeptical about the review. Since the original implementation, the solution partner had been silent. An invoice for the annual maintenance agreement was the full extent of communication. "If we treated our customers the way most IT partners treat their customers, we would be out of business," Dave noted.

Based on Dave's experience with IT vendors he believes that they place too much emphasis on the technical solution and not enough on the business value. "I would gladly pay for a tune-up every now and again to make sure the system is being used to our greatest advantage," Dave said.

'I Wish I Had Known'
The system review went better than expected. The two-person team spent three days working with system users to observe how they were using the system and help them solve specific challenges.

"We found out we were being our own worst enemy," Dave observed. "We were not using the system as it was designed." The Syspro partner team fixed navigation issues, corrected problem data practices and suggested a number of small steps that will make a huge improvement in the company's use of the current system. Improvements worth the cost of the engagement -- even without the system review report.

The most common reaction to the guidance of the Syspro partner team was: "I wish I had known about this sooner." To the Syspro partner's credit, they acknowledged their oversight in follow-through and committed to change.

Lessons Learned
The primary lesson here is pretty self-evident. No matter what kind of technology you provide to your customers -- from managed services to ERP to training -- ask your clients how it's working for them. If you don't set up a systematic way for that question to get asked regularly, it won't happen.

Create and schedule an action plan to connect with your customers regularly and ask how they are doing. Different clients need different levels of attention. Segment your customers to align the right level of investment into keeping relationships going. 

Based on their purchases or system value, tier your clients and build your customer relationship plan. For example:

  • Top 20 percent of customers: Assign a client account manager to schedule quarterly or annual system reviews with the client and your solution architect.

  • Next 40 percent: Assign a client account manager or consultant to call each customer at least once a year. "I am calling to see how Dynamics (Lync, training, IT services) is working out for you. Are there any ways the system could work better for you?"

  • Last 40 percent: Send a personal e-mail asking about their system as well as an invitation to a webinar to learn about how new releases can build value in their business.

These touches should be in addition to a monthly e-mail newsletter which always includes an easy way for them to contact you with questions.

Next Up: The Decision Matrix
Dave is developing a decision matrix to help the evaluation team weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the business management solutions they are considering.  In the next installment, we'll see how the company will prioritize and select.

How do you give your current customers the attention they deserve? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

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Posted by Barb Levisay on May 10, 2012 at 11:57 AM


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