The honeymoon is over and now comes the hard part: learning to live with each other.
If you’re a tech solutions provider, put yourself in the position of your existing clients for a second. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with your product, but what about the little things? Here are a few of the reasons why the relationship might be under strain (even if the client hasn’t mentioned it to you yet…).
Your clients actually talk to each other
Two CEOs get talking to each other at a conference. Conversation turns to IT solutions and it turns out they share the same provider: you (not really a big coincidence if you operate in a niche market). What seems rather odd to these professionals is that you’ve charged each one a markedly different price for what looks like essentially the same service. One guy comes away from the conversation feeling distinctly peeved and both now have trust issues with your company.
Pricing is a tricky area. You need the flexibility to tailor your services according to the needs and resources of the organisation. What’s more, there’s nothing inherently wrong with going that extra mile to accommodate new businesses with which you want to foster a long-term relationship. However, if you automatically add an extra zero to an estimate for a client on the basis of his reputation or the size of his mezzanine reception, there’s a good chance you’ll be found out.
Your clients don’t understand add-ons
When your client gets a bill from his lawyer or accountant, he might not particularly like what he sees, but at least he understands it. Bear in mind, his grasp of technology may not be quite the same as his knowledge of accounts.
“Aren’t I paying for this already?” When asked to consider purchasing an optional add-on (or in some cases, even a separate, complementary service), this could be the response. The chances are, your service contract will distinguish between updates for stability, security and core functionality (included in the package price) and enhancements (not included). Do your clients appreciate the difference?
Your clients read everything
At the other end of the scale comes the opposite problem; that you’re simply not giving your clients enough credit in terms of their knowledge. If you offer the most recent upgrades long after your clients have read about them in the tech press, before long, they’ll be asking themselves if they’re with the right provider if they want to stay ahead of the competition in the innovation stakes.
Your organisation doesn’t have a joined up approach
Your front of house staff and account managers might know a lot about the clients but they can’t quite grasp the product. Your tech support and development team on the other hand, know the software back to front but have never bothered to find out what this client actually does. When issues arise, they get resolved eventually – but not without what your client perceives as a lot of unnecessary to-ing and fro-ing.
The developer wrote the user guide
Ever wonder why the tech support lines are always busy even though there’s nothing wrong with the software? It could be time for a user-manual or walk-thru audit. Put yourself in the position of the individuals who are actually going to be using the product within the client’s organisation and edit the guide accordingly. You work hard to get the right tone when it comes to branding and marketing: don’t let this be your weak spot.
Existing customers have the manual for v. 2.0 – even though they’re working with v. 3.4
How do you deal with minor updates? Your clients’ employees may have no problem in absorbing them if they are already familiar with the product. What about new employees though? Does the interactive walk-thru still tell them with accuracy how it works – or does another member of staff have to stand over their shoulder as the complete it to explain which bits have changed since the guide was written?
You don’t ask any questions about what’s going on in your client’s organisation
Did you know that your client is about to exchange contracts on new premises? Will a server upgrade be in order? What about the fact that the firm is branching into new areas of work? Your client base is your most valuable resource – and failure to keep up to date with what’s going on means missed opportunities. What’s more, as the tech sector moves increasingly to SaaS models, customer retention is the key to profitability. Successful operators will be proactive: focused on clients’ user experiences and able to anticipate their future requirements based on an understanding of their organisation. Make sure you fall into this camp.
All of these potential reasons for dissatisfaction have one thing in common: they can be picked up and acted upon by actually asking your clients if they’re happy. If any of them raise alarm bells, pencil in ‘Compile Client Satisfaction Survey’ on your New Year’s resolution list today.