2008-02-07 - VU Amsterdam - Customer Satisfaction and dealing with customers in the IT Industry


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Customer retention is vital for the survival of software development organizations, especially under current economic trend of global outsourcing. We show that the traditional definition of project success has a blind spot to aspects are extremely relevant for customer retention and show what softer factors are also important to consider when defining project succes in the organization.

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  • 2008-02-07 - VU Amsterdam - Customer Satisfaction and dealing with customers in the IT Industry

    1. 1. Customer satisfaction Good products do not suffice…. Jaap van Ekris [email_address]
    2. 2. How to obtain a better grade without too much extra effort? Jaap van Ekris [email_address]
    3. 3. My background
    4. 4. Your project goals
    5. 5. Process does matter for customers Repeat customer order Don’t speak (native) Dutch Employees are friendly to customers Employees ignore customers Process is clear to the customer Process is completely obfuscated Product is mediocre Product is good
    6. 6. Real critical incidents dissatisfying customers <ul><li>Not being involved with your customer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not checking how the process really works </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not much contact between customer and developer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No interest in finding out the surrounding context </li></ul></ul><ul><li>No regard for the customers priorities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not conforming to locally (very established) ways of working </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Taking decisions that are contrary to the risk-aversive customer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Abundance of typo’s in critical design documents </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Presence attributes to the feeling of a less than perfect review process </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not solving the typo’s when identified gave subjects the feeling they were not taken seriously </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. What does satisfy customers? <ul><li>A lot of human factors (Paulk) </li></ul><ul><li>Motivated personnel (Heskett) </li></ul><ul><li>Surprising customers (Kotter) </li></ul><ul><li>Delighting customers (Berry) </li></ul><ul><li>Doing what you get paid for is not enough (Tracey and Wiersma) </li></ul><ul><li>Exceeding in the supporting processes (Porter) </li></ul><ul><li>Providing good service besides a perfect product (Kotler) </li></ul><ul><li>By providing functional quality besides technical quality (Gronroos, Parazuraman, Berry & Zeithaml) </li></ul>
    8. 8. An organized view on customer satisfaction
    9. 9. Functional quality? <ul><li>Aimed at the way of attaining the product </li></ul><ul><li>Contains a lot of “softer” factors </li></ul><ul><li>SERVQUAL defines them as being </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reliability/meeting agreements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trust in making the right decissions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Empathic behaviour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsiveness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledgeable acting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual appearance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Means the difference between “not dissatisfied” and “satisfied” customers </li></ul>
    10. 10. Reliability / Meeting agreements <ul><li>Don’t promise too much! </li></ul><ul><li>Wrte down agreements with the customer </li></ul><ul><li>Communicate them clearly </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within the team </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With the customer </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Believe in “an agreement should be fulfilled at all time” </li></ul><ul><li>Escalate BEFOREHAND if you can’t meet agreements </li></ul><ul><li>Adjust expectations BEFORE it sounds like an excuse </li></ul>
    11. 11. Important sentences to remind <ul><li>It looks simpler than it is </li></ul><ul><li>If we have spare time, we’ll do it </li></ul><ul><li>I won’t promise anything, but well try our best </li></ul><ul><li>I can’t judge the consequences (yet), we’ll investigate in more detail and get back to you </li></ul>
    12. 12. Trust <ul><li>Ask yourself the question: “is this the solution the customer wants/expects” </li></ul><ul><li>Is your aim of any design decission to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deliver according to contract? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Solve the customers problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Be aware of goldplating... </li></ul>
    13. 13. Empathic behavior <ul><li>Understand the goals the customer has with the project </li></ul><ul><li>Be (genuinely) interested in the customer and his work </li></ul><ul><li>Ask for a tour of the company </li></ul><ul><li>Be prepared to learn form your customer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Why they do what they do </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How they do it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What makes them better in their competitors </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Communicating to your customer gives you the best solutions: do not disconnect from your customer </li></ul>
    14. 14. Responsiveness <ul><li>Try to react quickly on important questions </li></ul><ul><li>People talking to a customer should have a mandate and room to negotiate </li></ul><ul><li>ALWAYS come with some timely response </li></ul><ul><li>This does not have to be the final response: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We’ll take it along and come back to it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We will incorporate your comments in the last review corrections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We will ignore your remarks because…. </li></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Knowledgeable acting <ul><li>Know and understand the business culture and dresscode </li></ul><ul><li>Understand how decisions are made within the company </li></ul><ul><li>Know which people are needed to decide what </li></ul><ul><li>Anticipate the decision/meeting structures when needing important decisions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>When to propose decision </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Who </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>When </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Where </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Visual appearance <ul><li>Who will SEE (not only read) the document? </li></ul><ul><li>What kind of visual appearance are these people used to? </li></ul><ul><li>Not only think about reports and presentations, but also memo’s, e-mails and notes. </li></ul><ul><li>Things that make a difference: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Uniform appearance of all the documents used </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many small errors and typos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using a stapler or (semi-)professional binding </li></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Managing expectations <ul><li>What the customer needs: “Adequate level”, de 6 (out of 10) </li></ul><ul><li>The customers’ ambition level: “Desired level”, the 9 of 10 </li></ul><ul><li>The customer’ expectation level: “expected level”, the 7, maybe 8 </li></ul><ul><li>What the customer percieves : the perception often is a 6 </li></ul>Satisfaction = Perception - Expectations Desired level Adequate level Expected level
    18. 18. The pitfall of every projectleader <ul><li>The more you promise </li></ul><ul><li>The more expectations rise </li></ul><ul><li>The less you can outperform these expectations </li></ul><ul><li>The lower the customer satisfaction in the end </li></ul>
    19. 19. If you do mess up…
    20. 20. Making errors <ul><li>It will happen: </li></ul><ul><li>“ To err is human” </li></ul><ul><li>Or in IT </li></ul><ul><li>“ To err is core business” </li></ul>
    21. 21. A remark/recommendation/complaint <ul><li>Is a sign that the customer values the relation with you </li></ul><ul><li>Is a second chance for the supplier </li></ul><ul><li>Is a great way to improve the relationship with the customer, even beyond the level before the incident </li></ul><ul><li>Can kill a relationship completely when you ignore it </li></ul>
    22. 22. An example <ul><li>Bought cinema tickets through BelBios for “Casino Royale” at Tuesday 6 december 2006, 21:30 </li></ul><ul><li>Cardmachine crashed on the provided barcode, </li></ul><ul><li>Manual systems couldn’t retrieve the reservation </li></ul><ul><li>Manager of the cinema gave away free tickets (cinema was empty anyway) </li></ul><ul><li>Filed a complaint the same day </li></ul><ul><li>Still no response to date!! </li></ul>
    23. 23. I was looking for confirmation… <ul><li>They value the relation with me as a customer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We realize our servie has not been benefical for you </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We thank you for giving us the opportunity to improve our product </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Want to see EFFORT and COMMITMENT </li></ul></ul><ul><li>That they stand by their product and will solve my current problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Appologies for the problems/stress caused? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Return the reservation costs? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Prevent the problem from happening in the future </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Error is removed from the barcode scanner </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Manual station has been improved for error correction </li></ul></ul>
    24. 24. Conclusions <ul><li>Just a perfect product does not help you retain your customers, it will only save you time in court </li></ul><ul><li>To retain customers, you have to perform above expectations on more “softer” areas of project management: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reliability/meeting agreements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Empathic behaviour </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Responsiveness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Knowledgeable acting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visual appearance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Very simple issues can kill a very good relationship with your customer </li></ul><ul><li>Customer complaints can improve your relationship with your customer </li></ul>