Interaction with customers is the basis of any business! After all, if there is demand, supply grows, opportunities open for growth and development of new industries. But why some companies are popular, their profits grow despite the crisis, while others remain on the sidelines and are forced to "tighten their belts"? This will be discussed in the article.
The task of the enterprise is to create a constant demand for its services or products. Do not forget that every satisfied customer is an investment in the brand of the organization. The brand is an inert quantity, it works by the flywheel principle: it takes a lot of time and effort to move it, but then the brand starts working for the company. The IT industry does not stand aside and quite naturally inherits the principles of working with the client, which are rooted in history. Most of them will seem familiar to you, since we all receive services from a wide range of industries: we buy goods, use service stations, etc.
Consider several important principles in the example of the Software Engineering segment, which will build a trusted and long-term partnership with the client.
Customer expectations - first learn to listen, then be heard
The client comes to the Software Engineering Company to solve business problems. It does not matter what it is: supporting an existing one or creating a new solution. It does not matter who our client is: a company that has experience in the IT industry or not. The only important thing is that the customer came up with his own expectations: to make a product and make a profit.
However, often the client's needs are not paid due attention, and the performer is not guided by the desired end result of the client, but on the list of tasks assigned or previous experience with such a project. Sometimes the phase of analysis of requirements is completely ignored. In this case, the contractor avoids responsibility for the result, regardless of whether the client's problem has been resolved. Consider an example: a team of 20 people makes an online store project lasting six months, with a budget of $ 250,000 and an anticipated ROI one year after the release of the product. The team completes the project on time with an almost remarkable result - 95% of the declared functionality. On average, the market is a good indicator for a project with a fixed budget and deadlines. However, a missed 5% of functionality prevents the store from being competitive in its segment. Which in turn does not bring profit, and the client loses investments.
Avoid these risks will help a number of tools and techniques: starting from regular communication and working with the onsite client for a better understanding of the goals and objectives of his business and ending with a formalization in the form of a Statement of Work (SOW) document, which includes a description of the project, objectives, work front, acceptance Criteria, list of risks and their impact on the project as a whole (increase in budget, timing, etc.). Paying more time to the preliminary analysis, we are not only reinsured, but also eliminate misunderstanding from both sides.
Transparent partnership is the key to successful long-term cooperation
We, being clients, completely agree with this thesis. Buying any service, we want to be sure that it is worth its money. But when we sell a service, its value is obvious to us. Why is this happening? What does the client feel when the team leaves for academic "drinking"?
For example, a team of 10 people continuously develops something for two months without providing the client with intermediate results. The performers believe that they are already investing 200% in the work, why waste time on unnecessary chatter. And the client who pays N-th amount every month, meanwhile, thinks:
Do they work at all?
And will I get the right result?
Does the team have enough experience?
Such situations lead to conflict.
The lack of transparency does not always manifest itself immediately. It seems that everything is fine. But when it comes time to take the job, the situation can dramatically change. Yesterday, even a satisfied customer is ready to terminate all agreements today, and we again return to the original position. Only now the client has a prejudiced, negative attitude towards us. Not every manager is able to get out of this situation, and the company can lose the client.
Building transparent business relations does not require unique knowledge and is based on two basic principles: reporting and communication. Now consider them in more detail.
Reporting. The client wants to see the overall picture of the project. Reports on the work done over the past period of time, emerging problems, possible risks and subsequent plans give all project participants an opportunity to keep abreast of what is happening. For some clients, plans should cover the entire remaining work front, since in long-term projects the plans for the next iteration are not enough to see possible risks. The Gantt Chart allows you to visualize the entire process of work with sequences and distribution in a team.
Communication. With a client you need to talk regularly to understand how he sees.
Communication. With the client you need to talk regularly to understand how he sees the project for his part. Sometimes direct communication is difficult because of the difference in time zones or customer employment. In such cases, detailed reporting helps to avoid conflicts and act constructively in the event of risks.
The more the client knows about what is happening, the less he has open questions to which he will independently look for answers. As a rule, they turn out to be negative.
The client comes for a solution
Let's see what the client is coming for. When a client independently sets a task and describes possible solutions, he looks for just an artist. This is a model of the Staff Augmentation work, we will not consider it in this article. But more often the client seeks an examination that will solve his task. However, in reality, he often encounters not just an expert, but simply a performer who has the necessary experience, but does not know how to use it effectively. Such relations slide to the format when the client becomes a "hostage" of the situation, since the project is already at work and a large part of the budget is spent, and the project team of young optimists turns into elderly pessimists putting sticks in the wheel.
This question will help to understand the psychology that divides the personality of the Ego into three states: the child, the parent and the adult. Everyone has his own dominant state. Therefore, the client can access the executor while in one of the following states:
"Client-child" - is looking for support, since he himself has no idea how to solve the problem.
"Client-parent" - looking for a strong-willed performer, capable of withstanding his pressure and pressure.
"Client-adult" - is looking for a competent partner.
In all cases, the client is oriented to an adult and mature performer. He does not plan (and does not have to) be a source of creativity and sort out all possible options so that the expert deigns to say: "Yes, we can do it." This is the task of the specialist: to describe the specifics, risks, limitations and provide possible solutions to the problem, focused on meeting customer needs.
Work as a service
In the client-executor relationship there is another stumbling block - an 8-hour working day. The fact is that the deliberation of the project is not limited to a time frame. But quite often the performer does not feel responsibility for the final result, but thinks in the key: work on the task during working hours and get a salary for the time spent, regardless of the result. Sometimes the project can take more time, for example, at the time of launch, the occurrence of unforeseen problems or its delivery. Formally, a specialist does not have to go beyond his own responsibility, but those who think more broadly - get a competitive advantage. Having spent not much overtime, they create an impression on the client about their work as a high-level service. Do not forget about the principles of mutual exchange. The client will be more willing to meet, if loyalty, understanding and diplomacy have been shown towards him.
The customer is not always right
We all heard the saying "The customer is always right". There are a lot of resonant statements on this topic, where everyone can find support for any, even the most radical position. In fact, the customer is not always right, but pointing out his mistakes with direct text, we just undermine our relationship.
There are situations when a client comes up with his own idea of how his business problem should be solved. If the performer has more experience in the implementation of similar projects, he can either go on about the client, guided by the principle "The customer is always right." Or suggest possible solutions, showing restraint, tact and diplomacy.
By its principle, work on the relationship with the client is like a flywheel. The first steps are hardest. For a new client, the contractor company is only one in a thousand on the market, and all the past positive experience of the performer is just an excuse for dialogue, but not an argument to trust him unquestioningly. When the "flywheel" of the relationship has already begun to move, each subsequent interaction is easier. Inertness (accumulated credit of trust) only contributes to this. The credit of trust helps to level conflict situations. But do not forget that the positive past experience of cooperation has its "shelf life" and requires regular contributions to the relationship.
In conclusion, we can say that the client is not necessarily the one who pays the money. A hidden or potential customer can be:
A manager who works for the client, but does not take decisions on the project.
The subcontractor of the client who, having worked with us, gives recommendations to his customers, or he himself becomes our client.
In a large organization, even one of the top managers can become a client.
Thus, in order to make the client a source of potential profit, regular investments are required in the relationship, just as we build relationships with partners and friends.