A commenter on one of my posts suggested I write about how companies shift from focusing on “making widgets” to providing customer satisfaction. What a great suggestion! Companies known for customer satisfaction don’t just make it one department’s job. All teams understand their customers and work to make them happy. Here are some tips to help transform your team into one focussed on providing customer satisfaction.
Spend time with your customers. The most important thing you and your team can do is find and meet with all your key customers. Meet with both the managers and the key people who are actually using the product/service. Find out what is and is not working for them, what they expect from you and your team, and what you could do for them today. Take the time to get to know your customers, both their business and who they are as people. Make sure that they start to get to know you. Even after the initial contact, try to spend as much time as possible with the customers in the context of work. Customer contact often happens in meeting rooms, conferences, restaurants and golf courses. Unfortunately, a lot of valuable information is lost when you don’t see the customer actually using your product or service. The more involved your whole team is with this, the better. To create a customer-focussed culture, your customers cannot just be faceless names to your team. They need to be real people using your product or service.
Always be transparent. Transparency is important in general client relations. Communicate regularly and make sure the client knows what and how the team is doing. If something is not going well, it is important to be honest and show that the issue is being addressed. When working on larger projects, use one of the core principles of Agile: show progress regularly throughout the project. People often do not want to show their client what they are working on until it is perfect. Unfortunately, perfection takes time and things change so what was once the goal for perfection becomes irrelevant.
Get feedback early and often. When engaging new clients, find and deliver some quick wins first. This will give you fast feedback and will build some momentum for tackling the big projects. As much as possible, use what you create in your customer’s context. When I first took on one of my tech teams, I met programmers who had never seen the tools they created actually used by artists. Yet they were mystified as to why the artists were frustrated with their tools. If you don’t have the expertise on your team, then either be with your client while they are using your product/service or hire a focus group of experts and watch them in action. Again, make sure you get that feedback throughout the entire project, not just at the end.
Create an inviting space. Even when your teams spend a lot of time with your clients, also invite the client into your team’s space. It is important for a client to see where and how your team works to create a real sense of partnership. Otherwise, your team risks being perceived as an ivory tower. The team’s working environment leaves an impression on the client. Even in the most industrial companies, proper lighting and a clean, uncluttered, well maintained space go a long way.
Have a great product (or service). This is the bottom line. You need to be creating something that your customers want and it meets their needs. Practicing the previous points will give you a lot of the information you need to do that.