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Aligning a Customer’s Vision With Your Company’s Best Practices
As an Implementation Specialist handling “kickoff calls,” I have found that first-time customers typically fall into two categories: those with a vision for how they want to use the software and those lacking one. For those lacking a vision, that initial call usually involves a lot of encouragement and some hand-tooling as they wade into the new software.
Customers with a vision are a different story. Their ideas are usually influenced by what they have encountered before. A customer may even have a grand creative angle. It is fantastic when a customer has such enthusiasm, unless it violates best practices for that specific product or the industry as a whole. Then the quandary ensues. How do you get customers to modify their vision to keep from shooting themselves in the foot before they even get started?
First, find out what the customer is trying to achieve through a specific use of the product? What is the goal? Identifying their desired outcome allows you to better see the logic they employed to get there. It is far easier to find a compromise or devise a work-around when you can offer solutions that meet those same needs, but without the missteps. Offering “hacks” or creative solutions to your customers can enhance your perceived expertise as a product specialist as well as get them back on track for success. If you are struggling to develop creative solutions for a highly specific need, you might take a step back and look at it from a broader perspective.
For example, Localist is a tech company that sells enterprise-level calendars and event marketing software. This means that we work with a variety of organizations with a host of different needs, capabilities, and visions. If a customer requests a specific function, the Implementation Specialist tries to get to the root of the matter. What is their objective when they ask for a 30-day grid-view (even though that request violates industry best practices and is considered an outdated way of displaying the information)? Chances are their goal is to allow people to search the calendar by date. Problem solved! The software features four different ways to search by date. Try combining that tutorial with a pep talk on the benefits of a listing view and matching user expectations. If you can show customers an even better/faster way to do it, rarely do they object.
Second, some customers may be battling office politics that prioritize institutional procedures over end user experience. There is not a single office in the world that does not have “people issues” of some sort that need to be considered when implementing a new process or software. Because end user experience is a critical factor when adopting and utilizing new software or web tools property, it is essential to discourage customizing that might damage or constrain the end user’s experience. For example, if a customer is trying to put an excessive number of links on their homepage in order to appease the ego of every department across the organization, the implementation specialist can mention how that layout limits SEO and may boggle the user. Always be a customer champion, but remember to cheer for the end user who may not be at the table.
Finally, be firm about best practices. After all, you are the product expert with the most knowledge regarding how to optimally use it. At the end of the day, customers may choose to ignore your counsel. Try not to personalize such rebuffs. When a customer tries to discount your guidance or thinks they are the exception to the rule, remain calm. Perhaps refer to your experiences with similar customers who had doubts like theirs.
Stay faithful to what you know to be true, even in the face of pushback. Do not undermine your expertise by acquiescing to a customer’s factually incorrect views. Offer what you know will provide the best possible outcome for that customer’s unique vision.