Companies with a high customer retention rate know the value of client management. Essentially, client management is the process of creating and maintaining a strong working rapport with each customer. Often referred to as customer care, client management is about understanding the needs and desires of the customer, and moving to meet those needs in a proactive manner.
While there are a number of client management programs on the market today, there are a few elements that form the basis for any type of effective client service. One of the most important keys to effective client management is providing the client with people who know the account well, and are able to be of assistance whenever needed. This means looking beyond the data that is gathered during the sale cycle. Client management dictates that the vendor develop a working knowledge of the goals of the customer, the conditions that the client works within, and what expectations must be met in order to keep the client.
Many companies make the mistake of securing a new customer, and then never allow the sales contact to introduce other support personnel to the new client. Referred to as a handoff in many client management programs, this allows the customer to be incrementally migrated from relying on the sales contact and begin to develop a relationship with customer care professionals. The idea is to help the new client understand that he or she has a support team that is in place for the long haul.
Next, quality efforts in client management involve maintaining regular contact with the customer. Often, vendors choose to schedule these contacts to suit their own goals, rather than consider the needs of the customer. Simply put, it does not matter if the vendor likes to speak with each customer once a week. If a client finds this approach to be invasive and inconvenient, he or she will shortly look for a new vendor. Smart companies understand the service part of client management, and structure regular contacts with the customer that works well with the customer’s culture. Often, the contacts may be phone calls, site visits, or emails, depending on the desires of the customer.
Ideally, client management is all about listening to the customer, getting to know the client, and genuinely seeking to be there for the customer in every possible manner. Generally, this approach builds a strong relationship that withstands provocative offers from competitors, creates opportunities for up selling, and also leads to excellent word of mouth for the vendor.
“Eleven Client Relationship Considerations” Or “Things Clients Truly Want But Don’t Specify”
With hundreds of providers servicing the Software Industry, it truly is a buyer’s market when considering Software services. It also goes without saying that it is absolutely expected that Software providers responding to Statements of Work or Requests for Proposal should be able to meet the requirements of being able to solve the buyer’s stated problem with an affordable and reliable solution.
However, given the current maturation of electronic discovery solutions (i.e. technology is far from mature), there are still many situations where pure customer service makes the difference between an organization’s ability to meet or not meet client needs. With that being said, truly subjective client service requirements may be very difficult to specify. In fact beyond service level agreements, timeline requirements, project management processes, and work product specifications, many vendors are at a loss when seeking to address the implied but all too real needs of the client.
So, how does one meet these subjective and not always specified customer needs? Beyond the specific requirements presented by a client, Software providers need to honestly assess and ensure that they are delivering the following eleven things customers want but don’t always specify:
Attention: Observant consideration. Not only addressing what the client is asking for, but applying experience to help consider what the client might need (or not need).
If an organization acknowledges that customers are entitled to the eleven “things” listed above – whether or not these are actually specified – then that organization may very well be able to meet client needs even in the face of technology-driven solutions that have yet to fully mature. Moreover, technology-driven solutions should always be viewed as being part of the “whole solution” provided to a client –a “whole solution” which requires solid customer service to be a truly complete and effective solution.