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As professional services organizations (PSOs) know all-too-well, there are several worrisome statements that customers can utter, and quite a few alarming ones as well. However, there’s one announcement in particular that’s enough to send chills up and down the spine of even the hardiest, most battle-tested executive or project manager: “We don’t understand this invoice.

PSOs- How to Prevent Customers Uttering the Scariest Statement of All[We’ll pause for a moment as folks who just dove beneath their desk or raced screaming out of the room gather themselves, and return to their regularly scheduled blog reading.]

What makes this statement so scary, is the same reason that the most terrifying horror movies aren’t filed with endless blood and gore, but instead have an eerily calm, yet petrifying undercurrent that we just know is going to erupt into something very, very bad – which for PSOs, equates into the most heinous of all outcomes: losing the customer.

Here’s why: customers who say “We don’t understand this invoice?” (or any variation) typically aren’t saying just one thing. Rather, they’re conveying a series of proclamations that may include any, some or all of:

  • “We don’t see a connection between what we’re paying for and what you’re doing, and so we’re either assuming, or open to believing, that we’re paying too much. And we’ve thought about this for a while now.”
  • “My team and I really like working with you, and we’ve built up a great relationship. But my new boss is demanding a lot more transparency when it comes to vendor billing, and unless I can get some reports and numbers ASAP, things are probably going to come to a screeching halt.”
  • “Someone important in our organization, an external consultant, or a representative from a competing PSO has told us we don’t need to be paying for all of this stuff that you’re doing.”
  • “Even though you’re fulfilling the SOW and haven’t done anything wrong, we’re seriously thinking of pulling up stakes because we aren’t seeing the value or ROI. So as George Costanza would say: it’s not you, it’s us.”

Now, before we continue: nothing above implies that customers are being deceptive or dishonest – because that’s not true. Rather, it’s just a realistic acknowledgement that customers often pack in a lot of messages into certain statements. Sometimes the statements and subsequent unpacked messages are positive, and sometimes they’re negative. For the reasons noted above, “We don’t understand this invoice” is not just on the latter side of that spectrum: it arguably functions as the endpoint.

The good news, however, is that PSOs don’t have to brace for impact and hope that customers don’t say these dreaded words. Instead, they can leverage external visibility and collaboration so that customers are:

  • In the loop and always aware of progress, status and issues at every stage of the PLC – so nothing is left to guesswork.
  • Getting the performance and productivity reports they need, and that their boss (and boss’s boss) needs.
  • Empowered to provide informal feedback using the touchpoint of their choice (e.g. cloud-based discussion thread, email, text, phone call), so that any billing concerns or questions can be addressed while they’re small and manageable vs. large and difficult
  • Constantly aware of what they’re paying for, why they’re paying for it, and how it aligns with their clearly-defined business objectives

Ultimately, leveraging external visibility and collaboration helps PSOs proactively and continuously highlight the full value of the relationship at all times – which is characterized by delivering value, solving problems, obtaining goals and achieving ROI. Customers who clearly know that they’re getting these benefits aren’t confused by invoices. On the contrary, they’re inspired by a great partnership that’s on the right track and firing on all cylinders.

Learn More

Clarizen’s External Collaborator solution combines a complete “one-stop” collaboration portal for customers, with robust enterprise-grade features that give PSOs the tools, transparency and visibility they need to take customer experience and satisfaction to new levels – and ensure that the closest they get to “We don’t understand this invoice” is reading this blog.

See External Collaborator in action by watching an overview video: click here.

Roni Feldsher
Roni Feldsher joined Clarizen in 2011 and leads the Americas Enterprise customer success team. He and his team are focused on helping Clarizen's customers gain the most value possible and maximize user adoption of the solution. Before joining Clarizen, Roni held software engineering and professional services positions at a financial risk management software startup and was instrumental in the company's rapid growth and acquisition by Harland Financial Solutions. Roni holds a B.S. in Information Systems engineering and is a graduate of the Technion Institute Advanced Project Management course.