Enterprise-level service providers and vendors know that collaborating with customers is not a nice-to-have that elevates customer experience from good to great: it’s a fundamental requirement that distinguishes project success from failure. Indeed, an overwhelming number of churns and cancellations can be traced back to errors, omissions and breakdowns in customer collaboration.
As such, many enterprises are making investments and allocating resources to drive customer collaboration. And while this is a step in the right direction, it’s sometimes not enough to reach the customer collaboration promised land, because, as strange as it sounds, some customers just aren’t interested in or good at collaborating. Or if they are, they may limit their collaboration competence and attention to their internal teams, and have a different (and far lower) engagement level when dealing with external third-parties.
And so, the big question becomes: how do service providers and vendors ensure that their customers collaborate effectively, efficiently, and with an appropriate level of interest and attention? There are three pieces to this puzzle that must be part of the relationship from the outset, and continuously monitored and optimized along the way: simplicity, speed and synergy.
- Simplicity: Customers may tolerate a disparate (read: chaotic) mix of tools when collaborating among their internal teams, using everything from emails, to social media, to home grown apps and so on. However, when it comes to collaborating with external parties, customers typically insist upon simplicity. As such, it’s up to service providers and vendors to provide a centralized “one-stop” platform that delivers organized access to all projects, files, conversations, requests and updates, and makes collaboration easy.
- Speed: When it comes to on-boarding team members to a project collaboration tool, customers won’t put up with bureaucratic roadblocks or steep learning curves. They want the process to be streamlined and fast. In fact, they don’t even want to perceive it an actual process, but more of a task that is measured in minutes, and falls firmly in the “no brainer” bucket.
- Synergy: Yes, “synergy” is one of those overused buzzwords in the CRM vocabulary. But in this case, its usage is justified because customers won’t effectively collaborate simply because a service provider or vendor advises them to do so, or even if it’s spelled out in a proposal or SLA. Customers need to see the value of collaboration, and conclude that making it a priority is clearly in their self-interest.
Ticket to Staying Competitive
Nothing above suggests that customers are anti-collaborative, and that service providers and vendors must show them the collaborative light. Customers are smart and sophisticated. And it’s precisely because of their intelligence that they want external collaboration to be characterized by simplicity, speed and synergy. No, they may not (and usually don’t) articulate it in these exact terms. But it’s what they expect.
Service providers and vendors that satisfy this expectation will reap the rewards of strong customer relationships. Alternatively, those that fail will struggle with excess churn and cancellations, and find themselves at a decided competitive disadvantage.