IT companies feel like a restaurant stuck in the mediocrity of serving the right dish the wrong way. Baffled in the struggle to keep deadlines with multiple stakeholders. Constantly firefighting, hardly able to focus on anything else but delivery.
No wonder they get mixed review from clients. High ratings for expertise and cost-effectiveness but low ratings for long and tedious communication cycles.
IT companies should look at marketing service mix a little more closely. It talks about providing customer experience as a tangible proof of the intangible service that any such service provider provides.
Given the importance of client servicing, why is communication important? Because it forms the basis of your relationship, just like in any long distance relationships. IT companies need to train their managers to be more empathetic to their respective client– with more than 1000 miles, 10 hr time difference and a few unfinished tasks. Imagine what client must feel?
At Galaxy, we are proud of our client servicing. Over the last five years, our repeat clientele has increased four-fold. We have subsequently been able to instill client communication as a fundamental aspect of our company culture. Training our PMs to take responsibility for communication. Here are some tips from our cookbook:
1. Be problem-solvers
When PMs use their technical skills to solve client problems, new projects are born. PMs spend a lot of their energy discussing deadlines, deliverables or worse fighting fires. Instead of the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ conversation, encourage PMs to believe everyone including the client belongs to the same team. Its simply about aligning goals to solve end-user problems.
2. Sell ‘an experience’ not ‘a service’
Traditionally, your SLA covers the service you offer– hours, technology, QA, milestones, and resources. However, what it misses is the customer service required for your services. Help your PMs realize that they are servicing the client with not just technology. The most recent example is United Airlines, where flying to destinations maybe their core ‘service’ but poor customer experience can lead to a PR disaster.
3. Under promise and over deliver
The golden rule of IT outsourcing. However, use it in moderation. This rule helps keep client expectations in line with their budgets resulting in a win-win situation. Over-promising deliverables happen when PMs try to oversell their capabilities to a prospective client; even when they know, the expectation is unrealistic.
4. Communicate proactively
With teams a few hundred thousand miles apart, proactive communication can help ease the distance. Groom PMs to not just have the technical know-how to lead a team but also balance it with client communication. The difference between a successful PM and a struggling one is communicating back to the client; instead of one-way from client to the team.
5. Give the customer experience you would like to have
Ever stuck on the phone for an insurance claim or with a bank for redressal? Dreadful, isn’t it? Don’t let your clients have the same experience with you. Respond timely and efficiently so that even if you are bug fixing or dealing with downtime, your clients don’t get exasperated.
6. Be open and candid with clients
Honesty may not be the best policy, but transparency is. Know your clients and let them know you. It helps build rapport and eventually mutual trust. If your employee fell sick, inform your client of the delay or how you are adapting to the ‘one man down’ situation. Clients may differ in their approach to being open, and some may want more information, some may not.
7. Find ways to be memorable
At Galaxy, we celebrate Christmas with a box of chocolates delivered to our clients. For you, it may be hand-written notes, custom merchandise, beer or wine. Build a connect outside of project update emails. If your client sponsors pizza for successful delivery, send them photos of your team. Take the next step to build your relationship. The goal is to make your client remember you.
None of these steps will replace good, quality coding. These tips merely help you enhance your client engagement. At Galaxy, we know the value of consistent coding and aim to deliver it every time with a side of client servicing.