This is a guest post by Sam Klaidman. He is a consultant focused on Service Marketing and Customer Experience. You can read his blog and follow him on LinkedIn. If you want to guest post on this blog, email me at email@example.com and write “Guest Blog Guidelines” in the subject field.
Today, customers are looking to receive more value from their partners than ever before. The two primary reasons are:
- Customers are “crazy busy” and need relief because they are drowning in problems, opportunities, issues, and challenges. This relief is one form of value added by the supplier (partner).
- Partners see many “similar” situations at their customer’s locations and so should have a good idea about what will work to help the customer and can be implemented with little effort or risk, with a high likelihood of success.
Almost sounds like the customer wants the supplier to solve their problems and expect no more that a “thank you.” The first part of the sentence is correct but not the second part; smart customers are perfectly willing to pay for value added services if they understand the benefits they will gain.
Who is best suited to deliver value-added services?
For a number of reasons, service organization are best situated to deliver value-added services to existing customers. Here’s why:
Of the two primary customer-facing organizations, the “sales” department is generally charged with selling products. Their compensation plans are based on closed business; they have marketing breathing down their necks pushing them to turn leads into orders and their nature is to be hunters.
The other group, services, is totally different. Their role is to make the customers successful; they enjoy helping customers, frequently have little or no revenue objectives, are totally familiar with the products and, organizationally, have seen all the customers and how they have attempted to solve their problems
How can Service and Support add value to customers?
- Technical people understand their product’s capabilities and limitations. When they are talking with individual customers they should be asking questions like:
- What exactly are you trying to do with our product?
- What do you wish it could do but have not found a way to do it?
- Where in your process is our product helping you? Slowing you down? Making it impossible to do everything you need to do?
- Do you know of any other products that help you do your job?
As they get a better understanding of the customers jobs-to-be-done, they frequently can teach the customer how to use the capabilities they already paid for and did not know existed.
- When we see how our product is integrated into the customer’s job stream, we frequently can identify unnecessary steps. By sharing this with the customer, we add value because we help them do their job quicker and easier.
- Many hardware owners are totally concerned with uptime; they bought our product because they needed to use it when they needed to use it. However, the person who sold the service contract, or the one who actually purchased it, may not have discussed the critical uptime requirements and so only discussed the standard plan. When the Service Marketing person works closely with the equipment owner, there are frequently creative ways for the customer to increase uptime (for an additional price) while the service group provides unique services that can be integrated into their workflow.
- Finally, if your service and support people identify a value adding opportunity but do not know how to actually accomplish the customer’s needs, they should get the case into the hands of the product manager. He can then research the feasibility of adding the feature, assess the market size and implementation cost, and potentially move ahead in a future upgrade.
Your service and support team has a number of separate roles to play. Here they are:
- Fix the customer’s problem. This is Job #1. Helping them get full value for money for their purchase is critical; without it there is no business relationship.
- Collect information about product performance and put into a useful format for your Engineering or Manufacturing departments to use to improve the products.
- Identify opportunities for the business to add additional customer value. The front line service and support professionals should always be thinking about ways that your customers can squeeze additional value from their purchases. When they find opportunities they must not only help their immediate customer implement changes but must also spread the word throughout your company so other customers can take advantage of these new findings.
If not already in place, these behaviors must become part of your company’s culture. People must be able do these things as though it were it standard operating procedure so that everyone wins!