For over a decade, I have seen varied approaches to the client experience. I’ve also been lucky to help many clients make fundamental improvements to their approach, while also observing many tactics that simply do not work or create significant barriers to a positive client experience.
Here is my list of the top 10 hurdles to providing an excellent client experience:
1. Sales territorialism.
In some organizations, salespeople become very nervous when co-workers want to proactively communicate with “their” clients. In fact, they really don’t want you to call for fear that it may reveal challenges or issues that a client is experiencing. This ridiculous position assumes that the client is so blind, they do not even know when they have an issue.
Of course, they know!
Pretending problems aren’t there, or simply hoping a client will forget is a great way to show them the exit door. It is always better to meet client challenges and issues head-on and with complete transparency. You need to actively show that you take their issues seriously and are working aggressively to find a solution.
2. Outdated leadership attitude towards client service.
There are still some leaders who look at support and service as something they need to deal with when client issues arrive. This reactive orientation is not structured for nurturing strong and lasting relationships with clients.
Oftentimes, the client services department is considered a cost rather than revenue protection. Not seeing this unit as a strategic part of the business is a mistake that will be fatal over time.
3. No corporate-wide ownership of client retention (aka: revenue protection).
Client services are often solely saddled with the challenge of client retention with little to no help from other groups. The reality is that client retention and revenue protection are corporate responsibilities, where each major group has a role to play.
This may be the full-time concern of the client services group—but other teams should feel the pain or benefit of corporate successes or failures with client retention. In the age of subscription-based recurring revenues, client retention and revenue protection must be a corporate mantra.
4. Sheltered product management.
If product management is not interfacing with clients regularly, you have the wrong team in place. Too many times product management get client “feedback” from third parties (i.e., sales, marketing, and support), and don’t actually get feedback from the source.
It is simply common sense to including clients in product roadmap discussions and previews of yet-to-be-released software. Getting clients engaged at this level makes client loyalty thrive
5. Executives staying in their ivory tower.
Executives need to interface with clients and not leave it up to “their people” to do so. I am not suggesting this should be their prime focus, but having an executive reach out to clients serves two purposes. It emphasizes the importance any given client is to the business and provides the kind of direct feedback that will help them make better executive decisions.
6. Minimal investment in client impacting tools & technologies.
There will be negative consequences if you do not invest in technologies that will improve the client experience through automation, provide self-serve experiences, or allow your client to engage with your organization in a way that helps them be more successful.
Clients want choices. They want options on how to communicate with you, learn more, find answers and improve their experience with your software or service. Understand that the overall client experience is, in their eyes, part of the whole product or service that they purchased from you.
7. No dedicated executive leadership of the client services organization.
In many companies, there is no dedicated leadership of the client services. Often you will see, for example, a VP of Sales and Services or a VP of Development and Support. The reality is that these executives often only judged based on the first part of their title, not the second.
The VP of Sales and Service is not going to get fired from a poorly-executed services strategy. They will get fired if they consistently miss quota. At the end of the day, people will focus on the area that will mean the difference between having a job or not. The second part of their title is often the area that they have the least experience in and will get substantially less of their time and energy.
8. Lack of empowerment.
Those who are working in client-facing roles must be empowered to make client-impacting decisions. Your clients need to have the confidence that whoever they are dealing with can and will help them. It does not look good—and in fact, it is quite frustrating—when clients get bounced through levels of management to get an issue resolved. Obviously, there need to be parameters around the type of decisions they can make. Ultimately, a decision is made in the best interests of the client, so if it was a poor choice, provide support so staff will learn from that mistake.
9. Lack of career path for those in client services roles.
Without a career path, a client services role becomes a stepping stone on their actual career path which can create churn within the group. Every time someone leaves, you lose valuable knowledge which has a significant client impact. Client-facing roles should be structured as a career, not a job.
10. Attempting to keep significant client-impacting issues quiet.
It’s always best to be proactive and upfront with clients when issues exist. Never wait until they stumble upon a problem themselves. Your client may not be happy–in fact, they may be furious about the issue–but they will view you as being an honest company with high integrity. If you are able to provide reasonable timelines for improvements and fixes, they will consider you a trusted partner.
These roadblocks to providing outstanding customer experiences are important to recognize. Take a good look at your business. Do you or any of your staff fall into any of these pits? If so, it’s time to make some changes to reduce churn and keep your clients satisfied.