Part Two in our Reporting Problem Series
If you work for a software company, you know that sometimes you have to deal with problem customers. They complain a lot. They file too many tickets, sometimes for obscure, hard to recreate problems. Or they push for enhancements that are only specific to their particular implementation. In all, they take up more time than they are seemingly worth.
That’s not the worst that can happen. It’s a bigger problem when they stop complaining.
Psychotherapist Richard B. Joelson is describing human relationships here, but this could equally apply to an organization that gives you the silent treatment:
“Silence seems safer and it may well be—however, it disenables the necessary opportunity to air a grievance or work on an issue in the relationship…. It also gives the impression that all is well in the relationship when that may not at all be the case.”
Your relationship with your customers isn’t a marriage, but like a marriage it is a partnership. When one half of that partnership goes radio silent, it’s often a sign of deep, underlying issues.
Why? At its heart, business is about defining and solving problems. Your software is the solution part of the process. Our platform, for example, embeds inside of applications to provide ad hoc reports and dashboards to users in the context of their daily workflows. We’ve witnessed firsthand how applications have evolved from simple homegrown solutions to those that rely on APIs, libraries, frameworks and multiple layers of middleware. Not surprisingly, more complexity correlates to more problems – and more support tickets.
When people stop complaining, or stop reporting problems, it’s a symptom that they are disengaged. Your customers may have developed workarounds for shortcomings in your software, or may be considering replacing your product with another solution. When they get to this point, they will stop pushing for change from your organization.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reengage with these customers to shore up their investment in your product. A good way to start is simply by asking. You can survey your customers on their satisfaction with your application, on how they use specific functionality, even on how effective your ticketing process is.
Results from a survey can be a starting point for further reengagement. That may include sending out updates on new features that address past needs or pain points. If an organization has developed a workaround to a problem, you might be able to pass it along to others. Or you might be able to update them on an ETA for a fix.
Another possible strategy is to analyze usage patterns. This can help you to see where your software is being used effectively – or underused. Customers of our 7 Series product can do this fairly easily because we capture report metadata that gives them metrics on their analytics. It can provide insight into which reports are highly used, or which are taking too long to run.
Consistently engage with your customers. Priorities can change pretty quickly. We’ve all had the experience of not needing a particular software until it suddenly becomes a crisis. If you have new products to offer, for example a new tier of service, assume that this will be of value to your existing customers. You can also offer new training, workshops, access to videos or webinars.
So far these have all been fairly indirect endeavors. There may be times when you really do need to talk to a customer. Things like an expiring license, or a bad online review might require a conversation. If you’ve tried to reach out without success, try to go up the chain and schedule a meeting with the next level up in your organization. If your Account Manager usually engages, but has been unsuccessful, see if the customer will take a meeting with the Director of Sales.
It’s painful to have customers who complain, but they push your organization to do better. Customers don’t want to leave. Silence can be an indication that they have given up trying to resolve an issue. Don’t give them a reason to give up on you.
Read Part One in our Reporting Problem Series Izenda Is the Other Half of Your Application.