This blog post was written by Sam Klaidman, Founder and Principal Adviser at Middlesex Consulting. He helps clients grow Service Revenue and Customer Satisfaction by defining service contracts and other services that meet customer’s needs and create value for them and their customers.
When we talk about customer satisfaction, we eventually arrive at talking about how experiences compare to expectations. The more the two are aligned, the more satisfied and trusting your customers feel.
On the other hand, we like to work with companies who “empower” their employees to take care of the customer. Sometimes this works and sometimes it turns out really badly for either the customer or the business.
The question is how to provide our employees with guidance about when they can use their own creativity and when they have a rule to follow.
I believe the best way to resolve the issue is to create a set of policies and procedures, share them with employees, and publish them to customers and prospects. Any situation with a policy means the rule is the rule. Anything else can be handled using common sense and individual judgment. For example, if you sell 1,3, or 5 year service contracts and a customer wants to buy a 2-year plan, then there should be a document that tells the seller to take the average of the 1 and 3 year plan and charge that for the 2-year coverage. That way the rules are the same for everyone.
But what about for situations that are more complex. Let’s look at VMware for some guidance.
I chose VMware because they are a growing enterprise software company (2018 revenue was $8.97 billion) with close working relationships with Dell and Cisco and because it is very active in the M&A market. I had recently learned that they list their support policies, with links so customers can download the actual policy, on their web site. In mid-October 2019, the policy page included On-Premise Products (7 policies), Cloud Service Offerings (7 policies) and Other Policies (26 policies). Here are the first eight Other Policies (with links) out of the 26 so you can get a better idea about their transparency:
- Acceleration Kits
- Account Change Form
- After Hours Support
- Acquired Products Support
- Business Hours
- Closing a Support Request
- Defect Reporting
Just looking at each title shows that these items must be specified because they are used globally for making business decisions.
Additionally, each policy also has appropriate FAQ’s. Therefore, there should be no reason for a VMware employee and a customer to have different expectations.
Also, the VMware management is very sensitive to the possible confusion resulting from frequent changes in product availability. To make sure everyone knows the status of products, their support policy page included a section titled Lifecycle Policies and another that shows the Lifecycle Support Summary. The summary is a high level overview of what to expect in the way of support for each phase of the product lifecycle. And then they list and link to all Lifecycle Support Policies.
Another real-world example
On October 13, 2019, Michael Blumberg posted an article on the Mize blog titled Maximize Service Profitability Through Service Lifecycle Management. Michael wrote:
Cost savings can be achieved by streamlining and automating service delivery processes. For example, a company can achieve a 25% or more improvement in operating efficiency and service productivity by implementing a SLM solution that automates, standardizes and streamlines key interactions associated with service, support, knowledge, spare parts, and inspections.
Now, think how advanced an OEM would look to its customers if they had the benefits of the Mize Connected Customer Experience (CCX) platform and Smart Blox in conjunction with the policy sharing transparency demonstrated by VMware. Channel partners, service technicians, and other stakeholders could access the platform to obtain data, information, and business intelligence related to warranties, contracts, service plans, knowledge assets, and spare parts.
Everybody would know everything about their support partner and what to expect or what they are entitled to. The likelihood of disappointing the customer is greatly reduced because you and the customer know what the customer expects and the software helps you run your business well enough to meet your customer’s expectation.