Updated: Sep 8
WHAT IS CUSTOMER COLLABORATION?
Customer collaboration is a powerful tool for every business. Simply put, it is the art of building a relationship with your customers built on trust. This relationship is critical to the success of your customer throughout their journey with your business. Setting the right level of transparency at the start of your relationship ensures trust moving forward and is likely to lead to an increase in loyal customers.
COMMON PROBLEMS PREVENTING SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION:
Expectation Setting Setting a realistic and transparent timeline at the start of any customer journey/project is the first step in building trust and therefore a collaborative relationship. Communicating clear milestones which map the path to project completion allows the customer to build an end-to-end picture of the journey ahead. This level of insight into the project not only allows for expectations to be set within the vendor organization but for the end customer to reiterate these expectations within their own company, often leading to fewer questions and setting the foundation towards a successful collaboration.
Timeline Visibility Created a clear timeline for your customer? Great! Can your customers view this on-demand? If your answer to this question is not a resounding yes then you may be moving off the path towards true collaboration. Customers not only need a clear timeline of expectations but the ability to self-serve access to this timeline. Having to repeatedly ask for updates to the project plan is not only frustrating for your customer and decreases trust in your company but is frustrating for the project manager having to take time out of their day to manually update each of their active customers.
Real-time updates Your customer has an on-demand view to their project timeline? Success! But is this timeline showing real-time updates or does it still require manual updates? Giving access to a project plan which is always viewable is a step in the right direction towards collaboration. However, if this data is not accurate and real-time, it does not provide enough value to either your customer or your company. This will only result in an increase of questions around your project, and most likely take up more time from your project managers. The answer to this, is to provide your customers with a timeline which clearly shows when milestones have been completed or pushed back and allows for commentary on project blockers or successes. This workflow will only build trust and transparency with your customer. All updates are important to your customers!
Communication At the start of any project implementation, project managers are likely to ask their customers to supply documentation that will aid the completion of the project. Providing a transparent, real-time project timeline to your customer is a sizable step in the direction towards true customer collaboration, but communication is still likely to be a barrier to success. Customers can now view their timeline, understand the documentation needed and why it is needed, but how can this documentation be submitted, and wait, what if they have questions? These situations will lead to an increase in email traffic to your project manager and remove focus from the timeline provided. Allowing your customer to ask questions through your timeline and upload documentation directly to your project milestones, not only ensures a clear method of communication but avoids important information from being lost in 1-1 email chains.
Admin Time It would be wrong to think that increasing customer collaboration only has direct benefits to your customers, the efficiency of your project managers will also be positively impacted. Project Managers will consistently be working on a portfolio of projects, the more projects the better, right?! Well, not if the majority of a Project Manager’s time is spent on manually updating each customer on project timelines and blockers, and then ensuring that this information is saved somewhere centrally. This way of working is frustrating for companies, but also for your customers as project updates will not be available to them on demand, decreasing the levels of customer trust and collaboration.
HOW CAN COLLABORATION BE IMPROVED?
Taking into consideration the common problems that often prevent companies from truly collaborating and building long-term trust with their customers, the answer is simple, isn’t it?
Provide your customers with real-time timeline available on-demand,