WHAT IS CUSTOMER COLLABORATION?

COLLABORATION IS THE HEART OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Speed, customer experience and outcomes is the new battleground across B2B software and professional services markets. Winning companies deliver that first value quickly to their customers and then partner to continuously deliver more incremental value over time. The best companies know that they are continually fighting for mindshare with their customers and they will get more commitment when the customer recognizes clearly the value being realized from their time spent with certain vendors. If the customer perceives that their time is being wasted they disengage and will give that time to others and potentially your competitor. 

WHAT IS CUSTOMER COLLABORATION?

Put another way, customer collaboration is the partnership you form with your client. The world’s best customer success organisations take this collaboration to another level by placing their customers’ success at the very centre of their own strategy. This is why companies like Gainsight, Salesforce and Zendesk have found ways to enable customer collaboration at scale through strategy, process and technology enablement. Collaboration begins in the first stage of the customer journey, customer onboarding where it is critical to set the right altitude for your customer conversations. By using this simple framework:

  1. What are their strategic goals? 

  2. What challenges block them from achieving those goals? 

  3. What will success look like when you solve those problems? 

  4. How would the customer define value in their own language?

WHY IS CUSTOMER COLLABORATION IMPORTANT?

Customer collaboration is critical because the joint ownership of figuring out the path to success solidifies the relationship built during a sales cycle. When professional services teams pick up the fulfillment of the pre-sales promise, there will be a number of questions or uncertainties that remain on both sides. If both the customer and the vendor feel at ease with one another and they are working to find not just a solution but the best solution to critical business challenges. At Precursive, our product development is continually informed by feedback from our customers. Precursive professional services and customer success run Q&A drop in calls, customer health checks and host customer success clinics where we source ideas, feedback and see examples of best practice from forward thinking companies.

WHY IS CUSTOMER COLLABORATION IMPORTANT DURING CUSTOMER ONBOARDING AND PROFESSIONAL SERVICES ENGAGEMENTS?

It is rare that there is only ever one way to do something during a software implementation. There are moments throughout onboarding where it is critical that you can collaborate with your customer. Some examples of these would be:

  • The Kickoff - collaboration starts from the first step of the implementation. The best teams look to set the tone of the implementation during the kickoff by making sure the client is clear on the plan, expectations have been shared, key potential blockers have been highlighted, the business case/business impact has been confirmed, all roles are understood on both sides and next steps are agreed.

 

  • Solution Design - if you sell a product which can be configured or customized for your client then you will need to collaborate with the customer to help design the best solution for their needs. Even the most articulate solution architects will still need the buy in and contribution from their customer to ensure that they build the most suitable solution.

  • UAT - testing is an overlooked part of the project where too often vendors obsess over finding any technical issues or bugs. Collaboration at this stage is vital because your customer will need support if there is something they don’t understand or your product doesn’t quite work in the way they thought it would. Being able to advise, coach and collaborate at this stage of the project is vital to retain the confidence of your customer.

  • Training - customer education is a critical juncture in any software implementation because you have the opportunity to get buy in from all user groups as well as showing the best ways to use your product to help them in their daily working lives. In Precursive training sessions we want to do a couple of things: i) Identify where our product adds the most value to our customers daily working lives, ii) Show the user how they can save time in completing the activities on project work, iii) Share the most useful reports that helps the customer answer important questions. 

WHY EXCEL IS A BAD PLACE TO COLLABORATE

The biggest delays in a professional services engagement are caused by customers not knowing what they need to do and when. How often have you heard “I didn’t know how important that task was” or “I didn’t realize I needed to fill out that data file by that date.” It is so easy for important information to get lost in excel. Google Mail and Outlook do a great job of hiding Excel files that need to be reviewed or updated by both you and your customer. The best companies now want to share the steps their customer needs to take in real-time to ensure that if the plan changes, then everyone can see that the timeline has shifted. By getting out of Excel and email and into a shared work plan, allows both teams to focus on what tasks and dependencies they own as well as figuring out solutions to blockers that have been highlighted. By having one place to collaborate where you can combine your project plan, task list, documents, UAT feedback and data files - this will ensure that you never miss a step that will influence your ability to deliver value to your customer. 

CUSTOMER COLLABORATION IN PRECURSIVE

Precursive’s customer onboarding benchmark survey takes place every year, our research includes more than 400 companies globally including Adobe, AppsFlyer, Cisco, Hootsuite, and Salesforce. This research showed that the best teams are focused on collaboration throughout customer onboarding to improve time-to-value. There are several ways that you can collaborate internally and with your customer using the Precursive Platform.

PRECURSIVE OBX: BOARD TEMPLATES

Precursive OBX board templates save you a lot of time and bring consistency when managing tasks for business processes that have a common structure. Board templates will typically be mapped to the products sold in Salesforce. This means that if you sell a particular form of onboarding or professional services, a template will be created that reflects the delivery steps and timelines for what has been sold. These templates are more than just copying and pasting a To-Do list because they will preserve tasks, priorities, due dates and many types of dependencies including lead/lag times.

PRECURSIVE OBX: EXTERNAL SHARING

With Precursive OBX you can share a customer plan with your customer to show them what they need to do and when or simply to make them aware of the timelines that you are working to. This External Sharing feature allows you to share Precursive OBX Boards with anyone outside of Salesforce via a secure web link that grants the viewer "Read Only" access to the Board. You can share the following things with your customer:

  • Tasks and subtasks

  • Task dependencies 

  • Who is working on the project

  • Kanban View

  • Gantt View 

  • UAT List

  • Shared Notes

  • Due dates

  • Phases of work

PRECURSIVE COMMUNITY

By leveraging a Precursive Community, this allows you to invite your customers into a secure portal where teams can collaborate and ensure everyone stays on the same page. You can give your customers access to project plans in a Salesforce community via the Precursive application. Our customers will log into a community during an implementation to see what tasks they need to complete, understand dependencies, share documentation and post feedback and/or questions relating to the project.