Professional Services: Customer experience is everything

Your Professional Services Team can make or break your relationship with your customers. Getting new clients up and running quickly and smoothly is critical for maximizing product adoption. There are many things that a Services Manager can do in order to ensure that customers are not just getting their money’s worth, but feel comfortable every step of the way, and are delighted with the outcomes of their projects. Let’s take a look.

Have the right people on the bus

Having the right people on your team is the number one prerequisite for client happiness. Since company culture is how people feel when interacting with someone in your company, be sure to hire based on culture fit and make company values an integral part of your quarterly check-ins with your staff. In addition, continue to coach your team members on how to communicate with customers, especially in stressful situations. You want to get to a point where you can blindly trust your team to do the right thing and to conduct themselves in a way that makes the customer feel exceptionally well taken care of.

Introduce yourself to new clients

Regardless of whether a new client has purchased services, always introduce yourself to them. Make sure they have your email address and your phone number and that they understand how you can help them. Ask questions about their goals, timelines, stakeholders, and, most importantly, any fears or concerns that they may have, and talk about clients who were in similar circumstances and succeeded with their project.

Project kickoff calls

When a client has purchased professional services from you, schedule a kickoff call. This is a good opportunity to introduce some of the team members who will be working on the project and to get to know the key personnel on the client’s side. If other vendors or consultants are engaged in the project as well, have them join the call if your client is okay with it. One of the main objectives of the call is to establish processes and cadences. Explain to the client how you perform requirements gathering, what types of status updates you will provide (and how often), how your QA process works, and what deliverables you need from the client or the contractor. Follow up with an email that summarizes what was discussed.

Set expectations

False expectations are one of the most common reasons for project failure and customer dissatisfaction. Therefore, be as specific as possible in every interaction with your client and spell out what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them in return. This does not just apply to deliverables, but also to communication channels and response times. Similarly, when preparing a Statement of Work (SOW), outline the scope of the project as precisely as possible, but don’t stop there. If you can think of any false assumptions that the client could make, list them out in order to avoid misunderstandings.

Be generous with your quality guarantee period

Your client needs to have the reassurance that you will be there for them after the project has been completed. Therefore, give your customers a generous amount of time to do their own post-implementation QA. No matter how anxious they are to start testing, chances are that yours is not the only project on their plate.

Walk through the SOW

Don’t just sent out a SOW and put all of the responsibility on the customer. You don’t know their level of experience when it comes to these types of projects. You also don’t know how detail oriented they are, so you really want to make sure that you have a screen-sharing session with them to go through every aspect of the SOW. Send the document ahead of time, so that they have the opportunity to digest and annotate everything and to ask questions. As you go through the SOW with the customer, make sure that you explain all assumptions and clarify anything that might involve a decision by them. After the meeting, update the SOW to include what was discussed. When it comes to project success, there’s no such thing as over-communicating.

Track estimated versus actual hours

One of the best things you can do for your customers and for your own team is to become a master of accurately estimating the hours involved in completing a project. Therefore, you have to continuously track the quoted hours for each project and compare them to the actual hours. Granted, your team members will initially not be excited to track their time, so be sure to explain to them why it’s important. You really want to nail your estimates, so that you get compensated fairly for the work you do (thus enabling you to invest in the best employees, tools, and of course, R&D) and to make sure that your customers are only charged for the exact time and materials needed for the successful completion of the project.

Internal and external post mortem meetings

In order to make every project better than the last one, it’s imperative to go back and analyze everything that went well and didn’t go well in the previous project. I recommend two separate meetings, and the order really depends on how things went and what the main challenges were. When in doubt, have the external meeting first. Invite your customers – and in some cases, other consultants involved in the project – to discuss what worked well in the project and what might have been a better approach.

What about you? What are your tips for providing a great experience with your Professional Services team?

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