The Two Big Barriers to Keeping Your Customers Happy

    Keep the customers happy.

    That’s irrefutable advice, right up there with “buy low and sell high.” From an IT perspective, however, this seemingly simple advice bumps up against two big barriers.

    The first one, the obvious one, is that there are many customers, with different and sometimes conflicting needs. End users want more – more applications, more supported devices, and more support. Management wants less – less complexity, less conflict, and less cost. The criteria, or measures of success, will depend on whom you ask.

    That’s a known dilemma. This post, however, is about another, less-discussed challenge that makes it difficult to keep customers happy: End users are fickle.

    OK, perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but not by much. One day they want a company-provided BlackBerry. Next, it’s an iPhone, and then it’s any device of the end user’s choosing. The fact is that customer requirements change – and often rather quickly.

    We all remember when VoIP was new, and one of the benefits was the ability to have a business phone at home. At first, some found this disagreeable: “Why would I want that?” It seemed ludicrous, because work was where we worked, and home was where we didn’t work. There was a wall between these domains.

    We also remember the backlash several years later when the new CEO at Yahoo took the newfound right to work at home away from employees, ordering telecommuting employees back to the office.

    In one recent RFI, a department that was given the option to select its endpoints chose high-end IP phones for its workers. Over the next three years, they had new, additional “requirements,” including a soft client for PC, a soft client for Mac, a soft client for iOS, and a soft client for Android. But only some of these technologies were available from their provider.

    End users – you can’t live with them, and can’t live without them. It certainly can be dangerous to an IT professional to listen to end users, given that technology investments last longer than end-user memories. We often hear about how technology is so dynamic, but it looks relatively stable compared to end-user requirements.

    The traditional office with 9-5 workers sitting at desks, using dedicated desktop telephones and computers, is fading away. Working remotely from a home office, previously thought of as undesirable, is now expected in many professions. A company-provided BlackBerry mobile device, considered a job perk not too long ago, has been replaced by individual preferences for other smartphones and tablets.

    It would be nice to blame the end users, but to be fair, it isn’t completely their fault. They tend to pick things off a menu, and the menu keeps changing. Few providers, especially BlackBerry, could foresee the iPhone. Now video is becoming cost-effective, and new technologies like WebRTC are poised to change the communications menu even further.

    So if listening to customers is dangerous, and predicting the future is impossible, then the only viable strategy is to emphasize flexibility. When evaluating a UC solution, there is always a range of elements to consider, including endpoints, applications, scale, resiliency, and costs, to name a few. However, the criterion that often doesn’t make the evaluation list, and should be on top, is flexibility.

    Ask vendors questions about flexibility. Does the provider offer end-user alternatives aside from the traditional desk phone – flexible user options that will meet ever-changing requirements? Are there flexible deployments? Is a system available as a hardware appliance, or as software that runs on an industry-standard server or on a virtualized server? Does the provider offer its solutions as cloud-based services, or support hybrid arrangements that make use of both hosted services and on-site solutions? Has the provider been developing solutions that are keeping pace with trends and transitions in a workplace that has changed dramatically – and will continue to change?

    In just a few short years, teleworking went from being frowned upon to being an employee “right.” Workers are utilizing their personal mobile devices for business. Evolving government regulations are constantly mandating new business practices.

    The transition to mobile was a big one, causing many enterprises to upgrade or replace their enterprise systems. Today, nearly every UC provider offers mobile and remote working solutions, though these are developed and released at different times. Often, customers end up seeking out a new provider and replacing a system because their requirements cannot wait for these development cycles to take place.

    It is phenomenal how much the workplace has changed – and there’s no indication that this will slow down. Keeping pace with a challenging and global business environment requires a nimbleness that is faster than depreciation schedules.

    What is the next big trend in the workplace? What new ways of working are down the road? That’s hard to predict, but we do know it will involve new and different ways of communicating.

    To discover more about how the world of work is changing and what this means for your organisation download our free whitepaper about creating a communications led business. 

    Whatever the next workplace trend may be, UC providers that have a rich set of proven solutions today, plus the capacity to flexibly adapt these to future ways of working, will have the best chance of owning the future. Fighting or ignoring trends and transitions is a losing proposition – so plan on flexibility.

    Sandra M. Gustavsen
    Analyst, G Business Systems, LLC
    (609) 304-1838
    www.gbusinessvoip.com
    www.twitter.com/smgustavsen