In this article I explain in brief a group of good practical principles for a good customer management whole cycle; you can apply these principles for opening and maintaining a recurrent revenue business through a good management and development of the customer relationship.
A relationship exists between these phases of the customer life cycle and the steps of my methology. I am going to show you this relationship as I explain each of the steps of my method.
Stop (First Customer Management Step)
It is important to be note that in my methodology the first action is to inspire the customer. The “lead generation” is out of the scope of this post and it is supposed to be the input for our customer cycle. Here the Reach state means to become perceived as a possible partner by the customer.
In the first step you should listen to the client actively, it means:
- You have to listen to, you are not the speaker now:
- You have to show a behaviour and active body position that transmit to the client your interest.
- You have to guide and inspire the conversation asking smart questions related with the topics explained by the client. Is because of this action the reason I call this “Stop Step”, because you have to stop and guide the conversation towards a concise and real business problem to be resolved.
- Harvesting key information: using smart questions you have to harvest the following key information (usually this will take more than one meeting):
- Mission: the mission for what the client is looking for help. Together with the mission is important understand the client values behind the scene.
- Vision: how the client see their organization when the mission will have be achieved.
- Strategies: what strategies the client have in mind.
- Targets: what are the objectives the client expects to meet.
- Action Plan: what actions exist in their road map.
- Measuring: How are they thinking to measure the ROI.
- Stakeholders, Principal Actors and Promoters.
- Risks: initial identified risks.
- Fears: possible consequences of not getting the mission achieved.
- Eligibility Requirements.
- Specific project derived from the program action plan: schedule, budget, resources, scope, contract type, etc…
- You have to arrange the following meeting. Actually you should establish a schedule of periodic meetings with the client (business partner meetings).
This is an iterative process, and you should harvest all of this information gradually but without pause. You should work for a strong partnership with the client.
If the client doesn’t have ready some of this information is your oportunity for helping them to difine it, leading from the beginning of the process.
You can apply this recipe no only to big programs in big companies, you can adapt and use it for small clients in small companies or even in the only context of a business department.
Calm (Second Customer Management Step)
In the second step you have to present a solution to the needs expressed by the client in the first step (Stop Step).
At this step you have to present you experience background, capacities and differential characteristics but modulated and adapted to your client. You should have in mind the following key points (the order can change depending on your style and situation):
- Values and Mission of our organization(you should support your explanation with your company’s history and specific data and actions):
- Values: speak about your values a how them are aligned with the client’s ones.
- Mission: your mission is act like a partner supporting to your client. Adapt your message to transmit this idea in a specific way.
- Experience background of our organization in solutions of this nature.
- Geographic presence of our organization: important for multinational clients.
- Solution Approach: now is the moment of getting into details about
- Mission of the solution.
- Approach description: I recommend you present an iterative approach.
- Resources: number of resources on the different skills, infrastructure, etc…
- Capacities: organization skills, know-how, etc…
- Schedule: task plan and organization.
- Critic factors for success.
- Make a deal: the objetive of this step is gain the contract so it means that your solutions have to lead the client into calm. That is the same as saying you are helping them ride out their problem, their fears and supporting them in their way of business.
Like the first step this is an iterative phase in which you should work until get the calm state (make a deal).
Lead (Third Customer Management Step)
So we have finally reached the third step.
You have already gained your contract and now you have to deliver what you wrote in your offer.
In this step you have to lead the delivery and it means lead the client too. To really lead the project you should have in mind the following good practices:
- Divide and conquer (“Divide et vinces”): you have to put order, you have to divide problem into smaller problems. Repeat the process in all areas of the project until you have a map for every delivery packet. In this way you will have the whole map of the project.
- Iterative approach (“and then rule”): you should organize the results from apply the “Divide and conquer” principle in packets (modules o what you prefer to call them) in an iterative time schedule delivery program. Iterations can be overlapped.
- At the end of each iteration you have listen to and bring together the results of every area: principal actors, stakeholders, promoters, users, development team, etc…
- You should use this feedback and results to get better in the next iteration.
- Important to do a good scope management along the way of this process.
- You shouldcreate a strong engagement with the client using this iterative process as you and the client are achieving partial goals together.
- Remember to apply “Divide and conquer” and iterative principles to the following main areas: resources, time schedule, costs, customer relationship, deliveries, scope management and quality management.
- Project Performance Managament good practices:
- Project economics management: you should use an economics management based on EVM (Earned Value Management: EAC, ETC, WIP, etc…) completing it with additional concepts like inventory cost, DSO, contract margin, etc…
- You should have defined a group of parameters and KPIs which should permit you to have the snapshot of the project in every moment. And which you can use like levers for piloting the project. You should have defined KPIs for the main areas: resources, time schedule, cost, customer relationship, scope and quality.
- Client language: you have to schedule follow up meetings at different responsibility levels (steering board, operational meetings, etc…) but the important is that you align your language with the business language of the client. It means that you should share business objective with the client and make them understand the relation of the project evolution with this business goals. And therefore work together for the success of project in an iterative process.
Remember that these good practices are independent and complement to any project management methodology. Of course, project management methodology you should be using.
If you think about you will realize that “Divide and conquer” and iterative principles are part of the base of agile methodologies.
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And remember that a good execution of these best practices makes the difference between a successful project, a happy customer and recurring business or a poor result project, an unhappy customer and no more business.