In any service encounter – from having dinner at a restaurant to a complex, long-term corporate project – perception is reality. In the end what matters is customers’ perception of what occurred and how they felt during the process. Unfortunately, particularly in a corporate environment, the focus is often on the destination, not the journey, and few organizations are happy when they get there.
As part of our engagements, we focus on the core principles that shape these perceptions. Here in Chicago, we have relied on these principles to improve the maturity of an IT organization for a Fortune 500 financial services organization and marketing organization of global high tech and communications leader.
Get customers emotionally invested
Service providers have to spend enough time and collaborate with their customers to get them engaged and invested in the outcome of a solution. Dumping a status report off once a week doesn’t get it done.
Deal with changing needs
All efforts should be taken to get requirements of a project defined as thorough as possible, but there has to be room for flexibility during implementation phases. Business dynamics change and having a proactive attitude towards discussing and negotiating changes go a long way in building trust and positive relationship.
Give bad news early and build trust
It’s not easy, but taking care of bad news earlier ensures that it won’t dominate the customer’s recollection of the experience. However, bad news should be accompanied with contingency plans and alternative solutions.
Plan for recovery
Despite best intentions, certain aspects of a project will go wrong. A recovery plan must be in place to avoid the feeling that the project has irreconcilably fallen off track. Problems should be seen and handled as an opportunity to develop long term relationships.
When someone recalls a service experience, they probably won’t remember every single moment. The recollection however is strongly biased toward how a project ended. For example, technologists at one of our clients did great job of gathering requirements, designing and building a solution, but usually lost steam towards the end of the project. As a result, end-stage problems lingered and affected the perception of overall project.
Results are important but perception of the experience is critical. Organizations that focus on these core principles will be perceived as reliable, trustworthy and strategic partners in the success of an enterprise.