By Paul Field – C.O.O @ Improved Apps
For the next six weeks our radios, newspapers and televisions are going to be dominated by just one thing: the elections – they’re coming whether you like or not, irrespective of whether you’ll vote or not, and the hoopla will be harder to escape than taxes or the world cup.
In reality, we are the customers of the government; we all pay significant amounts of money every year to the exchequer, and in return receive a whole bundle of services and provisions of which we may or may not take advantage. The fact that it does not feel like a customer/supplier relationship is perhaps down to what historically has been limited, feasible competition. It is a supply-driven market that is not only heavily regulated but also one where the supplier gets to write the regulations.
Renegotiating the contract
The opening up of the market may well be one thing changing in the forthcoming election as we get our first opportunity in five years to ‘renegotiate the contract’ for the next term and potentially choose a different supplier from a longer list. Not surprisingly, it is only when there are significant changes in suppliers and competition that major social changes happen.
How nice it would be for the software solution provider to be in a position to dictate to their customers what they are buying, how much it should cost and be guaranteed that everyone ‘buys the bundle’ even if they can’t use most of the components. Fortunately, for the customer this is not the case. Software in general and Saas in particular are very much demand-driven, and competition is rife. In the past, when customers purchased perpetual licences they were making decisions that would last for fifteen to twenty years, (originally ERP systems were thought to have a lifespan of some seven years but the increasing maturity and slow-moving nature of that market has meant that change has become both more difficult and also less worthwhile). Saas has changed that dynamic completely: Contracts run for a year typically which means that the customer gets to vote annually. The vote in this case tends to be with their feet, with a move to one of the many other available competitive solutions.
Customer feedback is key
In this world of potentially constant change of solution and supplier it becomes vital for providers to become as intimate with the customer as possible. This starts out in the design phase where customers are now likely to be involved, possibly in advisory boards to help shape direction, or at the very least to participate in voting on future features in new releases. Feedback from customers is now sought as regularly as possible and many companies employ customer success managers to make sure the most benefits are realised from the solutions on offer. The happier and more comfortable the customer, the more likely they are to stay with their supplier.
Improved Apps customers get their say
Here at Improved Apps we already do all of these things in the pursuit of the satisfied customer and are now looking at taking it one step further. Our view is that the democratisation of the market can be extended to the ways in which solutions are used: We believe that we can allow the end user to vote on how they want their solutions to be supported and enhanced. Furthermore we have the tools to make that voting possible and allow the enterprise to reflect the will of their end-user constituents…
The future is not one of five yearly elections or even annual customer choices…we are working towards a closed-loop of customer satisfaction and change. True democracy at last!
Find out what our satisfied customers have to say about how our solutions, Improved Help and Improved Noticeboard, are helping to transform training and aid the communication of critical information within their Salesforce applications.
Paul Field – C.O.O @ Improved Apps