There are many moments to impress your clients during a service engagement, but there are two that stand out: the moment the work on their project actually starts, and the moment it finishes. Not only are these key milestones in a services engagement, these moments relate to internal transitions in the customer relationship with your organization. If they go well, customer satisfaction goes up.
However, ‘going well’ isn’t always a given.
For example, we often hear of engagements where the service delivery team asks the client for answers that have been already provided to the sales team.
At handover, the support teams aren’t equipped with information about the customer environment and the client ends up training the helpdesk rather than get the support they called in for. You can almost hear the eye-rolling on the end of the phone; the sigh that implies, “How can you not know this?”
It is moments like these that impact customer satisfaction.
That’s why we believe knowledge is the secret to customer success, and pivotal to the success of any Professional Service engagement. And it’s definitely something worth paying attention to. Improving customer experience is one of the hot business challenges identified by TSIA in 2018. The more you can do to ensure your customer’s success, the better it will be for your business overall.
Filling the Knowledge Gaps
How long have you spent looking for information this week? In a recent survey, 83% of respondents reported they had trouble easily accessing the data they needed to do their jobs. The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Optimization Study concluded that salespeople spend just 35.9% of their time selling. Now, extend that across your team, and the amount of time wasted searching for information, instead of working on crafting winning sales proposals and delivering great customer service is staggering.
Knowledge management tools, combined with a strategy for capturing and updating information along with an open culture of sharing, help to offset the twin challenges of searching for information and handovers between your internal departments. When knowledge is infused throughout the whole bid-to-bill process, there’s no more eye-rolling from exasperated clients.
But how do you get there? It is possible to make sure teams have everything they need at their fingertips, without expecting them to spend their time searching for documents. Let’s look at three touch points where it’s easy to positively engage your customer throughout their experience with your PS firm.
1. Sales Cycle
Get your services team engaged in the sales cycle. Their knowledge ‘in the field’ and of prior engagements with that client and others, will help build a better statement of work.
Starting the knowledge cycle at this stage, is a significant bonus in managing the handover between sales and services. When teams work collaboratively, the SOW is more accurate and clients feel confident that they know the people managing their delivery understand their business.
There’s an added benefit to the services team too: your project forecasting data is more accurate and you have greater visibility of the project pipeline. Working collaboratively at this early stage of the project builds better relationships between colleagues in your business and stops delivery teams complaining the SOW was handed to them to implement. When they have a say in how it is put together, there’s no loss of time while they get up to speed.
Take action: Implement a process to make the services team a significant and accountable contributor to the SOW.
2. Transition to Service Delivery
The second touch point is the transition from sales to service delivery. Make sure that information captured during the sales process is captured in your knowledge management platform so it’s available for the delivery teams.
When the project manager has knowledge available at their fingertips, it becomes easier to deliver fixed-bid projects profitably. Your team saves time as they aren’t duplicating data capture from the client. Clients feel more engaged, it’s easier to manage expectations, and they see the delivery progressing at pace.
Take action: Create a knowledge management strategy and engage your people to adopt a knowledge platform to share information. Check teams are documenting, capturing and storing knowledge so people throughout the organization can access it in a timely way.
3. Transition to Support
Finally, information captured during delivery needs to be passed on to the support teams. Long term customer success comes from the ability to use the product delivered over time. The first few interactions with your customer success function will set the tone for how users perceive what your team delivered.
Make sure all information captured during delivery is shared. For example, management dashboards with historical data from during the project might not seem essential but often hold valuable clues to why the product or service was delivered in a particular way. As more companies make digital transformations, a lot of this knowledge is already captured electronically. Include documentation, playbooks, SharePoint notes, video tutorials and other materials in a federated search to make supporting customers easier.
When your support teams have access to the knowledge they need, customer satisfaction goes up and problem resolution time goes down.
Take action: Ensure project teams are leveraging the knowledge management platform throughout the engagement, and define a methodology for the project handover to support. Get support teams involved long before the project ends, so there is a smooth transition of knowledge as the project draws to a close.
The Power of Collaboration
Everything we’ve discussed in this article points to the power of collaboration. With the right tools, teams across your PS firm can surface the knowledge they need at the right time, because someone else created it.
Building your organizational knowledge is an ongoing responsibility for teams, and that’s why creating a culture of knowledge sharing is as important as having access to the systems to manage it. Breaking down silos between sales, service and support is key to customer success – and hitting your own profitability targets.
Throughout the project lifecycle there are many touch points to impress clients. Lessons learned from all stages should be fed in to your knowledge management platform. Think of knowledge management as your secret to profitable projects, improved efficiency, better success rates and a great customer experience.
Hobbes wasn’t wrong when he wrote scientia potentia est – Knowledge is Power.
Knowledge management puts the power in the hands of your teams, allowing them to do their best work and serve your customers effortlessly.
Kevin Sequeira is the Senior Vice President of Product Management for Upland Software and is responsible for delivering customer-driven innovation across Upland’s product lines. He has over 10 years’ leadership in professional services automation, product management, strategic planning with cross-functional success in customer and analyst engagement.