Does the prospect of facing unhappy customers frighten you?
There was a time when I used to be afraid of talking to customers who were, perhaps, a little “upset” with BMC. To be very honest, those situations are still not ones I run headlong into. I used to cringe at the thought that I might not have all the answers. Or even worse, that I did have the answer and it wasn’t the one they wanted to hear. I wanted to help solve their pain points, to restore tranquility, to make them “fall in love” with BMC again. Maybe I am a people-pleaser, or maybe we have customer satisfaction so ingrained in our culture that the world feels like it will come to an end if a situation isn’t made right immediately. Who knows, but the fear of opening that can of worms drove me to avoid the confrontation – at least for a while.
That time of voluntary avoidance was soon over. I moved over to the I Critical Account (CritSit/CAM) team where I spent five years as a manager. Yes, for five years I dealt with not just unhappy customers (and sometimes sales reps), but really frustrated and angry Enterprise IT customers. It took some time for me to grow into the role, but eventually I did. This transformation of attitude came about when realized something that changed the way I think about customer support. There is one common theme across all upset customers – they just want to be heard. The very thing that made me scared to death about meeting with an upset customer was the key. All I had to do was listen.
It makes sense right? When I get upset at a hotel chain for messing up my booking or a grocery store for not bagging my sour cream, what do I really want from them? Above all else, I want to be heard. I want them to know my frustration and I want to know how they are going to prevent it from happening to not just me, but others in the future. Basically, I want them to care about me. Many business cases and books have been written on the topic of appreciating and listening to your customers and we see B2C companies excelling at this in our daily lives.
Is the software business so different? How can B2B businesses show that attention to another business – their customer? I have worked with many others in the industry who run a similar program to our CritSit program – YES, every single company has one – and they all have the same experience. The customers want to be heard. They want to know their frustration has been communicated and they want to know how we will resolve the issue.
At the end of the day – large corporation are made up of people working within them. To truly hear and understand a company is to listen to dozens or even hundreds of individual voices. That is no small task.
In my current role in Solutions Marketing I actually have the ability to do something about it. When I meet a customer who is frustrated, it means I have a learning experience laid out in front of me. I have the ability to learn how we can make our solutions better, how we can deliver what our customers want and need, and make sure their voices can be heard. And I can make sure that I hear that individual voice and show them my appreciation and support.
We deliver excellent software. After almost 19 years in the company, this is one thing that remains true, but we can’t read people’s minds. It is important to get out and interact with our customers, to hear from them – whether they are happy or upset.
We started a road show this year in the P&A space. Not to get out and market to our customers, but rather to let them know what we are doing and to LISTEN. To hear from them. To learn from them and hopefully to deliver exactly what they want.
Now, as I stand in front of a small or a large group of our customers, I want to hear their voices and make them part of our future, our roadmap, our next solution. I still haven’t developed a need for self-flagellation, but I don’t cringe when customers come to me with problems. I’ve changed my attitude from one of placating and hoping I had the right answer, to allowing customers to express the extent of their frustration and using that energy to positively impact the course of our product strategy. It gives me great pride to know that we are evolving based on real customer feedback. We are giving IT what they are asking for – not telling them what they can have – and that is a beautiful thing.