I agree with the concepts that Robert has stated, but I feel that there is a lot more to it than just bug tracking
The customer expects that the whole company cares about him and his business, so the issue is not just connecting Support, Development and QA; it’s about connecting everything the company does to the customers’ needs, and this is one of the promises of CRM.
The customer expects that whenever they talk to the company, through whatever contact, that their most current situations will be known and can be progressed from there. Thus the ticket tracking aspects of CRM are great, but need to be tied in to the other aspects Robert describes, namely the prioritization, tracking and traceability. This can be further advanced by tying this into the technology of intelligent telephone systems so that the customers account history, status, bug-list etc. are open at a status / dashboard screen for any company contact who picks up the call. Tracking in a CRM system helps resolve another problem - with complex technical products it is very common that large accounts will work certain issues directly with engineering and inside groups, with the side effect then that their local field support team (sales and field / applications engineers) may be out of the loop at times and not fully aware of status or commitments. Visibility via CRM can help with this, but can’t beat the personal touch of the field rep calling his customer to catch up.
As to tracking which customers have the most issues, which products are problematic, and which products are owned by which customers, these are roles which should already be the focus of other management levels rather than the CEO himself. Specifically the Technical Support management and QA management own the analysis and constant study and Pareto of product issues to ensure that engineering’s corrective actions are being properly prioritized. Product management has an ownership for knowing their products throughout the lifecycle and ensuring that the products are performing at the level for which they are sold and are being the “best products they can be” within their respective places on the product roadmap.
Having the bug-list to present to engineering, as Robert says, is not just nice, it’s mandatory. What’s more, it is necessary to understand the severity, occurrence and ability to detect the problem in customer / field terms (FMEA style) so that corrective action can be prioritized and taken in order to yield a solution and implementation which will satisfy the customer.
Who should own the responsibility for connecting to the customer ?
Many companies do not have the ownership of this role well defined. It is a hugely cross-functional role of pulling all these pieces together and making sense of the entries and history in the CRM system. The role requires business savvy, technical understanding, quality and reliability understanding and sales and marketing knowledge, together with what-if capabilities and the ability to communicate across the functions and defend needs and priorities - this role often does not exist but this “Customer Champion” is definitely needed in any high tech undertaking.
The customer wants to know that the company understands his needs, and that the company is organized enough to communicate so that all contacts know what is going on. Also, though, the customer wants to know that somebody at the company is waking up and “worrying” on their behalf every day. This is the customer champion role - to think like the customer and to do all the proactive work on their behalf (Are shipments already en route so they will be there on time ?; Have the tests begun so that the data can be provided as promised ? Etc.) The customer champion then handles or facilitates proactive communications in all areas. With this in place and the CRM system being used effectively to actively support documentation and tracking of all interactions, the customer will be likely to recognize and comment about the improved level of support and how they feel themselves to be connected to the vendor.
The bigger the customer and the more complex the product, the broader the involvement beyond just the sales and technical support groups. Not only do Support, QA and Development need to talk, the Development, Sales and Marketing and Customer dialog triangle needs to be completed and Customer Champions appointed to keep the dialog flowing and keep it meaningful so that everyone is connected to and serving the customer.
For more on these concepts and how Forefront Technology Services can help you to train Customer Champions and implement effective Customer Champion programs, please contact us:
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