I had the opportunity to attend PSA (professional service automation) vendor Tigerpaw's National Conference recently in Chicago. In addition to record attendance and inspiring speakers like Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest, the keynote speech given by Tigerpaw President James Foxall really hit home with the hundreds of MSPs in attendance. It was practical advice that's often overlooked by many companies -- IT vendors and solutions providers alike.
Foxall talked about the secret to his company's success depending on customer feedback. With Tigerpaw's Customer Advisory Group having significant input during the development process, he claimed that up to 90% of Tigerpaw's vision is based on customer feedback!
Rather than waiting until a lot of harm has been caused to your company and your brand, why not take a more proactive stance and start asking your customers what you could be doing to make their lives easier now? Foxall gave a good example of how this plays out practically at Tigerpaw. "Before releasing a new product, we find 20 MSPs that would be the perfect fit for all the new features, and we ask them to test it and give us feedback," he says. "This exercise always leads to us making several meaningful changes before we go live with a new product." He went to cite several of examples of new features or changes to existing features that resulted in the testers' feedback (e.g. real-time price look-ups, real-time web integration, adding a dispatch board).
As simple as this advice sounds, think of all the times you can recall when a company released a product based purely on input from its developers, with no apparent input from its actual users. How could things have been different if products such as Windows Vista were rolled out in this manner -- or, how about the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook?
Even if you're providing services rather than products, the principle is the same: don't wait for your customers to come to you with a complaint or even a suggestion for what could be better about your services. Take the time to proactively solicit their feedback. And, when you get it, do something else that's simple, yet also vastly overlooked -- actually listen.