September 28, 2009Doug Hadden
User group meetings were part of the CARTAC FMI Conference in Belize earlier this month. We had more than a day of discussions with our FreeBalance customers from the Caribbean region.
We find that the most successful technique for user groups is to spend more time listening than talking. It is extremely important for software vendors to understand the customer context. Data collected from the FreeBalance Customer Portal and from e-mails is just a starting point.
FreeBalance provided a quick overview of the product roadmap, new products and new customers. However, this was a “PowerPoint-free zone”. We used techniques of lateral thinking developed by Edward de Bono. Many of us at FreeBalance have been trained on this “6 Thinking Hats” method.
Our first order of business was to discuss the state of customer support. FreeBalance has developed an ISO-9001/2000 certified process for customer-centric product development, implementation and support. Customer support processes can always be improved, particularly when supporting customers globally.
We believe that the traditional model used by software vendors that separate products from services under serves the international market. Services and products need to be tightly integrated to ensure success. The user group selected 11 topics for discussion. These opics were discussed in detail in the order of priority.
We gained significant insight into some business processes in use by our customers. Our international team participated through the FreeBalance Customer Exchange by providing more questions.
FreeBalance produced a report after the user group session and we are following up on action items. We will propose some support process changes and build our product roadmap.