December 22, 2008Doug Hadden
FreeBalance is certainly not the first company to claim to be customer-centric. And of the many that do, it’s often a classic example of marketing spin. But in 2006, FreeBalance resolved to become a truly customer-centric company with customer-centric development processes and a model quality management system. The task was by no means easy, but after all the hard work—reorganization, new compensation plans, new measurements, improved accountability measures—the results speak for themselves: FreeBalance customer satisfaction rates have improved; customers are purchasing new modules faster than in the past; and product planning is more effective.
The question remains: how do you tell the spin from the real thing? Here are some signs:
- You can call the CEO directly.
- The company reacts quickly to and exceeds expectations in emergencies.
- Customer cases and satisfaction is tracked in real-time.
- The company uses anyone within the company, regardless of position, to support you.
- Staff is compensated and evaluated on customer satisfaction.
- There is at least one customer steering committee generating company priorities.
- Company staff attends the same conferences that you do.
- Company executives ask you for your opinions.
- Company executives know the status of your important cases.
- Processes are ISO-9001/2000 certified.
Many software vendors treat customers just like Dr. House on the popular American Television program treats his patients. Dr. House avoids meeting them directly—according to House, patients are liars and idiots.
But a company that isolates its most experienced people from its customers is far from customer-centric. Interestingly, there is no clear incentive for a company to do so. The many advantages we afford our customers influence and reinforce our own. At our end, we have found that interactions between customers and company executives, product managers and software developers provide us the important context to make good decisions that conventional market research cannot offer. So as we continue to distinguish ourselves as the leading providers of government finance software, our good decisions translate into even better choices for governments around the world.
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