Enterprise software: why it pays to make it all about the user

It’s all about the customer. If you’re not a customer-focused business you won’t stay in business. Putting the customer front and centre of all we do… 

In recent years, there’s been no shortage of commentary adjuring companies to keep the customer satisfied and warning of the adverse consequences that can accrue to those which fail to do so.

An outstanding experience is built on six pillars, according to KPMG’s 2018 Customer Experience Excellence Report for Australia. They are:

  • Personalisation – the use of individualised attention to drive an emotional connection
  • Integrity – being trustworthy and engendering trust
  • Expectations – managing, meeting and exceeding them
  • Time and effort – minimising the amount of both which customers are required to expend and creating a frictionless experience
  • Resolution – turning disappointing experiences into great ones
  • Empathy – driving rapport by understanding customers’ circumstances. 

Missing the memo

There’s one category of companies that doesn’t appear to have received the memo about surprising and delighting the people who use their products, often for hours each day.

Enterprise software developers have historically put user experience low on the priority list and it shows. A number of studies including, most recently, one published by Unit 4 in 2017 have highlighted the fact that the useability of many enterprise systems leaves much to be desired. Employees’ feelings about it range from apathetic to downright negative.

It’s a somewhat surprising state of affairs, given the sums organisations invest on installing and running these solutions.    Gartner predicts enterprise software spending in Australia will hit $15.9 billion in 2018, up 10.4 per cent on the previous year’s spend.*

Focusing on customer experience at the product development stage could result in a corresponding rise in the collective level of enthusiasm about their use – and give vendors which can deliver on utility and useability a powerful point of difference.

Here are four things developers can do to create enterprise solutions employers feel more positive about using. 

Asking for feedback

Surveys, suggestion boxes, social media…Consumer focused companies have become past masters at asking customers how they’re doing and tweaking their products and services accordingly, when they’re given the thumbs down. Opportunities to capture customer sentiment abound – particularly in the electronic age when ‘Liking’ and commenting have become second nature to millions of individuals in their personal lives – but business-to-business vendors have made scant use of them in the past. Their focus has historically been on keeping the decision makers in the C-suite sweet, not the frontline folk who actually use their solutions. 

Developing and implementing a strategy to seek continual feedback from current and future customers can result in valuable insights which product development teams can use to improve the useability of systems and inform the design of new modules and features.

Bringing customers on board before beta testing begins

It can be easy for enterprise software vendors to view beta testing as merely the sign-off stage in the product development journey. For many, it’s the first opportunity they offer customers to become involved. 

Having major users play a greater role in the development process – from proof of concept through to alpha and beta versions – would enable them to do more than merely pick holes in the final product. Yes, it involves more collaboration and commitment than vendors may have thought to ask for in the past but it’s in customers’ interests to give it, if it leads to the development of products which better meet their needs and are easier to use.

Never say goodbye…continuing the relationship post-purchase

Consumer focused companies don’t close the customer feedback loopback once a sale is secured. They stay close to the customer and start planning the next one, even before the ink is dry. They do so by learning more about customers’ needs and wants and developing products and services to meet them.

Business-to-business firms are wise to follow their lead. Inviting customers to join a panel or forum to provide regular feedback allows vendors to keep their finger on the customer pulse and can pay big dividends in the form of loyalty and repeat business.

Turning ideas into action – developing a strategy to put feedback into practice

One of the problems with asking for feedback is working out what to do with it when it arrives. ‘You can’t please everybody’ is an immortal truism. Attempting to implement each and every customer suggestion is a recipe for chaos. Instead, companies, both consumer and business focused, need to develop systems for collating and assessing feedback systematically and rigorously; with the object being the identification of commonalities and recurring pain points. Tweaks to existing products may be easy enough for ERP vendors to deliver; major modifications or complementary solutions are likely to take significantly longer. Vendors which introduce a robust framework for managing and actioning feedback stand the best chance of delighting their customers by being able to deliver both.

At the end of the day, businesses need to understand how a customer perceives their end-to-end service experience.  Are all your processes, technologies and flows supporting a smooth experience?  Are your customers going away happy following their interactions?  Are issues being resolved quickly and their satisfaction?  Ultimately, successful organisations are those that start with the customer experience roadmap and then apply the technology.


By Brendan Maree, Vice President Asia Pacific at 8x8


Written by Guest

This article was prepared by a guest blogger and/or reprinted with permission and thus the opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the opinions of Fifth Quadrant.

Topics: CX Articles & Insights

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