How to align professional services with customer experience management
Whether you are delivering professional services, managed services, solutions, or consulting services, it is all about people’s ability to engage, question, listen, analyse, reflect, develop and deliver a solution for the benefit of the customer.
Professional Services (PS), consulting, customer sucess and any ‘’business to business’’ interaction – in the enterprise technology industry and other sectors – should be strictly aligned with your experience management approach as part of your company culture. You’ve probably already heard 1,000 times that we in customer experience (CX) call these moments of truth “touch points” with our customers. During those interactions, you have the opportunity to demonstrate not just the best of your organisation’s professionalism, but also your own. At the end of the day, experiences are created between individuals independently of being digital or physical.
Often, delivering PS for different kinds of sectors means interacting with customers face-to-face – at least in the pre-COVID-19 world. Even when delivering managed services for cloud solutions interactions still needed. Right now, many companies are working remotely to solve enterprise technology and other problems, and it is most decidedly not affecting their ability to achieve successful outcomes for their customers. In the future – whether we return to face-to-face interactions or remain digital – these remote working experiences will serve as business cases for new delivery models for PS experiences.
In this series of three articles, I will discuss how to make sure your PS leadership leads for everyone’s success. I will also explain ways to ensure that your consulting teams, along with your professional services – and their delivery – embody your company culture and provide a well-designed customer experience. With the right leadership approach, you can grow your organisation’s practice and team talents, resulting in revenue growth.
These articles will suggest ideas for how you can continue to provide a great customer experience while delivering your professional services and consulting services, regardless of whether it is a human or digital interaction, and at any time. Because, at the end of the day, it’s important to deliver not just the value that was expected and agreed upon in the statements of work and the service level agreements, but also a great experience.
Today we will discuss the human side of PS, what can really differentiate your PS, and your consulting experience. In the coming weeks, we will examine delivery, measurement, PS tech content, customer sucess and more.
Your culture is your start and end points, also in PS
An organisation’s culture is its behaviours, its core values, and what it stands for – basically, what it preaches, delivers, and does. Culture is based on the company’s purpose and its value for its customers. As mentioned recently in an article by Bain & Company, an organisation with a winning culture – one with a strong internal compass that inspires its employees – is almost four times more likely to deliver a great business performance.
Regardless of what your company delivers, culture is the start and end points that affect everything else the business does. The impact it has on your PS and on any customer interaction is immense. It’s best to get it right the first time.
Culture is the core of any company, as is illustrated in the picture below from Bain & Company.
It also requires the empowerment and enablement of employees who interact with customers, as well as those who make things happen from a more internal position – because these internal or external teams all have the customer at the focus of their work. While executing their work.
Culture will be put to the test when things are not going so well with customers and in times of crisis – as is happening right now with COVID-19. Your actions as an organisation during this pandemic are now deeply lodged in the memories of those you interacted with as we previously mention on another article – including employees, partners, customers, and leads – whether it was delivering a complex solution, helping them via customer service, or even something as simple as responding to them over one of your communication channels.
Your professional services: Where the experience journey starts
Once you have established your culture, you need to make sure your professional services team embodies that culture to give your customers a great experience. Accomplishing this requires the enablement of your employees – starting with the hiring process.
Human resources (HR) leadership
You need to have the right leaders in your HR department. They are, to some extent, the gate keepers between a great candidate and a bad one. HR leaders should have the right skills – such as empathy, understanding how to deal with a variety of personality types (since we all are different), and the analytical abilities and curiosity to clarify the requirements for a position. When hiring people to deliver professional and consulting services – whether those services are strategy-oriented or technical – the key is to bring in people who:
- Really like to help others.
- Can solve complex issues.
- Will not give up when complex situations emerge.
- Show the ambition to develop their career, and to continuously build their skills.
- Can collaborate with teams, customers, and partners.
- Are able to deal with ambiguity and an initial lack of understanding of certain technical situations (but who are naturally curious and educate themselves).
- Show flexibility and the ability to play in many roles.
Prepare for new hires and educate existing talents
It is imperative during onboarding programs to enable new hires to digest and adopt the company values, principles, and purpose. I will not focus on onboarding programmes and enabling talent in this article, but I cannot highlight it enough. It is a key factor in the success or failure of your business – especially for consulting and professional services experiences.
- Onboarding takes longer than you think: on average, an employee takes between three and six months to really understand everything with the necessary level of detail that enables him to be as independent as possible, making the right decisions driven by data driven facts. Bear in mind that even if you have 30 amazing practical workshops and trainings waiting for the new members, no one is able to immediately grasp everything. Even a genius will require time to adapt to the company’s processes, nuances, products, technicalities, governance, and the way the company leads its projects. Sometimes it’s better to jump right in to gain hands-on practical experiences, even for a very skilled top executive. When you hire someone, who is curious and able to ask the right questions, they will succeed.
- With employees: don’t just deliver onboarding programmes – offer a continuous learning strategy that enables your new team member to evolve conjointly with the company’s needs. Provide employees the tools and methodologies that will enable them to be successful in your company and to deal with customers and partners. Remember, though, that every individual has their own way of grasping information, be it through videos, articles, Q&As, webinars, and coaching sessions with their leaders. Accept their ways of grasping and learning, especially in professional services. Online education providers can grant free access that will benefit the employee, the team, and the outcomes of your entire company. But realise that you don’t have to provide the information all at once. It’s better to take a longer time than to just rush through training. What matters is to understand that everyone have his own time to digest and embed information and that the outcome is successful.
- Technical enablement: provide the necessary tools, software and hardware for your talents and enable them with both theoretical and – most importantly – hands-on preparation. Your customers expect you to bring the best people on board to achieve successful outcomes for their program/project and engagement. Don’t hinder those talented people by starving them of the necessary technical resources.
- Prepare their soft skills: your talent is the face of your company at any given touch point. Help them to prepare for when their soft skills – such as their emotional intelligence and empathy – will be required. If you are bringing in more experienced executives, managers, and project leaders from other companies, make sure they understand how your company operates and your specific ways of developing customer relationships. Remember that not every professional has the important ability to say “no” to customers. Help them understand when to say “no” and ‘’yes’’ how to say it. Reinforce their ability of managing expectations. Provide teams with clear guidelines so they can analyze when it is time to say “We cannot do it, or the opposite” especially when you have already agreed with the customer on a defined scope of work or services.
Culture and experience management
To conclude this first part: culture is a basic but crucial pillar that enables your organization to really deliver great experience management in the area of professional services. Your company culture should be a way of life for customers, employees, and all actual and future stakeholders. Act accordantly with your purpose, principles, and values, and keep communication flowing via all pathways within your organisation. Do not just preach, ensure that the entire organisation understands the point of your culture. As your organisation keeps learning and listening to critique to evolve and growth.
When you are delivering professional services, managed services, solutions or consulting services, it is all about people’s ability to engage, question, listen, analyse, reflect, develop and deliver a solution for the benefit of the customer.
I am a global executive and strategic consultant for medium and large global technology organizations, focused in Customer Experience, Professional Services, Customer Success and delivery.
I enable major global enterprises to generate new revenue and enhance market competitiveness by delivering global customer experiences, services,...