Making your Implementation Execution as Successful as Hamilton: An American Musical

Making your Implementation Execution as Successful as Hamilton: An American Musical

Making your Implementation Execution as Successful as Hamilton: An American Musical

Blog #2 Customer Service Excellence during Implementation

In my last article I shared how providing good customer service should never be your goal. Instead, a company should focus on fostering a culture of excellence. Excellent customer service flows naturally from a corporate commitment to excellence in all areas. Over the course of the next few blogs I am going to talk about how excellence shines through in varies customer service settings.

Let’s start at the beginning of a customer service relationship, with Implementation.

Implementation is a lot like staging the Broadway musical Hamilton. There is the cast, the crew, the audience, the musicians- people by the hundreds, not to mention all the costumes, props and stage sets. Everyone and everything must work together to transform these many moving parts into a seamless performance. The keys to a flawless implementation are the same as the keys to successfully staging a Broadway hit: commitment and communication.

Commitment Essentials: You will want to secure

  1. Corporate Commitments
  2. Team Commitments
  3. Individual Commitments

It’s all about being all-in.

Lin-Manuel Miranda spent several years writing the script and lyrics for his Tony award winning production Hamilton. He was all-in. His cast is all-in. His crew is all-in. Even a great play will fall flat if everyone involved in its production is not all-in. When one company decides it can best achieve its goals through the implementation of the product of another company’s you have corporate commitment. That commitment must filter down to the implementation teams.

Teams need clear goals and to be held accountable for meeting those goals. On the set of Hamilton the lighting team and the costume team both understand how they contribute to the overall success of the production. They understand the vision of the writer, director and producer. In the same way, each team in an implementation must understand their own role and how that role fits in with the overall plan. Just as the show can’t go on if any one of the teams decide to sit the night out, the implementation can fall apart if each team isn’t completely committed to propelling the project forward by fulfilling their role.

The same is even truer for the individuals, whether they are the actors and musicians or the technicians and trainers. Each individual must be committed to fulfilling their role with excellence. They must know their lines or roles thoroughly and they must understand how their actions impact the project as a whole. Committed individuals join together to form committed teams that advance the vision of their leader, whether their leader is Lin-Manuel Miranda or a CEO.

When everyone is fully committed, or “all-in,” you can work on the other key to success, communication, to keep everyone “all-together.”

Communication Essentials: You will want to decide

  1. Who to Communicate With
  2. How to Structure Your Communication
  3. How to Track the Process through Communication

It’s all about keeping everyone on “all-together.”

The bigger the project, whether a hit Broadway show like Hamilton, with more than 200 people involved, or a complex implementation, the more critical excellence in communication is. Be sure everyone who needs to be in the loop is- and no one who should not or need not be- is kept out of the loop. Who you don’t talk to is as critical as who you do talk to. If you want to ensure that your emails are actually opened and read by the recipients, keep your communications as short and direct as possible. There is a fine line between giving enough information and overloading people with details, so remember who you are communicating with and what their “need to know” level is. The information you share with the ERP tech team will be more detailed and very different from the information you will need to share with the HR training team. Be sure to establish early on who will be included on the various communication threads.

During the show, Hamilton’s sets and props glide on and off stage with seeming ease because their route has been carefully structured. In an implementation you can improve the flow of information by using a similar structure for each email in each communication thread. Don’t let your readers get lost in the abundance of words in a long email. When you have a great deal of information to share, bullet points are your friend. The exercise of structuring your details into bullet points will also help you to distill your thoughts into salient points of action. Your goal is to be complete without being complicated. And remember, communication is a two-way street. Reply to every email you receive, even if it is only to say, “I got it!”

Stage managers keep everyone on track during a show. They are the behind the scenes organizers who make everything that happens on stage look seamless. Your implementation can also benefit from having a “stage manager” or point person for both the service provider and the client. These are the people who will coordinate all communication to ensure that every step of the way is coordinated, planned, tracked and documented. These are the people who will hold everyone accountable.

Whether staging a Broadway smash like Hamilton or coordinating a corporate implementation, you need to get everyone all-in and all-together. To foster that, you will need to communicate clearly and appropriately to the right people. Once you have selected your point people, defined your communication threads and structured your communication plan with a team that is all-in, you have set the stage for a successful implementation.

The Golden Age of Customer Feedback

customer engagement smallEngaging customers from the beginning to the end of the product development cycle is critical for the acceptance of products, both with current and future clients.  Not engaging customers results in a “failure-to-launch” scenario, which benefits nobody.

It’s September, 2015 however and customer-focused companies are fortunate because many feedback tools exist that can be leveraged to relay product design, functionality, and other ideas to clients and to provide a method for feedback.  In fact, more communication channels are available now than ever before!  Modern tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Forums, Facebook, YouTube, eCommerce and others can be used to promote lots of feedback at very reasonable costs.  Think back only a few years ago when none of these methods existed and how much effort, cost, and time was required to understand your customer’s needs via the limited person-to-person, phone, or postal system options available.

As an example of how to increase feedback, one tool mentioned above, “Forums,” can be setup in an afternoon.  When completed, messages, images, even audio & video recordings can provide valuable product input.   The ideas can typically be categorized & prioritized, and follow up questions or other information can be provided back to the customer.  Used properly, a Feedback Forum can ensure a company’s products are on target, resulting in happier customers and higher sales.

In fact, consider that we are in a “Golden Age” of feedback, where customers can provide it, both positive and negative, instantly for any company or product.  Companies should leverage and control this ability and use it as a “Best Practice” to drive their product development because when a client is heard, it results in better customer satisfaction and higher retention: Outcomes all companies hope to achieve.

Customer Service: Well Done is Better than Well Said

Well_done_2Sticking with the Ben Franklin theme I started last week, today I discuss a personal example that illustrates the simple idea Franklin meant with his quote, “Well done is better than well said.”  

I recently hired a contractor to replace the roof on my house.  I previously used this company and was happy with their work, plus they have outstanding customer service so I was comfortable hiring them again.  During the installation I was out of town so I couldn’t monitor progress, but I trusted them to get it right.  Upon arriving home I was pleased to discover the roof was properly installed, looked fantastic, and was a beautiful improvement after living with ugly thirty year old shingles.   I did notice however, four minor problems about which I contacted the vendor.

The project manager, Greg, immediately responded with a heartfelt reply and outlined a detailed action plan to solve the problems.  Talk is cheap, however within days the issues were remedied.  Whether Greg knew it or not, he provided a perfect application of Franklin’s quote “Well done is better than well said.” to customer service.

I expected the quick resolution because of my previous experience with the firm, and again they met my expectations.  The situation could have devolved into much frustration due to a lack of response or remediation.  In an era of fly-by-night contractors I remain happy with my decision to use this company for the new roof and I’ll give them a call for future house improvements too.  I’ve even referred potential new business their way because of their excellent work and customer service.

My experience with this vendor reinforces the idea that quality customer service is extremely important to generate new, and retain existing, business.  When the timing was such that I could switch to another contractor, I did not, based upon my history with their skilled workmanship and quality customer service.  I’m not an expert construction guy, I left it with people I knew could handle the job and they didn’t let me down.

So it is with Learning Management Systems (LMSs).  At some point it’s time to review the current software contract and decide whether to stick with the existing LMS or begin a relationship with an unknown vendor.  Reviewing shiny new features is exciting, however it’s important to always inquire about the effectiveness of the customer service department too.  It’s easy for a company to make a sale and then ignore Franklin’s advice by forgetting about the follow-up, which leads to much frustration, both with system implementation and ongoing system utilization.  The outcome will be untrained employees, an unacceptable end result for any LMS.

For more details about switching Learning Management Systems, review this LMS Switching Guide.

The Importance of Customer Service for Learning Management System (LMS) Admins

Gyrus Systems Benjamin 2In May I blogged about the concept of “Fast, Good, and Cheap: Pick Two” and how it applies to product development, essentially: A development project can’t include all three qualities. Today I’ll explore how customer service is similarly affected by price & quality and leverage the quote, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” by Ben Franklin to demonstrate the issue. (Seems like price versus quality concerns have existed for a long time!)

Like “Fast, Good, and Cheap: Pick Two,” Franklin’s quote drives home the relationship between price and quality, that is, when an overly cheap product is marketed, quality suffers because the vendor must cut costs somewhere.

An easy cost-cutting strategy is to skimp on customer support since product features can still be demonstrated; the assumption being that sales won’t suffer. Also, it’s challenging to demonstrate customer support so vendors may only provide anecdotal information, if it’s discussed at all.

Based upon my experience with customers that have changed to the Gyrus Systems GyrusAim LMS from alternatives, customer support is extremely important where quality is not optional, it’s required. Service problems described by customers that had used inadequate support departments range from never getting hold of a live person to being forwarded to a call-center where the service rep “helps” by reading from a list of FAQs because they don’t understand the product.

Customers experiencing these problems truly understand “the bitterness of poor quality.” The “sweetness of low price” is long forgotten because the lack of support creates stalled training programs and untrained learners, not successful end results when using an LMS.

At Gyrus Systems quality customer support is a priority: We want long term customer relationships, not a quick sale. We invest in the personnel and develop the processes required to deliver top-notch assistance. For example, we don’t rely on a voicemail barrier when customers call. Instead, we answer the phone. The person that answers is not at a call-center either, it is a Gyrus Systems employee that’s deeply involved in product development or support.  The end result is customers speak with a resource that understands the product. In fact, all of our employees know our customers by their first name.   

Not all customers need help, however when they do, the responsive and dedicated Gyrus Support Team is available so our clients will not experience the bitterness of poor quality support.  Ben Franklin would be proud.

Activate Formal Learning

Most people are familiar with these statistics:

  • 70% of development happens on the job
  • 20% is through mentoring and coaching
  • 10% is through formal learning which includes instructor led workshops and e-learning courses

Not only are these statistics familiar, they intuitively make sense.  We have grown up with teachers, coaches and parents telling us “practice makes perfect”.  So, we practiced and practiced and got better and better at riding a bike or playing the piano.

Even though 70% of development or skill building happens on the job, where do most corporations spend their learning and development budgets?  The answer:  On formal training where only 10% of development happens.  How do they help their learners practice and apply the content from the course on the job?  The answer: GyrusAim Skill Centric LMS and  Vado’s courses as every Vado course contains step by step instruction on how to apply on the job.

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