03 Feb

Don’t screw up your first date with your customers

unhappyCouple_smallerImagine you met an intriguing woman online and spent twelves months romancing someone on another continent.

Picture it.  You exchange witty emails, send her attractive pictures of yourself doing interesting and exciting things, and have long phone calls discussing mutual interests and plans for the future.   Then finally, you agree to meet in person.  At significant expense she flies from Australia to New York to meet you.  You are both excited to finally get together.

Wouldn’t it be weird if you didn’t bother to shower and look nice for the first date?

After all this time spent trying to establish a connection and deciding that there might be a future together, why would you fumble something as basic as making a good first impression?

Software vendors often make this mistake with their customers.

A B2B software vendor might spend 12 months wining and dining their prospects.  They show them sexy demos (I’m using a very loose definition of the term “sexy”). They discuss product roadmaps to see if they have a future together.  They offer “good faith” discounts.

Finally, after the customer has dropped a few hundred thousand dollars and arm-wrestled their infamously obstructionist procurement officer to make the purchase, what is the first thing they experience with the product?

An installation nightmare.

INSTALLATION

It is not uncommon for on-premise B2B software to have installations balloon from an estimated one week project to six weeks or even more.  To add insult to injury, the customer is sometimes required to foot the bill for additional professional services costs to boot.

This is the dating equivalent of showing up for the first date with bad breath, food stains on your shirt, and unkempt hair.  And then asking your date to pay for the experience.

Somehow “improve the installation experience” never makes it to the top of development priority lists.  The argument is usually that installation is a one-time event, and is therefore low in priority after the long list of stuff in your feature backlog.

However, that rationale means that you are willing to create a bad, or even a terrible impression as the very first experience your customer has with your product.  This can do tremendous damage to your relationship with them and jeopardize customer renewals or any word-of-mouth business.  This drives up your customer acquisition costs because  your business has to constantly invest in the long wooing cycle of new customers.

First impressions are critical and it is hard to recover from a bad one.

So consider making the installation experience better for your customers. They just might give you a second date.  Or at least recommend you to their friends.

Photo credit: Shutterstock | Creatista, Africa Studio