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PwC US says Disruption in Software Sales Models Creates Urgency for Software Vendors to Retool Customer Experience

April 18, 2013

As noted in many previous articles concerning the customer experience, we live in “The Age of Acceleration,” where the only constants are change and the speed at which it is intensifying. It seems that the accommodation of change, especially when it comes to keeping up with increasingly fickle customers, is creating calls for action across broad swaths of various verticals that companies need to quickly rethink their strategies and tactics for remaining relevant with their customers. 

Driven by the converging forces of cloud, social media, mobile and big data, according to a new report from PwC US titled Experience Radar 2013: Lessons from the U.S. Software Industry, the need for urgent rethinking is particularly true for enterprise software vendors. 

The study, which is one in a series of customer-centric reports, measures the experiences of about 6,000 U.S. consumers across multiple industries. 

The PwC study examined five core enterprise software customer experience attributes—quality, support, convenience, presentation and community. The Experience Radar study, according to PwC,  reveals the hidden sources of value that can enable independent software vendors (ISV) create  exceptional, differentiated customer experience. 

“Responses to our survey suggest that the days of large-scale sales and implementations are behind us and as a result, software vendors in this demand-driven environment are no longer able to mandate terms,” said Patrick Pugh, PwC’s U.S. software and Internet leader. “Today’s software customers have options and expect next-generation sales to be uniquely tailored to their needs and able to move at the pace with which they do business. To stay in the game, leading software vendors need to deepen relationships with customers and offer what they value most.”

The study notes correctly that as a result of the growth of non-traditional players offering cloud services, new online business models and lower margins, “The balance of power is to the customer.”  This means ISVs must put a premium on customization, adaptability and multichannel access in order to satisfy the requirements of today’s software end user.

 Five behaviors to consider

The details on the five behaviors the Experience Radar survey defines for ISV consideration to change the game in their favor are:  

  • Deliver what matters most: Look across the product lifecycle to ensure customers receive a consistently strong experience. Typically, only half of software features are widely used, which means most enterprise software is much more complex than the user needs. Prioritize performance over bells and whistles to deliver the most customer value. Keep the end goal in mind by educating customers and focusing resources on improving the main functions. Consider partnering with system integrators to achieve a smooth installation.
  • Infuse the human touch: While new technologies give customers a multitude of channels, human communication is still critical to delivering top-notch experiences. Focus on building long-term relationships by providing personalized support when issues arise. Use training and live demonstrations as opportunities to strengthen relationships. Ensure employee incentives are aligned to deliver an experience that meets customer needs.
  • Promote agility: With 78 percent of companies now embracing a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy, companies are creating agile, streamlined environments which require software to support the flexible workplace. Furthermore, businesses are moving away from traditional IT infrastructures to a flexible hybrid model that supports cloud computing. Software vendors will need to selectively expand to new devices, offer options to support mobility and build the right cloud capabilities.
  • Own the issues: While issues will inevitably arise, 24 hours is the window in which most customers want issue resolution.  Take ownership with swift action to resolve issues quickly.  Conducting root-cause analysis on service issues and investing in processes and technology may help minimize errors. Create long-term partnerships with customers by building credibility through reliable products and support.
  • Turn advocacy into action: Customers are more likely to purchase from highly regarded companies, and 84 percent will recommend a vendor after a great experience, according to the survey’s findings. Software vendors should identify key influencers to serve as brand advocates and build communities among customers.

For those not familiar with Experience Radar, it provides an analysis of behavioral profiles for the enterprise software segments; up and coming corporations, emerging empires and big business behemoths.  It also outlines the Small & Medium Business (SMB) category across three behavioral segments: mid-sized movers, elemental establishments and vivacious ventures.

 "Some of the top drivers of great customer experience for the software industry – smooth installation, prompt support and personalized attention – serve as powerful guides for other industries to follow in determining how to create meaningful experiences to drive long-term customer loyalty,” said Paul D’Alessandro, PwC’s U.S. customer impact leader.

While much of the above is likely to read like common sense to ISVs, other studies have shown a divergence between recommended best practices and those which are actually followed. What the PwC work highlights is that things are moving fast, and that if you are an ISV the time is basically to stop thinking about changing your approach and start doing. The word “alignment” is a good one to focus on. It is not just about aligning with enterprise IT needs and understanding enterprise-wide objectives; it is also about aligning with customers’ changing tastes and providing enterprises the agility and tools they need to stay ahead of the game. 

With so many ISVs being small shops, getting past the mindset of, “If I build it, they will come,” is imperative. It is both common sense and good business sense, and the PwC list above is something to carefully consider. This is especially true for those who write software for the contact center solutions market, where creating enterprise apps is a real growth opportunity not just because of those converged forces cited above, but also because of the criticality of the contact center as the front door to enterprise value chains.  

A download of the PwC Experience Radar report makes for a useful read.  The customer is king and PwC is right in concluding it is time to retool.

Edited by Braden Becker