Company Lessons Learned: How to Be Client-Focused

In our ongoing blog series Company Lessons Learned, we share what we've learnt from running a startup. In this post we discuss how to be client-focused.

In our ongoing blog series Company Lessons Learned, we share what we’ve learnt from a year and a half of running a startup.

In our last post, we outlined some of they key company lessons we’ve learned, which all link to the basic function of running a business: to drive revenue. In this post, and as part of a consecutive series of posts, we’ll expand on Company Lessons Learned #1, which is “We all need to drive revenue”.

Company Lessons Learned #1: We all need to drive revenue

As we highlighted in the previous post, what does this really mean? It’s obvious that a company needs to drive revenue- that’s a fundamental aspect of a business. A business can’t exist without revenue to pay expenses, invest in marketing, hire and grow.

It can be easy to look to sales, who directly engage with clients, and see them as the main source of revenue, but this is only one part of the puzzle. For a whole business to be revenue-driven, everyone needs to be involved in the process, and everyone needs to understand how their role fits into the holistic picture of the entire business, from sales to accounts.

In making sure that we all know how to drive revenue, and understand why we are doing it, we need to address the inextricable focus on what brings revenue into the company: the client. So, to be revenue focused, we all need to be client-focused. Here’s how we learnt how to do just that:

Company Lessons Learned #1.1: Communicate

Another seemingly obvious point, but when things get busy, it’s easy to assume, and not take the time out to ask questions. Maybe it’s because you’re so focused that you don’t even realise the need to clarify. Or you’re scared. Or you don’t want to bother someone. All of these happen to people doing their best to perform their role, but bigger mistakes can often be traced back to smaller, seemingly unimportant, lapses in communication.

This is difficult because sometimes there isn’t time to wait for everyone’s approval. If you had to wait to get everyone’s final sign off on everything, nothing would get done, or it would take a lot longer than necessary. So here’s the thing: it’s about discretion. And realising that you’ll never do anything perfectly. But in cases of extreme urgency, and when you’re dealing with an important client, it’s always better to clarify something if you’re not sure.

Company Lessons Learned #1.2: Take Time to Plan

This is a tough one, especially when you’re working long hours, as our deployment team often does, to help clients around the world in different time zones. This kind of schedule means most of your day is spent dealing with people, leaving little time for anything else.

This also means that everyone is always working hard, but earlier in the year, everyone was working so hard that in one particular instance, communication with a client didn’t happen as it should have. It was a combination of mismatched expectations and acting quickly, which meant that things went wrong. But this forced us to really nail down all of our process to see where things had gone wrong in the first place, and to make sure that moving forward, adequate reporting was also put into place, to pick up on any red flags before they could became an issue.

This is where Project Mars and Project Wolf came into play (read more about them in our previous Company Lessons Learned post). These projects were about creating a solid set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) to make sure that everyone in the deployment team knows what to do when, and when their involvement in the sales process is critical to make sure that client expectations can be met from the get go, and that there isn’t any question of what was promised down the line, once the deployment has already started.

Company Lessons Learned #1.3: Understand Client Risk

We value all of our clients, but the reality is that some clients are more high-risk than others. When a client is a larger company, with a more visible public profile and considerably more clout in a given industry, it means that these clients need to be managed particularly carefully.

This doesn’t mean smaller clients don’t get attention, or that all clients lose attention at the expense of a larger one, it just means that risk needs to managed when it comes to high-profile clients. With a high profile client you need to know exactly who is going to be handling the account and make sure they are an integral part of all communication, and that there is absolute clarity when it comes to what is going to be delivered.

In a remote working environment, this is particularly tricky, as messages can be lost, but regular meet ups, and using an agile sprint method for keeping track of urgent tasks on a weekly basis means that everyone is now kept on the same page as much as possible, and that everyone understands everyone else’s capacity, what clients they’re working on, and what’s in the pipeline.

Company Lessons Learned #1.4: Know How to Move On

It’s difficult to assume responsibility as an individual when things go wrong because it’s often not one person’s fault, but the result of a domino effect of unintentionally poor communication. Nevertheless, taking accountability is important to move forward. As we’ve mentioned before, our approach to any crisis, especially when it comes to a client, has been to respond quickly, make a plan, and discuss what went wrong so things can be adjusted and fixed as quickly as possible.

How do you make sure your team is client focused? What stories do you have to share? Let us know in the comments below.

We’ll be diving deeper into the lessons we’ve learned as a company in this ongoing series of posts, so follow us on Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook to keep up to date with all the posts in the Company Lessons Learned series.

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