Analytics is a complex beast. When you think about everything you want to build and track, it’s easy to get carried away. That’s why at Keen, we created an API-based platform with tools that make creating something from nothing much easier. Instead of doing it alone, let’s build together to make it easier for you to build relationships with customers.
Last year we expanded from a self-service tool to an enterprise product serving large organizations with increasingly complex needs. In addition to advanced features, we also added hands-on help and organizational planning with the Customer Success Team.
As we’ve worked with bigger and bigger organizations, we’ve found the following framework to be really valuable in building successful customer relationships.
1. Evaluate Your Customer’s Needs
This may seem obvious but asking the most basic questions is really important. Before you take a step forward, take the time to ask meaningful questions about your customer’s business.
At root, what are you trying to accomplish? And how can you work together to meet these goals?
It’s easy to get carried away with all the things that are possible, but getting mired in details that are not mission critical takes attention away from the primary goals. Remember to stay focused on why your product is needed.
This shift in the conversation from the “nice-to-haves” to primary business goals helps identify which tasks might not be effective/good uses of effort. By using this focus, you can drive home and highlight the core value proposition of your service. In our case at Keen IO: analytics.
By making sure our customers understand what we’re good at — delivering a stable platform for data ingestion, analysis, and visualization — we can continue to showcase the progress they’ve accomplished in a short amount of time, the good work they’re continuing to accomplish, and then coincidentally how good of a job we are doing as their platform provider.
2. Stay Organized
When we work on customer integrations, staying organized is crucial. A Gantt Chart or Project Plan is just one method of staying on top of your delivery timeline and critical deadlines. This shared view helps the customer stay abreast of expected timelines, and avoid any misunderstandings in communication.
Don’t skip this important step: Communicate timelines for when you are going to do something. Communication and organization both go a long way in helping you to build relationships with customers. It inspires confidence to your customers and makes you look more professional.
Nothing is more frustrating than making a request to a team and getting no response regarding the status and/or if you received the request in the first place. Respond quickly even if it’s just to say “I’m looking into it.” Some answers may take longer than others to reply to, and some customer requests may not be completed overnight. However, when someone is waiting on a response they may not realize things take time. Therefore, providing a timeline gives your customer a reasonable expectation, and communicating this information in a structured way is key.
3. Maintain Regular Communication
When your product evolves to include new features that may be helpful, remember to let your customers know. Consistent correspondence is critical to forming and maintaining successful customer relationships.
At Keen this might mean writing frank and friendly emails to describe new feature sets and partnerships. We may send along blog articles written by our team that may educate or inspire our customers. We believe that it’s nice to be informed when things you’re used to are changed, or when something completely new is introduced. Feature announcements have been one way for our customers to share in the excitement for what is upcoming for Keen.
Don’t be shy about advocating your own product’s features and regularly. By recommending the use of unused or newer features, you can help your customers figure out how they can be using your technology better. There may be a more efficient or effective way for them to do what they’re doing.
Plus, by keeping in touch and knowing what our customers are trying to do, we can share lessons from other customers that may be doing similar things. It gives us the opportunity to reassure customers, remind them that they’re not alone in thinking about a problem in a particular way, and may help them to determine if they’ve chosen the right approach and technical solution for their project.
It may be beneficial to make it a point to share helpful solutions with customers even when they don’t directly involve your product. Communication is one of our most critical customer relationship metrics we track in-house because a simple conversation like this has the added benefit of letting your customers know you care about their success. It also tells them you’re available to bounce ideas off of which could lead to opportunities for upsells and cross-sells at some point extending your relationship further.
Even when there’s bad news, we’ve found that customers are grateful when they receive a message directly from us. They appreciate the personal message, and it can be helpful to receive a heads-up about a patch or planned downtime directly from you before finding out from somewhere else.
An added bonus of staying in touch and updating customers on your product’s best practices is that you can protect your operational teams from suboptimal customer usage patterns that can become stressful or expensive in the long term.
4. Periodically Re-Check Goals
To keep abreast of your customers’ day-to-day operational needs and to stay relevant to their business, it helps to establish periodic check-ins. At Keen, we do these on a quarterly basis.
Each quarter we run an in-depth integration analysis and spend time doing a business review with our customers. Sometimes, this turns out to be a big investment of time. So why do we do this?
For one thing, it feels good to help customers succeed. But also, our customers’ success is our success. In the long run, we’ve found that the customers we’ve helped attain their own success tend to recommend Keen IO to others.
When we help customers achieve their current business goals, we build trust with them. It makes the organizations and companies we work with more likely to continue the relationship and build more integrations on top of Keen. Put another way, when you build relationships with customers, they can naturally become your most loyal advocates.
5. Include the Customer in the Product Feedback Loop
We share our product roadmap with our customers and actively ask what our platform’s current limitations are. Including our customers in the Product Roadmap, and allowing their input to drive the future of Keen’s product is core to our methodology for success!
As members of the Customer Success team, we become experts on the best ways to use Keen. In the process of collecting genuine customer input and bringing our customers up to speed on what’s next, we’ve gained valuable data on how to help future customers undergoing integrations too!
At times, building a requested piece of technology to help one specific customer’s goal in our platform has led to creating a new product that has allowed all of our customers to enjoy the benefits of it. Innovative ideas can come from anywhere. Why not let your current customers be your inspiration?
In these Product Roadmap Sessions with our Chief of Product, our customers have even shared with us amazing tools they’re proud of and have spent time building on top of our open-source toolsets. These have turned into fantastic opportunities to cross-promote and build a partnership. It has also provided us with deeply meaningful moments to learn from the people and their use cases we originally built the platform for.
6. Be Yourself
You can’t forget or unlearn how to be yourself, so bring your full self and the best traits of yourself to work. If you’re fun, quirky, funny, or clumsy (some of us may or may not be some of these things), show that side of who you are. Because if you are being your true self, it shows and can actually aid you as you build relationships with customers. Your genuine feelings and the empathy you show – the moments you’re happy for your customers, or sorry that you let a customer down – those moments convey your message in the most clear and honest way possible.
Are you thinking about ways to do right by your customers?
**This article was originally published October 2016, it was updated October 2019.