Customer Boot Camp Revisited (Account Management)
Much has changed since we attended Sage Customer Boot Camp in 2006, but much has stayed the same.
We’ve published quite a few articles about the benefits of the paperless office recently, so it is a touch ironic that this one was inspired by a paper document we found during an office clean-up!
Boot Camp Revisited
Around 15 years ago, some of us attended a Sage Customer Boot Camp, written and presented by Ed Kless and Christine Churchill-Kless. We recently stumbled upon the course manual and started flicking through it.
Many things have changed since then, but others remain the same.
Ed’s LinkedIn profile now leads with the impressive “Meta-Consultant, Business Iconoclast, Radio Talk-Show Host”, but he is still very active at Sage, running the Sage Consulting Academy. And much of the material from that Boot Camp looks as relevant today as it was back then.
The focus of the course was improving customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn creates opportunities for Business Partners to sell them additional products and services. This is especially important in times when chasing new business is challenging.
The Company who Cares, Keeps
The course introduction mentioned a study by the Rockefeller Corporation on why customers leave companies. The key takeaway:
68% of customers leave not because they are unsatisfied with the product or service itself, but because of a belief, whether true or imagined, that the company doesn’t care about them.
(I’ve had no luck tracking down the exact origins of this study, but it certainly struck a chord with many. Numerous articles, including very recent ones, still refer to it. You can now add this article to that list!)
The Boot Camp then looked at a number of specific strategies around:
- Account Management
- Helping Customers Succeed
- Becoming a Trusted Advisor
- Building Customer Loyalty
The Importance of Account Managers
We might dive into some of the other course content in future articles, but for now we’ll focus on what they called “the single most important action you can take for your existing customers” – implementing customer account management:
Account Managers are proven to drive more revenue, greater profitability and stability, plus higher customer satisfaction and retention.
Without getting bogged down in the detail, here are some specific points raised:
A dedicated and diligent Account Manager:
- Provides a point of differentiation during the sales process.
- Allows sales and implementation staff to move on to the next prospect after a managed handover.
- Understands the customer’s needs, thereby creating opportunities for add-on sales and additional consulting - a win-win for both parties.
- Is a reliable, responsive point of contact when issues need to be escalated.
- Creates a safe space for honest feedback about what you can do better, ensuring the customer’s voice is being heard within your company.
- Is well placed to assess and advise on the relative value of different customers to your organization when making difficult decisions about where to focus your energy and resources.
Perhaps most of all, they leave the customer in no doubt that you DO care about them!
Finding and rewarding an Account Manager
Account management is really about relationships, so the critical skills are around communication and rapport.
Knowledge of accounting and software is less critical - a bright person can acquire those skills.
There might well be an internal candidate made for the job. Perhaps a consultant who is well liked by your customers, understands your products, but is more of a ‘people person’ and is looking for a change.
When it comes to remuneration, think carefully about the behaviours and outcomes you want to measure and reward. A package too heavily weighted towards commissions can incentivize overselling, a sure way to damage a trust-based relationship.