No, it’s not one of those buzzwords for which the technology industry is (in)famous. Customer intimacy, in fact, has nothing specific to do with technology or the enterprise resource planning environment in which those of us at Verde ply our trade.
Nothing specific, sure, but in general, customer intimacy pervades all of our lives. That’s because every one of us is a customer, every single day. And as customers, we have pretty definite expectations for how we like to be treated.
It isn’t an expectation of obsequiousness by any means, but primarily one of value. Delivering value depends on understanding what the customer wants and needs, then delivering with a minimum of fuss (convenience is something we all value enormously, so there is an expectation that convenience should be an inherent component of the delivery of value).
Of course, customer intimacy varies depending on the goods or services being purchased. Filling the car with petrol or getting the groceries has a particular context – here, a friendly word, a smile and a wave is the expectation. Anything more than that and the encounter might start feeling a bit weird.
Implementing enterprise software is obviously a very different kettle of fish. In this context, there is an expectation of trust, primarily. Then mutual respect. The creation of a shared reality where complex systems and technologies are analysed, evaluated, specified, deployed and optimised. The establishment of a lasting relationship something akin to the family unit, where problems and challenges are inevitable (but the way in which they are resolved determines value, or the absence thereof).
Throughout these lengthy engagements, a friendly word, a smile and a wave don’t go amiss. They might even be necessary (but not sufficient) components of customer intimacy.
In many industries, such as consumer goods, telecommunications, banking and retail, customer intimacy is viewed as one of the few remaining opportunities for differentiation. These are commodity environments, where customers make their choices on the basis of price and where loyalty to a brand is fickle. The best deal wins; the best deal with attentive customer service stands out from the others.
It’s a little different in the enterprise software environment. Calculating the best deal, for starters, is not a simple matter of checking the price at the pump. There are myriad variables to consider. Expertise and track record in delivery arguably count for more than the agreed price, given the complexity of achieving a successful outcome in the weeks or months which pass after signing the contract.
And once the project is delivered, things don’t end there, either. Ongoing value depends not only on the implementation of software, but on the sharing of knowledge and possibilities. It is no secret that things change fast these days; ‘digital disruption’ isn’t just talk, it is action. That puts something of a responsibility on the providers of enterprise software to keep a weather eye out for customers, providing insights on where the industry is heading and exposing the possibilities of new technologies, methods and processes to add further value and potential advantage for our customers.
It is customers themselves who provide the best insight into what matters most. Automation of manual processes which saves time and accelerates essential measures of business performance – like the cash conversion cycle – are of enormous value to every business. When we delivered a solution to Dynes Transport which eliminated the manual processing of thousands of invoices, it gained from a reduction in hours spent shuffling paper while also benefiting from live transparency.
But there was more to it than that, as IT Manager, Peter Chamberlain noted. “We like dealing with Verde. They know what they’re talking about and are always available. In the case of the invoicing app, we presented them with a problem and they came up with a perfect solution.”
And at controls and instrumentation company Eurotec, we delivered an integrated ERP solution to handle every aspect of its business efficiently, with process automation, optimised inventory and ready availability of key performance indicators. One of the key observations from Eurotec Ltd Managing Director Victor Yukich was this: “A great deal of planning was required to make the changeover successful, and credit goes to the Verde team for their scheduling and dedication to make it happen. The implementation went like clockwork and we were issuing packing slips from day one.”
Certainly lasting value results from the deployment of the software system. But more than the system itself, value is created from the very start of an engagement – by listening and hearing what you need as an individual organisation, by understanding your business, the market in which you operate and your environment, and becoming a part of your team. That equips us to implement and support solutions as a component of a mutually rewarding long-term engagement.
This is what customer intimacy means to us at Verde. It means engaging with you to understand your business requirements, challenges, aspirations and strategy. And then responding with technology solutions that help make that happen.
The smile and friendly word? Yep, we do that pretty well, too.