Saturday, May 01, 2010

How I am delighting a customer with an informal learning activity about my product

A large life sciences company in the San Francisco Bay area is implementing my product, SAP Enterprise Learning. I ran into them at the annual conference and they had some questions, wanted to learn about the product, the experts who can help them implement the product, and the resources available.  I rattled off several information resources they can use, mentioned some customer implementations similar to them, spoke about how some customers have scaled to hundreds of thousands of users and so on. They were a little anxious and wanted some guidance.

After I came back from the conference, instead of sending them a polite follow-up email or just introducing them to an account executive, I decided to delight them with an informal learning activity stream.

I recalled their questions and shared key resources with them.
I created an learning activity stream in SAP Streamwork, added the books and resources I mentioned to them during our conversation. I also outlined my thoughts about some key issues we discussed.

Registration for the Learning Activity is viral and open to anyone even outside the customer organization.
Customer can invite other colleagues or implementation partners to join the learning activity. I made it clear to my customer that he can invite others to participate in this ongoing learning activity.

I am also creating a community with common learning goals
I sent an invitation to my product management colleagues who have never met this customer and my development colleagues who are intimately aware of the implementation details of the parent company of this particular customer. They love it because this gives them a heads-up about what is going on with this customer.

I plan to invite another customer from the bay area to join this activity to share his thoughts
Since this customer has questions about landscape and scalability, I offered to connect them with another large customer, who has a lot of experience in this area. It is just an informal introduction. How they learn from each other depends on their relationship.

The tool I use automatically recognizes the people who are part of this activity and knows they are a community in this context and only in this context. They know each others contact information, the context in which they worked with each other and the exact information they shared with each other. The connection is implicit. It is up to individuals to make their connection richer by engaging more.

Not a replacement for any formal process my company has in place
I made it clear to the the customer that this is not a replacement for formal support processes or training programs.

Not a place where we discuss very confidential matters.
This is a place for learning and information exchange. Not a place to post sensitive information about the company. I almost treat this like a classroom training program for the product where everyone knows the instructor is there to share knowledge, not to provide solution to all problems.

When I transfer my responsibilities, I can ask another "instructor" to take charge
I may transition to another responsibility some time in the future. At that time, I plan to transfer the ownership of this learning activity to another colleague who will then lead the activity.

You do not have to be an account executive or a sales person to educate your customer.
You don't have to conduct an expensive 3 day training program that takes six months of planning to educate your customer. You do not have to travel across the world to do this. You can engage your customer in Seoul, from your home office in Amsterdam or Hyderabad.

I use SAP Streamwork to create this informal Learning activity. If you like what I am doing, you can give it a try too. Streamwork is on the cloud and it is free for up to five activities. The home page of SAP Streamwork will say that it is a collaborative decision making tool. Yes. It helps you do that. But it can do much more than just help you take a decision. Please leave a comment here with your thoughts and ideas.

Go ahead. Be the CEO of your product. Take charge of delighting your customers.
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