Software Implementations ALWAYS Affect Customers!

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We’re in the business of helping our customers “Improve upon their success.” For Admiral Consulting Group, that’s a fancy way of saying that we help customers select, install and upgrade their financial and customer service software systems.  But what I witnessed today is - You don’t see it. You don’t hear it. But software implementations ALWAYS affect customers.

I’m an avid fisherman. Which means I need the latest fishing equipment that my slightly overextended budget can afford.  But I’m a careful buyer. Just like our prospective customers check our Dynamics GP references, I check Amazon, Ebay, a few regional web retailers and my local retail stores for prices.

I don’t only want the best price. I also want the best products and advice. The best free advice I get is from product reviews, either on Amazon or at my web retailers. But when it is a brand new product and there are no reviews, I have to go to the source.

I’m looking for a new map chip for my Lowrance HDS navigation electronics. I have an older map chip, but as lakes and rivers change, we need updated maps. Spring is coming and it’s important that I start the season out right by buying a new map, installing the software updates and teaching myself (with the help of YouTube) how to use the new system without running into another boat on the water. Because of electronics on boats, that’s more common that  you’d think.

So what does any of this have to do with a software implementation?

The manufacturers website was unclear in two ways.

  • First, there was a discrepancy as to which lakes on the chip were in high definition
  • Secondly, the shipping date passed without any of the retailers having the product

I contacted the map manufacturer via their “Contact Us” page. I filled out the required information, pressed “submit” and relatively quickly received an automated response. I was patient for 2 days. I wondered if the request went through – or maybe the response went to my Junk Mail which gets deleted pretty quickly.  I submitted another “Contact Us” request and received the same automated response. I decided to triple my chances of success by submitting a similar request to my web retailer that I use regularly. I was very surprised that I got no responses at all from either company.

While this is a huge red flag for any product company, it is especially important to know your own customers online and treat them as gold.  More on this at another time.

I called the web retailer and spoke with a fishing representative. He immediately knew what product I was talking about, except he was familiar with the 2012 map. He couldn’t find the answer on the old packaging. I wasn’t really expecting someone who answered a random phone call to know the answer – I guess I was just confirming that the answer wasn’t readily available. What I wasn’t prepared for was his reason for not knowing and not having the most recent product on the floor and on the website.

“We’re upgrading our software systems.”

This was the unsolicited response to my statement - “The manufacturers website said this map was supposed to be available in February.” It sounded like his software problem had carried over from a weekend upgrade.

He continued. “This has been going on for over a year now and we’re having trouble getting new products available to sell. Some things just aren’t getting done because of this project.”

Some of the possibilities

  • The maps are in stock and online and he didn’t know it
  • The products are waiting in receiving and the training materials are ready for the next staff meeting
  • The products got ordered and backordered
  • The products didn’t get ordered
  • They don’t even know there is a 2013 product

What I know to be true is:

  • They didn’t know who I was when I sent the email
  • They didn’t know who I was when I called
  • They never responded to my email
  • They didn’t have the product in stock
  • They didn’t offer to get back to me.

It might show – a little

As difficult as any project is, it is understandable for any project to be disruptive to the business. During the project, your employees will be a little bit overworked. It might show – a little. Your customer response emails from your new system might have some improper formatting. It might show – a little. Your email system, website analytics and automated marketing system might not recognize your clients the first time. It might show – a little.

This is not one of our customers… yet. We install similar systems for our clients in New Jersey, New York City and Eastern Pennsylvania. This company is a little bit out of our geography. But at Admiral Consulting Group, we will move large celestial objects before one of our client’s projects is so visible and so painful that it causes a customer service representative’s first thought to be about the failing software project.

When a project extends beyond the go live date, it starts to look like a produce display. It needs constant attention, supervision, cold clean water and some fresh thinking.

Here’s to some cold water and fresh thinking for my friends in the fishing business.

by Admiral Consulting Group

Aaron Sorenson is Director of Marketing and Product Management at Admiral Consulting Group in East Brunswick New Jersey. 732-257-7440

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