"Southwest Airlines is successful because the company understands it's a customer service company. It also happens to be an airline."
We can find decade upon decade’s worth of examples of companies driven by an austere focus on engineering and technology who are convinced their latest feat of genius is going to be a breakout success. Many of them have been bewildered by the way the marketplace doesn’t jump to embrace their brainchild.
Yet it’s not the fault of the marketplace. As anyone who understands the principles of design thinking can tell you, it’s because those technologists didn’t develop real empathy for the people they wanted to see using their products. Even workflow software, which should be human-centric.
Regardless of how elegant or inventive a technology may be, mass market adoption relies upon uncovering a real need for it. Whether due to arrogance or solipsism, product architects who fail to put their potential customer first are crippling any chance at success.
Anyone who watched the first season of the television series Halt and Catch Fire, dramatizing the beginning years of the PC revolution, saw that tension in action. Would the marketability of that show’s fictional early-1980s-era portable depend on the coolness of its case, or what’s inside?
Both, in fact. The hardware/software wonk’s technical vision needs to be joined with the salesperson or customer support rep’s insight about what’s truly going to represent value to the customer. What’s their pain point? And are we really solving it?
When we’re asked what the secret is behind our own success to date, we can point to how we’re always striving to improve that balance between technology and empathy – a relationship that’s never antagonistic, but synergistic.
It’s a balance that benefits from another quality we’re proud of: a willingness to partner with a customer to understand their particular challenges, so we can jointly create satisfactory solutions.
It wouldn’t be off base to say this process “gives birth” to solutions for customer challenges. It involves a great deal of, shall we say, close (if not actually intimate) collaboration between customers and our own people, leading to a very intense and attention-consuming gestation period. A new tool, workflow or other digital transformation solution emerges from this; everyone involved is proud of the result, much as though it’s a clever child we’re setting loose on the world.
It’s a model that creates a virtuous circle of success for everyone involved:
- Perpetual learning on our part is the absolute cornerstone, because the dynamics involved in workflow software customer challenges are always shifting, and because we’ve had the chance to work with some very smart clients like Justin Hectus of KY&L, Connie Britton of NetApp, other members of CLOC and more. We’re always gaining new lessons and insights from our customers.
- Building to customer needs is possible because of the insights and regular feedback we get from workflow software customers; rather than make assumptions about what they or end users should want, we proceed from a firm basis for assembling teams and designing solutions tailored to meet actual challenges.
- Continuing collaboration means account service and support isn’t simply about troubleshooting workflow software problems, but continually helping customers explore new ways to leverage our platform to address different enterprise needs
- Sharing in their success, as we’re gratified every time a customer begins to reap the rewards of implementing a workflow software solution. On the commercial level, it often leads to broader internal use of our platform, complimentary word-of-mouth and new customers. On the purely human level, it makes us feel good, because their success is our success. Which, in turn, leads to new opportunities to learn and grow.
The better the customer engagement and support we’re able to provide, the stronger the partnership. And, ultimately, the smarter and more innovative the technology becomes. That’s because it’s no longer the product of a few sharp minds inside our own four walls, but the result of open collaboration, so continuous improvement is being authored from all sides – by our team and the enterprises we service.