We are so honored to be featured on Forbes.com! Writer, Larry Myler, wrote a great article about how "being the customer" and providing excellent customer service have contributed to BQE's success. Please read the full article below and on the Forbes website.
One very traditional way is to hire a marketing firm to conduct focus groups. Focus groups have been a staple of market research for decades and are great for giving you feedback at a moment in time. Another good method for keeping track of changing customer demand is to have your front line people – sales and customer service staff – engage in regular communications and inquiries with clients and prospects to find out where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. This provides valuable market information, and deepens your relationship with customers because it projects your genuine concern for their level of satisfaction with your performance. A third way to keep your efforts aligned with market demand is to “be the client.”
When I say, “be the client,” I’m not talking about closing your eyes and imagining a universal force as described in Caddyshack that instructs upstart golfer Danny to “be the ball.” I’m talking about hiring people from your target industries and professions to become inside market experts. This is especially helpful if your customers have a unique jargon, culture, or shared experience that cannot be truly replicated or understood from the outside. One great example of this is the military defense contracting industry. Defense contractors develop products to be used by military personnel. So, for decades, they have hired from the pool of former active military personnel. Clearly, they would have a hard time selling their vehicles, software, arms, equipment, etc. to the military if they didn’t understand anything about the military culture and experience. They “are” the customers they want to sell to by virtue of their having employed so many former active duty military personnel.
Military defense contracting is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Can a “be the customer” approach work for a smaller company? It can, but more importantly, it may be a necessity if the customization demanded by your customers requires an insider’s understanding.
Professional service firms bill their clients on an hourly basis. These professionals are required to keep track of every call, every email, every expense, every meeting, every conversation, every minute spent doing research, and every interruption, so that they don’t cheat themselves or their clients. They all need some type of time-tracking and billing system. How can such a system be effectively customized to help the professionals in various industries be more successful in their companies? To answer this question, you must know how each industry differs in work-flow, deliverables, billing and invoicing practices based on specific preferences, standards, and legal requirements.
BQE Software has developed a tool to help service providers keep track of everything in a simple, seamless manner, and did so using the input of internal experts hired from their targeted professions. BQE “is” its customers. According to BQE CEO Shafat Qazi, “We have industry experts (i.e. architects, engineers, accountants, and consultants) on staff to provide insight into what works best for each type of professional service company we sell to. The software feels like it was designed specifically for each of our 325,000 users.” By having these professionals on staff, they can inject the software with the nuanced jargon and technical requirements from each customer’s area of practice.
BQE launched their software in 1996 with one of the first mobile apps launching in 1998. Qazi explained, “Our software is really about the customer experience, about providing the best customer service. It is an embracing of social media in customer service.” And BQE has been able to offer what their customers want with pinpoint accuracy because they have embraced the value in “being the customer.”
Hiring your clients to make sure you can meet your customers’ unique demands is taking customization to new heights, and it seems to be working well for BQE. Their products, BillQuick and ArchiOffice, are ranked among the best project management software.
Do you know of other companies that have learned to “be the customer?” If so, let me know. I’d like to write about them too.
Larry Myler: Adjunct professor in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, author of Indispensable By Monday, CEO of By Monday, Inc., an innovation consulting firm.