Today’s professional services organization (PSO) landscape is changing—employees are harder to recruit and retain, a globalized marketplace increases competition for clients, clients want more for less, and management can no longer afford to be focused on short-term firefighting instead of long-term strategy.
As a result, PSOs are shifting from a project-focus to a customer-focus, with an increased emphasis on ensuring client satisfaction throughout the entire lifecycle of a project. This means keeping customers happy from the time the sale is made, right through until project completion and go-live.
But how do you know if your client is truly satisfied with the entire service delivery process? One way services organizations today are staying on top of customer satisfaction, is by using customer health check statuses throughout a project’s lifecycle, in order to monitor customer sentiment and feedback at every step along the way.
What is a Customer Health Check Status?
A Customer Health Check Status is a means of assessing the health of a project in terms of meeting customer expectations, staying on budget, achieving project milestones and timelines, etc.
Most companies will track customer health check statuses using customer health scores. While every company calculates theirs differently, the important thing is to have a health score methodology that helps your company align your customer success processes with the outcomes you’re trying to drive with your customer base. However, if you’re not using a health score calculation method that uses predictive analytics, you’re falling behind many customer success pacesetters.
Why is a Customer Health Check Status important?
While there are many reasons a PSO may wish to track customer health, TSIA typically views 3 use cases for health check statuses:
1. Predict Customer Churn
Helpful categories to look at here can range from detailed product adoption analytics, such as knowing how many times a customer is logging into your application, or even the process it takes to complete a task. You could also have extremely high-level categories, such as a report of how many times a customer has attended an education session or has consumed some kind of formal training.
Knowing these key metrics can help you predict if a customer is likely to continue adopting your product or service and renew with your organization in the future.
2. Predict Expansion
It is just as important to know when your customers need more help, and there is nothing wrong with selling them more technology and services during their journey toward accomplishing their desired outcome. Like a good doctor, organizations focused around Customer Success should think about prescribing the next logical step in their customer’s journey with the goal of achieving progress and ultimately some success against a quantifiable and measurable business outcome. In some cases, this would require additional technology and services from either your company, or another third party.
The question is, do you know when it’s the right time to do this, and do you have the predictive ability to do so? Customer Health Check Statuses can help with this.
3. Predict Your Customer’s Business Outcomes And Use Their Feedback To Improve
The next logical step in the customer success continuum will be to use predictive analytics and feedback methodology to dynamically engage with your customers along their journey. As their organization adopts your product or service, monitor their feedback and suggestions along the way and use the information they provide you as a way to improve and help their business achieve greater success in the future.
PSA Tools and Customer Health Check Statuses
In order to easily monitor customer health scores, more and more services organizations are selecting Professional Services Automation (PSA) tools with customer health check statuses built into the functionality of the platform.
For example, Klient PSA offers the ability to create and deliver project and customer surveys including NPS, CSAT, or free-form surveys to analyze client feedback and sentiment, learn from project engagements, and help build long-term customer advocacy to increase retention and expand selling.
It also offers health check statuses throughout the project so that project managers and customers can visually see if a project is on track. Plus, with customer and partner communities, Klient PSA users can easily collaborate and engage directly with customers and partners for project success. This includes the ability to share project status information, work directly on projects and tasks, enable partner time & expense entry, share client invoices and more.
By increasing communication between the customer and the services delivery team, and by offering opportunity for customer feedback at every stage of a project, services teams can ensure they are meeting customer expectations throughout the entire lifecycle of a project and fostering strong customer health scores.
How Customer Health Check Statuses can Ultimately Improve Services Delivery
By listening to feedback from customers and identifying areas where things didn’t go as planned, or where projects were misaligned with customer expectations, services organizations can adjust and make improvements for the future.
A strong customer-centric PSA tool can support this by offering integrated customer feedback to ensure the project team understands how the customer is feeling and can take action if the client is unhappy at any point throughout the project. Plus, forecasting and reporting functionality in a customer-centric PSA allows for informed decision-making that will empower management to develop a business strategy that will keep customers satisfied for years to come.
On the surface, invoicing for professional services organizations seems like a simple concept.
For services organizations just starting out, oftentimes it’s as easy as downloading an Excel invoicing template for consulting services, punching in your hours and rate, rendering a services invoice, and sending it to the client.
However, as services teams grow past 25 consultants, firms begin to focus their attention on streamlining the invoicing process. But quite often, even some of the largest professional services organizations are still approaching the vital task of invoicing incorrectly. Given that invoicing directly affects cash flow for a business, it seems like something that organizations should dedicate time to getting right, yet to this day perfecting the invoicing process continues to be put on the back-burner by many services teams.
Excel Invoicing Templates Are Not Enough
There’s a time and a place for Excel – but invoicing is not it. A key trait of any growing services business is the ability for top management to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Talk to anyone who has spent time managing a professional services organization and they will tell you that they spend most of their time “putting out fires.” As a result, Excel becomes a manager’s go-to fire extinguisher–it’s easy to understand, it can get the job done quickly, and it’s flexibility allows you to make things look the way you want. When it comes to invoicing for services work, however, that is where the benefits of using Excel end.
The invoicing process can be a tedious one. Even one small mistake could cost a business tens of thousands of dollars, often without anyone even noticing. And, the process can occupy a lot of time and resources if not done efficiently. With Excel, every step of the process – creating, proofing, approving, adjusting, and sending invoices – introduces inefficiency.
Not only is using Excel for invoicing labor intensive and error prone, but the manual processes can also reduce visibility and transparency for senior management who need insight into the performance of the business.
If Not Excel, Then What?
When it comes to replacing Excel templates, invoicing software seems like the obvious answer. But for professional services businesses, invoicing software isn’t usually offered as a standalone solution. Most commonly, it is part of a financial management solution, a time and expense tracking tool, or a professional services automation (PSA) suite. A typical and costly mistake that many services teams make, is selecting a type of invoicing solution that is unable to accurately support the needs of their business.
Financial Accounting Software
When thinking about generating invoices, financial accounting solutions seem like a natural starting place. That said, for professional services organizations invoices are more about people and projects than they are about simple debit and credit transactions.
If a services team plans to grow past just a few consultants, or is already well past that size, it’s probable that the organization will outgrow their accounting system quickly and won’t be able to rely on it for generating invoices and tracking project progress.
This doesn’t mean, however, that invoices for professional services work will not need to find their way into an accounting application to track receivables, cash flow, and outstanding balances. To accomplish this, it’s best practice to leverage a solution outside of an accounting application to generate invoices that can be integrated back to a business’s financial accounting solution. Robust solutions will have pre-built integrations to some of the most popular accounting packages, allowing data to flow seamlessly from one application to the other.
Time And Expense Software
Software designed for time and expense tracking is a much more natural fit when it comes to the invoicing process for services teams. These tools are better developed to manage people and projects and make it easier to translate activities into the financial components of an invoice.
However, time and expense software is not without its limitations. Missed or forgotten transactions, for example, can be problematic with a time and expense tracking tool. If the software a business is using is not able to recognize when a billing milestone has been achieved, it can go un-invoiced for quite some time, creating revenue leakage and reducing cash flow as a result.
Professional Services Automation (PSA)
For services organizations achieving growth, the only real answer when it comes to the right tool for invoicing is a professional services automation software.
A PSA software is a project management and resource management software rolled into one easy-to-use platform. The value that PSA software brings to the invoicing process can be seen in both reduced revenue leakage, and increased efficiency.
Reducing Revenue Leakage:
Consolidating invoicing and time tracking into the same system helps to eliminate revenue leakage. PSA software takes the process a step further by focusing on collecting all of the time that can be billed, and ensuring it reaches the invoicing process. Robust PSA solutions will have a detailed understanding of how much time is anticipated in a given period. Based on project schedules, a PSA solution will alert project leaders when things aren’t going according to plan. More importantly, a PSA solution will understand the difference between earning revenue and sending an invoice. This helps to recognize revenue properly on fixed price work.
A PSA solution will also allow project managers and finance teams to model exactly how they would like to bill their clients up front. With so many different contract terms available, this allows the organization to seamlessly complete the invoicing process in whatever manner suits them. Finance teams can complete the invoicing workflow quickly without the headache of manual processes. More importantly, this structure drives accountability throughout the entire invoicing process. Finance Managers and CFOs are provided a detailed view of exactly what has been billed, how it has been adjusted, and what is still being waited on. This helps streamline the business’s month-end processes and frees up valuable time and resources to focus on other important projects.
Perfecting the Invoicing Process With PSA
Through leveraging a PSA solution, organizations can reduce errors and increase efficiency, while also ensuring that cash flow follows closely behind work being performed. And, as the business grows, they offer a scalable invoicing process which means fewer fires to put out.
As your Professional Services Organization grows and evolves, the software and tools you use to be successful will inevitably change over time as well.
Eventually the time will come when your simple time and expense or basic project management software will no longer be sufficient for running your business effectively, and you will need to consider implementing a more robust and comprehensive project management tool such as a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution.
However, changing the tools your employees have come to know and be comfortable with can often be challenging. It usually helps if you can encourage your team to be excited about the new software by showing them how valuable it will be in helping them do their job more efficiently.
Here are 6 strategies to consider when introducing new project management software to your team in order to gain their support and make the transition as frictionless as possible:
#1. Talk about it early and get your team’s buy-in
It’s important to remember that you never want to blindside your team with new project management software. Make sure they know new software will be coming as early as possible (even before you determine which software to purchase). It can also help to get team members’ feedback on features they’d like to see in the software. These conversations can help warm them up to the idea of a new software solution while getting them excited about the new functionality they’ll be able to take advantage of.
Be wary, however, about asking your team which software they’d like you to implement. By doing so, you’re likely to receive a wide range of responses making it nearly impossible in the end for you to select one that will please everyone. Instead, ask your team members ahead of time which features they’d most like to see. You can also offer them a list of potential features to rank in order of importance. Let them know you’ll use that feedback to find the right project management software for the team as a whole.
#2. Make sure the software you select is a true replacement for existing tools that are important to your team
Make sure your new software is an ample replacement for whatever tools your team currently uses to manage similar tasks. If a team member doesn’t feel that the software fulfills his or her needs, they’re more likely to continue relying on their old project management methods instead of making the switch.
You may be trying to replace 2 or more tools with 1 new and more comprehensive tool, but be sure to double check that the new tool will have all of the functionality that is crucial to your team’s success and that you aren’t taking away any important capabilities from them. Adding new functionality and creating easier ways of doing things is a plus, but be careful that you’re not eliminating capabilities by sunsetting software that is imperative to the team’s performance while offering no suitable replacement.
#3. Have the basics set up before you introduce the software to your team
The setup process for a new project management tool can be time consuming. Having basics in place, such as team member logins, project information, client information, etc., before introducing the software to the team can help things go more smoothly. It will make the migration process to the new software seem less daunting and will also provide real-world examples for your demo/training instead of hypothetical ones.
Remember that the less tedious setup your team has to do before they dive in and start using the software, the more likely they are to quickly adopt it and begin using it to its full potential.
#4. Make sure everyone receives appropriate training in advance of migrating completely to the new software
Each member of your team likely has different levels of comfort with technology and differing abilities for learning new software. Tailor training experiences based on the comfort level of your employees. Some may prefer to attend a web-based training with a support rep or a detailed in-house training session. Others may prefer to watch a couple of online tutorials then explore the software themselves. Whatever the method, what’s most important is ensuring each employee gets some form of real training. This helps to create positive first interactions, enables them to more effectively use the tools, and helps them to hit the ground running when it’s time to migrate to the new software.
It may also be beneficial to select 2 or 3 people from your team who are eager to learn new software, and generally adopt to new technology easily, to become in-house experts on your new project management software. These individuals can help the implementation process by answering questions that your other team members may not otherwise have reached out to support to ask, and can assist you in training the rest of the team.
#5. Allow a sunset period with the existing tool and give enough time for your team to switch over to the new software comfortably
It’s important to fully detach from the previous tool(s), but not immediately and not without warning. It can take time to fully move all of the information over and to migrate to the new system. It can also take time for your team to adjust.
However, as much as it’s important to allow time for adjustment, it’s equally important to have a hard stop date. With advanced warning, your employees can adjust and transfer information without feeling rushed. They are also less likely to hang around in the old system for their own convenience.
Set this stop date while in advance and make sure everyone on the team knows that they should ask the necessary questions and request additional training if they need to, in order to ensure they are comfortable with the new software by this deadline.
Is your team considering a more comprehensive project management tool?
Services organizations depend on team collaboration for success.
Between connecting the Services team members themselves, to cross-departmental collaboration with other teams in the organization (Sales, Support, Accounting, etc.), to ongoing communication with the client, there is no shortage of people that need visibility into a project and its status.
A Professional Services Automation (PSA) software with functionality that fosters team collaboration can make it easier for Services organizations to support open communication with internal and external stakeholders throughout the entire lifecycle of a project.
Communication Among The Services Team Members
Services teams need to communicate and collaborate amongst themselves in order to manage projects efficiently and effectively.
PSA software offers features that make it simple for Services teams to create visibility within their department and increase communication. Some of these features include project management, resource planning, and time and expense management. A sophisticated Gantt chart with functionality including full inline editing, rapid task creation, drag-drop of task sequence, quick predecessor creation by wbs or task name, task scheduling directly from the Gantt, configurable columns display, split-pane, and much more deliver an exceptional experience for managing projects and ensuring teams are on the same page when it comes to project deadlines.
In addition, choosing a PSA solution that integrates with the tools that organizations are already using to communicate can drastically improve team collaboration. Integration with Slack for example, is becoming increasingly important for organizations selecting a PSA software, because it allows teams to manage projects and services directly from within Slack. A PSA like Klient Software, for instance, allows users to view projects and tasks, drill into project and task details including project profitability and financials, create new project and tasks, as well as enter time worked against projects and tasks directly from within Slack.
Communication Across Departments
The most successful services organizations also work hard to improve communication across various departments within the business. Repeatable project delivery success relies on close collaboration between the sales team, the project delivery organization, the finance function and the client. PSA provides a single, trusted platform to manage deal scoping, deliver projects and track financials that improves outcomes for all parties and builds stronger customer relationships.
A PSA built on Salesforce, for example, can boost communication and transparency between your Sales and Services teams. This can drastically improve project scoping and estimating. And, by integrating with various accounting and ERP applications, a PSA software can succeed in aligning the accounting department with sales and services as well.
Communication With The Client
Perhaps most importantly, communication with the client is imperative to driving repeat business and creating long-term customer relationships.
PSA software enables better client collaboration throughout the life of an engagement, significantly improving the likelihood of the project being delivered in line with customer expectations. PSA formalizes the process of engaging the services team in the sales cycle, which promotes confidence on both sides that the project will be delivered as sold. During the delivery of the project, customer communication can take place in real-time, quickly resolving issues as they arise.
Krow Software, recently announced survey functionality for their PSA solution which goes a step further in fostering collaboration between the project team and the client. With Krow PSA, you can now create and deliver project and customer surveys including NPS, CSAT, or free-form surveys to analyze client feedback and sentiment, learn from project engagements, and help build long-term customer advocacy to increase retention and expanding selling.
Why A Customer-Centric PSA Is Best For Team Collaboration
A Customer-Centric PSA is designed with customers at the core, providing a way for project teams to work with each other, and hand-in-hand with customers from sales through service delivery.
Klient PSA offers a modern and seamless customer experience, fully transparent communication between the project team and client to ensure alignment of expectations with real-time two-way communication, integrated customer feedback through survey tools and project health check statuses, and real-time integration with back-office systems for more successful project implementation and greater customer success.
Every business wants to grow quickly, but not all are equipped to support fast-paced growth while still operating successfully.
For services businesses, growing quickly is a great sign because it means the service you’re providing your clients is resonating with them, solving their problems, and they’re likely telling others they know that you can solve their problems as well.
However, if your services business doesn’t have the tools needed to handle fast growth, sooner or later the business will suffer because you won’t have the bandwidth to continue providing the same high quality service that made you popular to begin with.
So what are the top performing services organizations doing to tackle challenges, win business, and retain customers? What are they doing to support growth, optimize resource management, automate billing, and improve reporting? Here are a few strategies that services businesses can use to support growth and continue to succeed as they gain more customers:
Be Able To Effectively Manage Multiple Projects At Once
As your business grows, your employees are going to be busy and likely have multiple projects on the go at once. Having a tool that can help them manage these projects more efficiently will be key to their success.
A Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution will allow for better resource management, time & expense management, services CPQ, and team collaboration. All of which will empower your team to manage projects successfully and deliver services that will keep your customers happy.
Integrate And Streamline The Back-Office
When you add new services and billing models, you need a billing system that is agile enough to support them, while keeping billing cycles fast and efficient. Manual, inflexible back-office processes can only cause slow billing cycles, costly mistakes, and frustrated customers.
Ideally, you want a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system where sales creates new opportunities, a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution where your services team tracks and manages their projects, and then a fully integrated back office system that supports everything from the opportunity all the way through to customer renewal and revenue recognition that passes data seamlessly with your CRM and PSA.
Routinely Survey Your Customers and Ask For Feedback
Another way the best professional services organizations support fast-paced growth is by asking for feedback from their customers and using the information they collect from their responses to make smarter business decisions for the future.
With a PSA solution like Klient PSA your project teams can send surveys to their customers right from the platform, and their responses will be stored in the product as well.
By creating and delivering project and customer surveys including NPS, CSAT, or free-form surveys to analyze client feedback and sentiment, businesses can learn from project engagements, and help build long-term customer advocacy to increase retention improve customer satisfaction.
Is Your Service Business Equipped to Support Fast-Paced Growth?
If not, implementing a Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution with a wide breadth of features and functionality, as well as the ability to seamlessly integrate with the other applications your business uses, could help you grow with more ease and efficiency.
Schedule a discovery call with our Klient expert to find out.
More metrics are focused on customer experience than ever before. But if your overall marketing strategy isn’t designed around “customer experience” yet, you may have questions about how to get started.
Many experts have weighed in on the importance of customer experience in modern business. In this article, we’ll refer to a few published by Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Hubspot to better explain what it is and why it’s important.
We’ll explain what Klient has to offer to help your company deliver a positive experience for customers.
What Is Customer Experience?
Martin Zwilling of Forbes explains that while it used to be enough to focus on quality, value, and customer service, that isn’t the case anymore.
Today, the internet has turned the customer-company relationship into more of a relationship than ever before.
When organizations focus on individual touchpoints, they can falsely inflate their sense of a customer’s happiness. Instead, you need a comprehensive picture of the entire journey customers go through with your company.
So, if a series of individual touchpoints is not an accurate picture of customer experience, what is?
Hubspot’s Jason Bordeaux defines customer experience as “the impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand, across every stage of the customer journey.”
It involves many touchpoints, particularly between customers and your people or your product. But addressing one or two problematic touchpoints is not going to improve the customer’s overall impression of your business.
Why Is Customer Experience So Important?
The internet has changed the way companies interact with their customers in multiple ways.
There are more competitors available, and switching between them is easier since it can often be done with just a few clicks.
Customers also share their experiences publicly with friends, family, and any others through social media.
If a customer has a bad overall experience with your company, they can find another provider, switch to them easily, and then tell everyone they know online why they left you.
And they do.
Improving Customer Experience With Professional Services Automation
Delivering a consistently positive customer experience starts with having an easily accessible database of customer data.
Klient’s PSA software is intrinsically adept at capturing many types of information and bringing it together in novel ways. That includes information related to:
- Calendar management
- Document management
- Expense tracking
- Project management
- Resource management.
It’s also built on Salesforce Lightning, giving your employees the best user experience possible to encourage adoption through ease of use.
Having one centralized system to manage all of these touchpoints sets up your organization to improve customer experience in four key areas:
1. At the Sales Stage
Services will have better planning and forecasting abilities with Sales pipeline visibility. This allows the two departments to work hand in hand as prospects become customers. It also creates better services opportunities via forecasting and opportunities management.
2. During Project Execution
Service managers can use that visibility into the Sales Pipeline to better manage resources for the right project at the right time.
3. At the Expansion Stage
Klient’s PSA system also supports repeat and recurring billing, allowing for seamless repeat transactions.
4. Promoting Retention and Advocacy
The system also uses built-in customer surveys and a customer health check. That way, everyone stays aware of the customer’s account status. Tracking the customer journey has never been easier.
Shifting your organization’s focus to customer experience might seem like a hefty task.
Or, if you’re already working toward a great customer experience, you may need an additional tool to push the customer journey over the top.
With the right PSA system, employees will have an easier time handling prospects and customers. Leadership, too, will have easier access to the information they need.
This helps your organization deliver a single, memorable experience that makes customers happy — and keeps them that way.