Customer loyalty is powerful. Customer passion for your solution is gold. Why have brands like Apple been so successful that their customers will line up for hours in front of an Apple store to buy their products? Yes, their designs are cool, but Apple’s long history of passionate customers has much more to do with how well customers engage with their products.
Corporate buyer’s expectations are shifting. Cloud computing has turned capital purchases into a consumption model. Now that customers can easily cancel subscriptions of functions they don’t use, vendors like Cisco, Microsoft and others are adapting their sales strategies to include consumption services that promote the active use of their products.
Shifting the vendor culture from “purchase and deployment” to “engagement and consumption” is no easy task. Many vendors have retooled their compensation plans and rebate programs while also reorganizing their workforce to create collaboration groups. Logically, they are doing the right thing. Unfortunately, end users, the very people they need on side to be successful, are creatures of habit. Habits require special skill sets to effect change. Cisco, LinkedIn and others could learn from the high failure rate of IT business application projects we hear about which may have less to do with choosing the wrong system and much more with a failure to engage users in a timely way.
Is LinkedIn’s stock performance a function of not enough passionate users?
I belong to a CEO peer group. All of us have a free version of LinkedIn but none of us engage with the powerful features of the product. Recently a few of us invested time learning more than just the basics. We were thrilled. We are now paid subscribers and passionate advocates with our “unenlightened” peers. What changed us? We learned how to use the product.
LinkedIn and other vendors typically deliver their educational content via web portals, online videos, and in-system help files. Unfortunately, passive approaches like these have limited results. Two metaphors aptly apply to most vendors: “If you build it they will come” and “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink it.” What would happen if LinkedIn could turn an additional 10% of their passive base into high-value advocates?
Can Cisco Accelerate the Success of SPARK?
Cisco’s newest collaboration platform, SPARK, is a powerful solution that gives customers an alternative solution to Google, Microsoft and niche players in the productivity collaboration space. But has Cisco set the bar for success too low? SPARK is an impressive offering, yet much of its implementation metrics are rooted only in a deployment culture.
Like some of their competitors, Cisco uses license activation to track success. Activation is an important step to user engagement, but like LinkedIn, there is a tremendous opportunity to create a passion for SPARK if Cisco harnessed the energy of users through engaged interactions. Adding this investment will reduce license churn and create an army of customers promoting SPARK to their peers.
How can Yammer own the collaboration space?
Microsoft is now enjoying greater acceptance of Yammer, but it’s been a slow road. There are increasing examples of global companies who have finally hit a tipping point for Yammer activity across their employee base. My observation from online chatter is that Yammer’s acceptance owes much of its success to a small group of clever, persistent team leads in these companies (credit to the MS Yammer team too).
What Microsoft customers need is a programmatic way to train, track and engage users in a set of new work habits that are the very heart of Yammer. Today there are new, interactive and innovative ways of creating behavioral change that make content web portals and webinars appear dated. By modernizing their approach to user engagement, Microsoft could turn Yammer into the unbelievable success like Exchange / Outlook.
What can we learn?
All of these vendors have function-rich products that create incredible value for customers. Products achieve mythical status when the user community views a product as essential to their daily lives. Are vendors and their VARs creating the right type of environment and motivation for this to happen? The science of learning and behavioral change has evolved significantly in recent years. Applying these newer, more effective ways to promote, but, more importantly, accelerate end user engagement will be the difference between simple loyalty and true passion.
For 20 years John Breakey led his Cisco / Microsoft VAR business, UNIS LUMIN, through significant, successful changes in the industry. Since 2012, his current initiative Fivel has been solving the customer User Adoption problem. Fivel’s solution injects unique value-add and new revenues for Integrators or VARs.