How an Agile Framework Creates Satisfied Clients (and Developers)

Is something missing from your development strategy?

Many of us unfortunately stay in the dark when it comes to improving the way we do things. After all, we can never know that we’re doing something “wrong” until it is pointed out to us. If you feel like you are doing everything “right” in your software development and yet frequently come up against dissatisfied customers or blasé reviews, you’re certainly not alone. Although it’s tempting to look for one or two quick fixes, perhaps what’s really needed is an overhaul of the way you approach a project from day one.

That’s where agile software development comes into play.

Customer Satisfaction is the First Principle of Agile Development

Customer satisfaction is at the root of agile development. As the name “agile” implies, flexibility and a willingness to adapt to changes quickly is one characteristic that sets agile developers apart. Among the core principles set forth by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, customer satisfaction is listed first, highlighting its importance. After all, customers are the driving force behind software development. If the software doesn’t meet the needs of the end user, what purpose does it serve?

How to Keep Clients Happy During the Development Process

Listening to and understanding clients’ needs and then translating them into valuable software is certainly an art form. But building relationships with clients is an ongoing process, one in which you have countless opportunities to satisfy them and keep them happy. Here are some small but powerful ways to make each of your clients feel respected and valued.

  • Ditch PowerPoints, handouts and diagrams.

    In progress meetings, present your clients with a working sample of the software. This reduces confusion, allows questions or concerns to be raised in a more timely fashion, and builds trust between the client and the developers. Diagrams, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations all attempt to provide a visual representation of the software, but nothing beats the real thing. Plus, demoing the software itself, even if it is a work-in-progress, saves the developer time in the long run. Who honestly has time to create a PowerPoint when sitting down with the client and the software is more effective and efficient?

  • Don’t be on-time; be early.

    Many clients have reasonable expectations about the time it takes to develop a superior product. But at the same time, everyone loves to be surprised with early delivery. One of the key ways in which agile developers can create satisfied customers is by delivering updates earlier than expected. Set a realistic timeline for project deliverables, but build-in an extra day or two (or even longer) to guarantee that things are done before your client expects them. This underscores the fact that you’ve been working hard and gives the impression that this client is one of your top priorities. And from a client’s perspective, that feels good!

  • Collaborate closely with clients.

    This means meeting often to show the latest progress made to the software and embracing changes that need to be made, regardless of how late in the process they are brought to light. The founders of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development recommend delivering working software on a weekly basis rather than monthly. Even if your client has concerns or negative feedback, handling them in a collaborative and constructive way helps you turn them into satisfied (and hopefully repeat!) customers.

Developer Satisfaction is Also Key

The agile development framework seeks to make developers’ lives easier and more fulfilling, resulting in happy partnerships around the office, not just with clients. What makes a work environment satisfying can vary on an individual basis, but the following generally produce good results:

  • A collaborative environment, not an isolated one
  • Micro-managing is avoided in favor of building confidence and trust in employees, and to allow them to create their own workflows
  • Over-documentation is avoided to allow developers to focus and be efficient
  • A sustainable work pace is maintained to avoid employee burnout

At the heart of an agile software development framework is a responsiveness to the needs of both clients and developers. If you and/or your employees often feel fatigued and dissatisfied, don’t try a career change just yet. Instead, learn more about agile software development. It could alter the way you approach a software development project for the better—from beginning to end.

 

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers marketing and business topics on the web.

Avoiding the Black Hole of Prospects – When to Walk Away

Yes, you have worked really hard on this potential deal. Yes, you have spent countless hours communicating with this prospect. Yes, it is hard to walk away. But, it may just be time to let this one go. Whenever you are developing a relationship with a potential lead, a lot of time and effort most likely goes into it. But sometimes it’s just not enough and this prospect is not worth your time. Here are a few signs that should tell you its time to walk away:

Focused Solely on the Numbers

Numbers and prices are obviously a big part of any sale. But, that should come after a relationship has been formed. If a prospect is asking about the price and costs of everything right off the bat that most likely means they are already leaning on a different product or service, or are not interested in learning about what might actually be best suited for their needs. They want a quick solution that won’t break the bank and are not ready to take the time to find the right one.

Not a Decision Maker

At the end of the day, it is a decision maker that will close the deal with you. While communicating with a prospect, ask yourself if this person can actually make the decision. Do they know everyone that is involved? Can they tell you what they see for the future, after this deal is made? Are they openly communicating with you or relaying messages to someone else in their company?

Choosing an End Date

Make sure the prospect can give you an end date or period of time where they would like to start utilizing your product or service. If it is too open-ended or they appear to be dragging their feet they will most likely not close a deal any time soon. The last thing you want is emails or phone calls going back and forth for months on end with no positive end result.

Do They Understand What They Want?

When forming the relationship with a prospect, part of it is the understanding what exactly they are looking for. Can this person, in detail, express the needs of his or her company? Talk is cheap when it is broad and unhelpful. To best fit their needs and yours, you need to know what exactly they are looking for.

Fail to See the Value

You know your product or service is of value, but do they? Sometimes a prospect might not see the true value that your product or service will bring to them. If they need constant reminders and convincing then just maybe it is not the right fit for them. If they fail to see the value, then there most likely is no value in continuing to sell to them.

Lack of Communication

One of the easiest signs to a sale going nowhere is a lack of communication. If they are simply ignoring all of your emails or phone calls, or there are large gaps of time between responses then odds are they are uninterested. In selling, persistence is key. But, after a certain point, the time spent attempting to communicate with an uninterested prospect, is better served building a relationship with someone else.

Are They a ‘Yes Man?’

Communication is a two-way street. At first, you want to listen and research as much as possible to make sure you understand their needs. But, when it comes time to demonstrate and explain your product and service, what is their response? Are they asking questions and clarifying details? Do they seem engaged? Or are they simply nodding their head and going along with whatever you say? If it is the latter, interest in your particular product or service is probably low. By asking questions and having a dialogue, the prospect is truly deciding if it is right for them. If they stop asking questions or agree with whatever you are saying, then they are most likely already thinking about a competitor and have become dispassionate.

 

Now, if you are witnessing some of these signs, it may be time to walk away. But, that does not mean cut off all future communication. Times change and down the line, they may in fact be in need of your actual product or service. Keep the relationship you have built whether small or strong and follow up once again down the road to gauge if things have changed.

In the meantime, do not waste your time falling into the black hole of prospect chasing. Stay on top of solid leads and don’t waste time with those who are not serious about doing business.

Market What You Can Do for the Small Business Owner

When offering different merchant services to small businesses, give them the best. From merchant accounts to marketing and social media, show why you are better. With that in mind, are you doing that these days? If not, why is that? Be the vendor who makes the small business owner feel like you’re the best outsourcing choice. That said, marketing plays a major role in such tasks.

Be the Small Business Provider That No One Else Can Be

To be that small business provider that no one else is, pass any vetting done by business owners. Some of the important traits you want to have:

1. Respect

Why is it that your brand gets respect more so than others? It may be because you offer products and/or services that are superior to your competition. For instance, do you have a merchant solution that is worth one’s time in preventing chargebacks? If so, you’ve got a winner on your hands. For those not aware, chargebacks can cost businesses millions of dollars. In running a small business, the owner allows customers to use their credit cards. In turn, some of those customers fail to make the payment. They decide they do not want the item(s) purchased or never intended to pay for them in the first place. Either way, the small business owner receives the bill. If you offer a merchant solution for this or other such problems, let small business owners know. You can market your brand through blog posts, press releases, social media and more.

The goal is to show small business owners why your products and services are more respected.

2. Authority

As a business owner sees a vendor looking authoritative, that vendor has an advantage. You can earn authority in many ways. One of them is by writing stellar blog content for your website. You can also try and get that content published on other sites as a guest blogger. As more small business owners read the great things that you and your brand do, they are more inclined to reach out. Having an authoritative look and feel can do wonders for your image and sales revenue. As such, market that authority any chance you get.

3. Results

What good are you to any small business owner if you can’t show results? Your results should bring in increased sales and revenue for various companies. Do your best to promote your track record of success. Press releases, social media, and even video are all great resources. You can also include such results in some of your social networking efforts. By showing small businesses that you are the ones for the job, your phone or email should heat up.

With those tips in mind, are you doing enough marketing to show what you can do for the small business owner.

 

About the Author: Dave Thomas covers marketing and business topics on the web.