Should we introduce work arounds for problems or wait for a permanent solution?

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Warwick Brown
Warwick Brown Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment
edited August 2023 in Strategy & Planning

This happens all the time. Client has a problem and we want to solve it NOW. So instead of waiting for a solution, we introduce our own work around. But there's a problem.

With the best of intentions of course.

I've done it a million times. But no more.

All you do is:

- Create a massive workload burden for yourself.
- Put a short term band-aid that hides bigger problems that need attention.
- Introduce complexity and inconsistency.
- Set unrealistic expectations for your client.
- Set yourself up to fail.

Next time you are tempted to go solo fixing another department's problems - don't.

- Share the feedback with your teams on what's broken or needs improvement
- Let your client know and set expectations about a resolution.
- Make peace that continuous improvement takes time.

And know sometimes what you want isn't what you get.

Thoughts? Should we take on the burden of other department's problems until they can get their act together? 



 

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Comments

  • Jared Orr
    Jared Orr Member, CS Leader Posts: 52 Expert
    First Comment First Anniversary Photogenic
    edited September 2020
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    I would say this is a case-by-case thing. Of course, we should always collaborate with the product and support teams and communicate these client requests to ensure their needs are met in a timely manner. But there are some situations when the client is in need of the solution sooner rather than later, and in those cases, a workaround might be the best short-term solution. 

    One thing I do when a client inquires about something we don't currently have as a feature is tell them that they have a great idea and that I will speak with our product team about it. Usually, their response is, "Great! Keep me updated." But if the need is more urgent, I'll implement a workaround and ask the product team if we have anything in the works that could help this client. 

    I guess I'm not the best at saying "No" or "Not now" so I might be putting too much work on myself as you mentioned, but this seems to work for me at the moment.

    Jared Orr

    Customer Success Whisperer

  • Andrew Marks
    Andrew Marks Member Posts: 54 Expert
    Office Hours Host 2022 5 Likes First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited September 2020
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    IMO, this is not a black & white situation or straightforward answer. Quite frankly, while your approach may seem valiant, it's very inside-out thinking.

    To Jared's point, this needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There are many situations where you need to introduce a workaround in order to get a customer past a blocker so they can achieve their business objectives.

    This doesn't alleviate the responsibility of others to address these types of situations. Ultimately the vendor needs to own the problem and either decide that they're going to address it or move past it. But this "methodology" is devoid of empathy for their customer situation. It's not about YOU and the internal wrangling in YOUR organization. That's not your customer's problem. It's about helping your customer achieve what they need to achieve in order to get value. If that's value they need right now, and it's achievable with a workaround, then you provide them the workaround with all of the caveats that a workaround should come with.

    Andrew Marks
    Co-Founder & COO | SuccessHACKER
  • Warwick Brown
    Warwick Brown Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment
    edited September 2020
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    I don't have an issue with temporary fixes and I agree they're often necessary to address immediate pain points for customers. I'm not saying we shouldn't respond to the needs of our clients.

    It becomes a problem when the business allows and sometimes even expects a lone customer success manager to create, implement and execute ongoing workarounds for a product or service gap or failure ... when there are product and service teams in place.

    How is that scalable, repeatable or reliable? How do you ensure quality and consistency when it's delivered by somebody outside those departments? And how to you prevent scope creep or manage workloads if there are no controls in place?

    I've found too often that account management and customer success end up a graveyard of unresolved problems and issues they've bandaged over while the teams who SHOULD be responsible for fixing them, don't.



  • Warwick Brown
    Warwick Brown Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment
    edited September 2020
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    Thanks Jared I appreciate your insights and fully on board with finding a solution when a clients need one sooner rather than later.

    "But if the need is more urgent, I'll implement a workaround and ask the product team if we have anything in the works that could help this client."

    I wonder why doesn't product implement a workaround? Why you? And what would you do if 20 more clients had an urgent need... where is the line in the sand?

    A long time ago I had a situation where our product couldn't link project codes to hierarchies and my client created new codes daily. So every day I had to manually link them. 5 years this went on.  And my client grew from £2m to £10m and had over 12,000 project codes.  Someone in my team was dedicated to this 2 days a week. I wasn't given 2 days extra resource - it just got sucked up by this project.

    Product consistently ignored my pleas to fix this and it was becoming a major inconvenience for the client too because sometimes it would take days to get all the codes linked. They told me they were thinking about going to market and I asked my contact to write a letter to our SVP to say we wouldn't be invited to bid if we didn't fix this issue.  

    It took 10 days and about 8 dev hours for product to fix the problem after that ultimatum was delivered. A problem that had persisted for 5 years.

    I learned my lesson!!!!!


    ------------------------------
    Warwick Brown
    Founder & Consultant
    Account Manager Tips
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 09-03-2020 10:45
    From: Jared Orr
    Subject: Should we introduce work arounds for problems or wait for a permanent solution?

    I would say this is a case-by-case thing. Of course, we should always collaborate with the product and support teams and communicate these client requests to ensure their needs are met in a timely manner. But there are some situations when the client is in need of the solution sooner rather than later, and in those cases, a workaround might be the best short-term solution. 

    One thing I do when a client inquires about something we don't currently have as a feature is tell them that they have a great idea and that I will speak with our product team about it. Usually, their response is, "Great! Keep me updated." But if the need is more urgent, I'll implement a workaround and ask the product team if we have anything in the works that could help this client. 

    I guess I'm not the best at saying "No" or "Not now" so I might be putting too much work on myself as you mentioned, but this seems to work for me at the moment.

    ------------------------------
    Jared Orr
    Customer Success Leader | Virtual Data Rooms
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 09-03-2020 10:02
    From: Warwick Brown
    Subject: Should we introduce work arounds for problems or wait for a permanent solution?

    This happens all the time. Client has a problem and we want to solve it NOW. So instead of waiting for a solution, we introduce our own work around. But there's a problem.

    With the best of intentions of course.

    I've done it a million times. But no more.

    All you do is:

    - Create a massive workload burden for yourself.
    - Put a short term band-aid that hides bigger problems that need attention.
    - Introduce complexity and inconsistency.
    - Set unrealistic expectations for your client.
    - Set yourself up to fail.

    Next time you are tempted to go solo fixing another department's problems - don't.

    - Share the feedback with your teams on what's broken or needs improvement
    - Let your client know and set expectations about a resolution.
    - Make peace that continuous improvement takes time.

    And know sometimes what you want isn't what you get.

    Thoughts? Should we take on the burden of other department's problems until they can get their act together? 



     



    ------------------------------
    Warwick Brown
    Founder & Consultant
    Account Manager Tips
    ------------------------------
  • Warwick Brown
    Warwick Brown Member Posts: 14 Thought Leader
    Photogenic First Anniversary First Comment
    edited September 2020
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    Thanks Andrew - appreciate your contribution to the conversation. Perhaps I didn't make my point clear enough. I'm all for solution based thinking and finding ways to address client needs NOW not later.

    Often a temporary fix is the best response.

    It's WHO should own that temporary work around and who authorises it. If it's agreed by consensus among relevant teams and leaders that a work around is the best way forward and an owner to manage it is appointed - then fine. 

    But what if you learned a customer success manager was spending a day a week on work arounds for other departments and you had no idea they were doing them? They just decided on their own to solve that "little" problem.

    So you asked at the next team meeting if anyone else was doing stuff like that and a few other CS manager admitted they had taken the same initiative.  And turns out you were losing the equivalent of one head count to these work arounds for other departments because of these well-intended fixes?

    That's what happened to me.

    I guess my real question is what is the hidden or opportunity cost of work arounds when delivered by CS? And are CS shielding our internal teams from dealing with the very real pain points our customers experience and taking the action they should?

  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
    GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021 First Anniversary
    edited September 2020
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    @Warwick Brown I must echo @Andrew Marks here.  There is room for your company to have efficient/scalable workflows, and also human connection.

    I think we have all seen firsthand many examples of CSMs singlehandedly retaining customers by having a custom or one-off relationship, in the face of the literal product or support not delivering the outcome a customer wants.  If that isn't one of the main functions of CS, what is?

    Now, is that an ideal scenario?  No.  Of course, another main function of CS is to be the voice of the customer inside your company.  So, yes:
    • Communicate feature requests to Product. 
    • Communicate "sold to the wrong customer" or "set unrealistic expectations" to Sales. 
    • Communicate "ticket not resolved" to Support.
    • And let's not forget, communicate "here's how our other customers are thriving, maybe you should reconsider why you want       feature" to the customer.
    One thing I see we all agree on is it takes a team to win.  CS is probably the department most able to break down your own company's silos and make your company a standout in its market.

    ------------------------------
    Russell Bourne
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 09-03-2020 11:05
    From: Andrew Marks
    Subject: Should we introduce work arounds for problems or wait for a permanent solution?

    IMO, this is not a black & white situation or straightforward answer. Quite frankly, while your approach may seem valiant, it's very inside-out thinking.

    To Jared's point, this needs to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. There are many situations where you need to introduce a workaround in order to get a customer past a blocker so they can achieve their business objectives.

    This doesn't alleviate the responsibility of others to address these types of situations. Ultimately the vendor needs to own the problem and either decide that they're going to address it or move past it. But this "methodology" is devoid of empathy for their customer situation. It's not about YOU and the internal wrangling in YOUR organization. That's not your customer's problem. It's about helping your customer achieve what they need to achieve in order to get value. If that's value they need right now, and it's achievable with a workaround, then you provide them the workaround with all of the caveats that a workaround should come with.

    Andrew Marks
    Co-Founder & COO | SuccessHACKER

    ------------------------------
    Andrew Marks
    SuccessHACKER
    ------------------------------

    Original Message:
    Sent: 09-03-2020 10:02
    From: Warwick Brown
    Subject: Should we introduce work arounds for problems or wait for a permanent solution?

    This happens all the time. Client has a problem and we want to solve it NOW. So instead of waiting for a solution, we introduce our own work around. But there's a problem.

    With the best of intentions of course.

    I've done it a million times. But no more.

    All you do is:

    - Create a massive workload burden for yourself.
    - Put a short term band-aid that hides bigger problems that need attention.
    - Introduce complexity and inconsistency.
    - Set unrealistic expectations for your client.
    - Set yourself up to fail.

    Next time you are tempted to go solo fixing another department's problems - don't.

    - Share the feedback with your teams on what's broken or needs improvement
    - Let your client know and set expectations about a resolution.
    - Make peace that continuous improvement takes time.

    And know sometimes what you want isn't what you get.

    Thoughts? Should we take on the burden of other department's problems until they can get their act together? 



     



    ------------------------------
    Warwick Brown
    Founder & Consultant
    Account Manager Tips
    ------------------------------