This past week I was privileged to spend a few days with a client and their customer evangelists at the company's annual User's Conference. More than most companies who usually pay only lip service to listening to their customers, this company actually walks that talk. The result is a unique partnership between a company and it's user community.
There was a tangible feeling of shared ownership in the product as well as the relationships between company and users. The users were there to learn more about the product and to give their input into the company's strategic goals and objectives.Not only did the company listen, but they created multiple opportunities (formal and non-formal) to listen to the advice of their customers and to thank them. What is remarkable is that the company is so open to having difficult as well as positive conversations with their customers. They really want to know when they get things right and when they get things wrong.
They don't want to be just a vendor. They want to be a partner and that is the way they conduct business every day with every customer. One of the reasons their evangelists are so vocal is that this is not the norm for them either, so they value the partnership and invest in it as well. Continuity is important on both sides.
So, what are some company qualities that inspire customers to become evangelists?
- Passion and a sense of mission about how the product is used to transform students' learning outcomes.
- Authenticity and transparency. What you see is really what you get.
- Implementation of the product and support of the customer are seen as more important than the initial sale. This company understands customer lifetime value.
- Relationships matter as much or more than the volume of business. With meaningful relationships as the guiding principle, the sales follow naturally because educators buy from people they trust.
Is this some perfect Eden? Heck, no. Just as in every relationship there are times when things go smoothly and times when things are a bit rocky. This company and its users have to navigate change just like anyone else does. What makes these relationships different is the customer's belief that they are valued, that they will be listened to respectfully, and that they are making a difference.
Isn't that what we all want?