Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Is it possible to make business applications addictive?

Three UK mobile phone operators – Vodafone, O2 and T-mobile – are currently competing to become the exclusive network partner for the Apple iPhone when it launches in Europe later this year.

Mobile phone operators know that the exclusive right to sell the iPhone will attract thousands of new Apple-adoring customers to their network. So if a mobile phone can generate this kind of fervour, can we do the same for business applications?

When we think of addictive technology the names of consumer products, such as iPod, Xbox and RAZR spring to mind. Why not business applications: SAP HR, Oracle Order Management, QuickBooks Pro or Microsoft CRM? If you could sell sexy business applications – that were more addictive and generated greater user adoption – would your business attract more new customers?

Many software vendors are building more intuitive business applications with better user interfaces. But how resellers sell, implement and support business applications can make the critical difference between user adoption and user rejection.

When Increase launched a hosted software service last year we designed the service to be as addictive as possible to minimise the chances of subscriber churn. Before we selected a software partner, we listened carefully to feedback from everyday users about their experiences of learning and using the software. Selling the most intuitive application in our market is the best way to start generating user adoption because we can win new fans as soon as we demonstrate the application to prospective customers.

Companies can help potential users become familiar with their application even before the first training course. For example, Increase provides users with a ‘Dummies’ reference manual because it’s a format that most customers recognise and are familiar with. Having a Dummies manual to refer to helps break down any perceptions that the application is difficult to use (even if the user never actually refers to it), and helps build confidence in the proposition.

Once the users are up and running, continued end-user training and support is vital. For the first few weeks after the software has gone live, customers’ internal helpdesks are still learning how to support new applications, so making application experts available to support users eases the transition. The increased costs of providing direct end-user support are outweighed by the value of the feedback and tweaking-requests often received during the first few months when the services are being used.

In Apple’s retail shops, the iPod bar is staffed by Apple enthusiasts with a genuine passion for helping consumers get the most out of their technology. Taking a leaf from their book, resellers can do the same by employing people who are addicted to using their software to help deliver a great customer experience. A little of that passion spills over into every demonstration, implementation and support call, and it rubs off on users.

Sales people are used to receiving bonuses and commissions for achieving results. However, with a new business application, sometimes we need to provide incentives to users just for displaying the right behaviour - regardless of the results. Whenever a sales person closes a sale – won or lost – as long as they’ve followed all the steps correctly in the opportunity management process, why not provide a small incentive.

Rewarding the right behaviour for the first few weeks, regardless of the outcome, leads to the right behaviour and the right results, and greater user adoption.

Widespread user adoption reduces the number of subscribers falling by the wayside and creates more referenceable customers. User satisfaction surveys can provide quantitative feedback resulting in a more measurable target than return-on-investment. So even if you’re not selling the next iPhone, perhaps you can generate more value for your customers by spreading a little fervour of your own.

1 comment:

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