customer-development

How to Make Sure your App Services Meet Customer Needs

If you look at app development in a simplistic way, it’s easy to end up with a rather straightforward life-cycle for an app project:

  • Win the business.
  • Work with the customer to build the app to their satisfaction
  • Get it “out the door” and into the app stores.
  • Get paid and move onto the next thing.
  • Perhaps earn some follow-up revenue if the customer comes back for changes.

Plenty of app development firms work in exactly this way, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that it’s actually rather short-sighted and reactive. It’s also a way of doing business that attracts spells of feast and famine – times scrabbling around for the next project and times when too many jobs are happening at once.

It’s actually pretty simple to adapt your app business so that you can approach things from a far more proactive stand-point. This means more revenue, happier customers, and a more consistent workload for your team, with fewer peaks and troughs.

Here’s a five step guide to better molding your services around customer needs:

1. Break free from the “job and finish” model

It may require a change in perspective, but it’s important to get away from the mind-set where an app project begins when the customer signs the contract and ends when the app hits the stores. In reality, this really isn’t the way; building an app isn’t the same as building a house.

Once you’ve broken out of this way of thinking, it will become natural to explain things to customers in the right terms. Version 1.0 of an app is just the start of the journey if the app is to be in any way successful.

 2. Explain that the project’s not over when the app is built

Once an app is live, there’s still plenty to do. Apps need promoting so that people actually use them, for a start. Then, there’s the fact that however well you’ve tested things, bugs can and will inevitably come to light once more people are let loose on the app.

It’s imperative that someone keeps an eye on user reviews and deals with support queries too, as this can help expose bugs and reveal misunderstandings as to how the app is supposed to work.

All this is just the start. The important thing is that customers understand this fact!

 3. Manage expectations regarding ongoing work

It’s one thing making clients understand that there’s more to “having an app” than building it and releasing it, but clients do need to know what to expect financially. They’re not likely to give you a blank check or an open-ended contract!

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be up-front about telling them what to expect in terms of ongoing costs. Often, companies have no problem spending money when the reason is well explained to them – what they don’t like is unexpected or unclear invoices. Or having this news sprung on them right at the end of the project. Lay it out up front for them and explain that’s just the right way to approach an app to make it succeed.

So, build app updates into your plan; tell customers how frequently they’re likely to need to issue bug-fix releases; and make clear what kind of money they’ll need to spend – not just to get the app “out there,” but to get people actually using it. One of the best approaches is to explain that you work “Lean” and that focusing first on an Minimum Viable App is the most cost effective approach, with subsequent releases prioritized around how the app is actually getting used.

This benefits all concerned: the clients know what to expect, and you lay out a long-term stream of ongoing revenue you can rely on.

4. Understand your client’s business

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably becoming clear that the general objective is to aim for more of a partnership relationship with your clients than one that’s focused around selling a one-off service.

If you’re going to make this work in the long-term, it’s essential that you really start to understand your client’s business.

This has long been a problem for techies of all kinds. IT technicians and developers “working in isolation from the business” is a frequent management complaint, and often a very valid one.

If you are able to separate yourself from this (often all-too-true) stereotype, and make it your business to learn the priorities and objectives of the companies you work with, you really will stand out from the pack. Really getting under the skin of your client and understanding their business and what they need their app to achieve will mean more trust, more work from your clients, and more referrals.

5. Proactively suggest improvements

Really, this leads on from the last point, but you cannot truly deliver here unless you first understand the business of your client(s).

Once you do, you’ll easily be able to merge your technical knowledge and your knowledge of the app marketplace with your knowledge of the customer’s company – and inspiration for app improvements will surely follow.

By keeping the ideas flowing, you will be able to ensure your clients stay focused on the ongoing development of their app – especially if you can suggest ways to boost their revenue. Ideas that are obvious to you may not occur to people removed from the app scene, so don’t underestimate the value of your inspiration.

Keeping an app business customer focused isn’t rocket science, but it is something plenty of firms get wrong. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a monthly App Report. Discussing regularly how the app is performing and suggesting areas where improvements in the app can be made is one of the best ways to drive improvements in the app, and ongoing revenue for your business.

By going back to basics and getting it right, you can form long-term partnerships that continue to please the customer AND make you money – long after version 1.0 has landed in the app store.

Further Reading

Found this useful, then these related articles could also be of interest.

Ask the Right Questions

To really understand your clients needs its about asking the right questions up front. Here’s 20 questions you should make sure you get answered up front to make sure your the app project succeeds for you and your client.

Take an iterative approach to save your clients money and time

Agile development methodology and shipping your first app as an MVP is all about getting the app into the hands of users as fast as possible and then in short time iterate the development of the app to optimize how its performing. There’s no replacement to the real world.