5 Steps For Navigating Product and Service Changes Successfully

Written by Kayla Brehm | May 11, 2015 12:00:25 PM

My name is Jason Rueger, and I am small business software/service reviewer for  Fit Small Business . I often approach small business software providers as a customer, to get info on their pricing and check out their customer service. Lately, I have dealt with more and more companies that are struggling to get their stories straight. One sales rep will give me one price for a certain set of product features and/or users,  but the next one will give me a different price. Or, the price quoted on the website is completely different than what a rep quotes me. This lack of consistency often confuses me and tends to negatively influence my view of the business.

The reality is, many businesses do not invest the time and effort necessary to successfully implement their product/service changes, which leads to inconsistent sales/service information and gives customers a bad taste in their mouth. In this article, we will outline 5 steps you can follow to successfully implement product/service changes in your company and provide you with some practical examples of what implementation might look like for an average business.


1. Allow Sufficient Time Between the Completion of a Product/Service Change and Its Launch

Timon owns a cutting edge wildlife software development company, Timon’s African Wildlife Tech Solutions. He just finished a new wildlife management software solution (ie. prescription notation, cage cleaning/rotation), called “Hakuna Matata” (translated: “no worries/problems”), but is not sure whether to launch right away or to wait. Timon shows the new software to the head of his sales’ department, John. After the demo and a large amount of questions from John, Timon realizes that if he launches immediately, he will have a bunch of sales’ reps trying to sell a product they don’t understand. Timon also notices that he needs to tweak how notes for each animal are assigned within the software, to ensure that all parties concerned with an animal receive updates/care instructions, instead of just its designated caretaker. Timon decides to delay the launch until everything is a little more dialed-in.

As Timon’s situation demonstrates, it is important to allow at least several weeks in-between when a change/new product is finished and when it is launched. This gives time to adequately plan and implement employee training for the new solution. If your sales and service staff are not properly informed on the new change, customers will not be either. Second, it gives you time to make final revisions and tweaks without the direct pressure that comes with a launch, making it more likely that little details/issues will be dealt with properly, instead of getting buried or lost in the shuffle.


2. Make One Person Responsible for Answering all Questions/Decisions Related to the Product/Service Change

Several days after deciding to delay the launch, Timon runs into Sierra, head of marketing, who informs him that she is about ready to launch the new Hakuna Matata ad campaign. Timon is caught off-guard, because he had not told Sierra to launch the campaign. She explains that Ed (from HR), told her that the product was going to launch in a week. After sorting everything out, Timon appoints Sierra as his official facilitator for any big questions/decisions related to Hakuna Matata.

As Sierra’s confusion illustrates, miscommunication is inevitable, which is why it is so important to make sure there is one main contact person (cross-departmental) for important decisions/questions related to any new product/change. This ensures that answers will be consistent, decisions will be informed, and confusion/miscommunication will be addressed.


3. Make One Person Responsible for Updating Sales’ and Marketing Material

Sierra is determined to get things more organized. As she sorts through the Hakuna Matata pricing bulletin used to train Sales Reps, she notices that the base price is $75/month, which is $30 cheaper than the website pricing bulletin, which has a base price of $105/month. To address the issue, Sierra appoints her favorite marketing agent, Chris, to manage/update all sales and marketing material, to correct any inconsistencies before they are used in training or published in any marketing material.

Whether it is marketing emails that will be sent to clients, information that will be posted on a website, or guides that will be used to train staff, it is important to make sure all sales and marketing material is consistent. Inconsistent material means inconsistent information and service advice, which is something that is especially frustrating for clients who are just looking for a solid answer. With a responsible person in-charge, you can rest easy that customers and clients are receiving accurate and consistent information.


4. Make One Person Responsible for Educating Sales/Customer Service Staff

After talking with Timon and Sierra, John decides that he is going to put Rob, one of his top sales’ reps, in charge of educating the rest of the sales/customer service staff. Rob has a killer sales record  and is great at managing people. He tries out the software for himself, comes up with a list of selling points (sales) and potential problems (customer service), and immediately puts together a demo night for all the customer service/sales reps, just to give everyone a chance to look over and familiarize themselves with the Hakuna Matata software. With Rob in-charge, John knows that the sales and customer service staff will be equipped to consistently handle the issues and questions that arise on launch day(and after).

Although it may seem repetitive, division of labor is key, which is why appointing a single individual to be in-charge of educating sales/customer service staff is necessary. If this individual does their job well, it will not matter if a customer calls in multiple times and talks to multiple agents, because the information and advice they receive from each agent will be accurate, consistent, and on-point.


5. Have a Feedback Loop

The Hakuna Matata launch was a success, due to a solid product, well-trained employees, and a well-developed marketing campaign. Several weeks after launch, sales were still climbing, as zoos and game preserves around the world started hearing about and purchasing the software. Although sales were promising, Timon soon realized that he had no solid way to tell how customers were liking the product or to hear from customers about what they would like tweaked/changed for future updates. To address this problem, Timon consulted with Larry and Leslie, co-heads of his customer relations department. The result of their brainstorming, was to incorporate a customer satisfaction survey/comment form onto their webpage, along with organized monitoring of all customer calls to see which problems were surfacing repeatedly.

The last step for successfully navigating a product change, as illustrated above, is to setup some kind of feedback loop for your new product/service. This is the only real way to keep a pulse on what your customers/clients really like/dislike about the change. If you use helpdesk software, you can probably setup some customer surveys. You can certainly put a form on your website or send out some via email to existing customers. Having a feedback loop ensures that you know what your customers want and helps you funnel your money and time to fix those issues, instead of wasting money/time on some update that users could care less about. Customers are often fiercely loyal to companies that they feel respond to their feedback and try to address their concerns.


About The Author - Jason has a pottery business and is a staff writer for Fit Small Business where he write reviews on topic like picking a website builders. He create around 10 different websites for his pottery business during while reviewing website builders.