Customer Therapist/Technical Spinmiester

In larger organizations — esp. in enterprise software — there are many people who play the dual role of Customer Therapist/Technical Spinmiester. This is a role that almost no organization wants to admit they need and have, but that every organization of large enough size has many, many people doing.

As we’ll find out, no one would want to admit that they have this role because the whole purpose of the role is to tell the customer “no” when it comes to fixing broken or otherwise screwed up things.

Cleaning the Bed

Obviously, I don’t have a perfect title for this role yet, but those those two titles capture the primary jobs of this role, in order:

  1. When your software shits the customer’s bed, you need to prevent them from going ape-shit and doing something like demanding a refund of all those millions of dollars they gave you.
  2. Control the spin of how the customer perceives your software. To a lesser extent, you want to control the spin of how the rest of the market perceives your software, but that’s usually only if news of the afore mentioned bed-shitting leaks.
  3. Containment: prevent whatever problems the customer is having from infecting the rest of your organization. For example, the customer could demand that you drop everything (like development of the next version of your product) and focuses exclusively on their problem. When someone’s holding a big wad of cash, this is always a huge risk. Another version of this is the dreaded mutual-assured-bundled-sale-descruction plan: “if you don’t fix these problems in product X, there’s no way I’m going to sign that multi-year/million dollar deal to buy products Y and Z!”

Software + Relationship

As many of you, dear readers, and I have spoken about face-to-face on several occasions, Enterprise Software deals are about half for the software, and half for the ongoing relationship that the vendor and the customer has. The customer wants to make sure the vendor will be there when things go pear-shaped. The role of Customer Therapist/Technical Spinmiester exists to take care of such times: they’re the relationship maintainers. The people who buy the flowers, give the massages, and promise “never to do that again.”

Small/micro-companies, of course, can’t compete on that level (despite being so God damn awesome): they don’t have the resources to provide an “enterprise-level relationship” with all their customers. (At least, it hasn’t been proven otherwise on a mass-scale yet.) Hence, the Enterprise Software Market is created and thrives where-in large companies sell software + relationship to other large companies.

As Charles and I start discussing in this week’s (upcoming) podcast, this constraint is something that small companies can use to drive features for their product(s)/services(s). But, you’ll have to wait until Friday for that.

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