Today our Director of Product Management and I are going to call on an important customer. I expect Knovel will lose this customer because several months ago we broke their trust. We have enjoyed a growing relationship with this customer where they felt they were receiving fair value for their investment. During that time we provided all the customer asked for but we did not invest in understanding our customer’s needs and process; we did not invest in building a “trust bank” with our customer. Based on our own value metrics and without having established a personal relationship and understanding of Knovel’s value with the person making the decision we asked for an exceptionally large price increase. Our proposal was a shock to the customer. The moment the proposal landed the customer lost trust in us. We had not invested in understanding them, their process, and Knovel’s value to the user community they serve. Faced with similar circumstances I am sure I would have asked “what are these people from Knovel thinking.” Shame on us!
Mistakes happen and Knovel will learn from this one. It will be difficult for us to recover with this customer because we have not built a balance in the trust bank. We will lay out our best case and see what happens. This experience (no matter the outcome) is both galling and humbling for an organization that prides itself on customer service. We pride ourselves on a 94%+ renewal rate with our customers, yet over the last 3 years I have seen Knovel lose 3 customers for similar reasons. Each loss diminishes value for that customer and for Knovel; we must both go through cycles to find alternatives, re-establish trust...
My relentless pursuit to growing this business combined with our service and account management processes contribute to this failure. We will look closely at the balance between the customer’s perceived value and the investment we are asking customers to make. We will also scrutinize our processes for communicating and working with customers.
While we will mistakes in the future, we can improve our customer service and take every step possible to make sure we do not destroy value through breaking trust. To that end it is my intention to personally listen to and talk with each of our customers in 2009. I will follow with details in January.
I look forward to speaking with you in the New Year and wish you all Happy Holidays!