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My team is implementing the software of our company with new users. Recently, I've implemented our software with a bunch of new users who were working with a different software from another company. They are complaining loudly about our software, saying that they were used to the old software and saying that our software is implicitly bad.

They are calling us on an almost daily basis, taking a lot of our time and energy in support and at the end of almost each call, we have to listen to their rants.

One of the solutions is to add some functionality to make our software like the old software they worked with.

However, thinking about it, if my company does that for every customer we will be spending a lot of time and resources, pleasing customers who are treating us badly.

I'm hearing their complaints but I don't know how to bridge the gap between what they want, e.g going back to the old ways, and what we can do.

Are there other ways to satisfy them, in terms of customer care and change management? Should I let them "rant" even knowing it is bad customer care? Last but not least, how should I manage their expectations in respect of Change.

Please find my update as requested in comments

Who is responsible, at the customer's company, for managing the change of software with the users?

Usually one senior person who is, most of the time, not familiar with software implementation , he/she is more a senior figure who rose through the ranks.

Who is responsible, at the customer, for accepting the functionality of the new software despite the fact it is different to what they were using before?

Usually that same senior person with the IT manager of another town hall. Both drove the change. From my perspective and that specific customer, it was poorly sold internally and that IT manager who is part of another town hall , is part of the IT department of the region and should have not a say but as he was part of that region, he is a god-like figure. The final users were barely trained for cost reasons and not ready for all the changes.

For the sales and acceptance process, the process goes as following:

Client sets a RFT. We create a word document, detailling what our software can do. Once done and if we are selected, we go for a public audition with the competitors where we show our prototype. If it goes well, we won the bid. Starts the implementation phase.

Size of the client?

It depends. It can go with 2 or 3 people for small town up to hundred of people for bigger town. As we try to make more business, we are going for bigger market... My company is a small one but we are gaining momentum. Therefore bigger markets means change for us , too.

  • Is this about the same situation? – Lilienthal Mar 1 '16 at 11:28
  • Hi @Lilienthal very close indeed. However, none of the answers given on that question are satisfying. JeffO's answer would be close to a workaround but on a long term run, this is not good as he is saying. One of the possible solutions would be to use political pressure e.g convince the high up hierarchy to make the lower echelon bend but , I hate that because that's so terrible to do and oh Boy, Karma always a knack for turning that around – Andy K Mar 1 '16 at 11:34
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    This is probably a bit outside the scope of "Workplace" but learn lessons for new customers. For existing customers, you might be able to keep them happy by offering to make some of the easier changes which you know will not waste too much of your time, but for the more complex ones, see if you can come to some arrangement wherein you charge them for an upgrade to get all the functionality that they need from the old software. (but phrase all that better than I did! :) ) It may be that their managers don't want to spend the money, but that is between them and their staff. – colmde Mar 1 '16 at 12:25
  • If you can restate this question in terms of "How to manage change requests from dissatisfied clients" it could be on-topic on the Project Management SE site here: pm.stackexchange.com - But note that rescuing the relationship with one specific client may be viewed as off-topic there. – Marv Mills Mar 1 '16 at 13:01
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What you are asking has nothing to do with the workplace, but it has everything to do with running a profitable business. But you can help a bit.

Find out who in your company has the responsibility for what your software does, has the power to tell your team what changes to make, and the responsibility for the cost. I would very much hope that that person follows the old rule which says "The customer is always right - as long as the customer pays".

Find out who in their company is the contact who would discuss requests to make changes. That one is the person who the one responsible in your company would talk to and nobody else. Unless you have a contract that says you have to listen to the complaints and rants of every single end user (in which case you are FUBAR), tell those complainers firmly but politely that you are not their agony aunt, and their complaints should be directed at the contact in their company.

Making changes because an end user complains to you, without the person in charge telling you to make that charge, is madness. You are not appeasing them, you are encouraging their behaviour.

"Answers are no ones. For future customers, we have internal peoples who will be dealing with the change process. But what can we do for existing customers...? Should we ask the customer to name one?"

Bloody hell. You put yourself into a massive hole there. Should we ask the customer to name one? You call the customer and tell them that what is happening is unacceptable, that you will not take complaints from end users, that they need to appoint one person to handle this and won't talk to anyone but that person. And then you better check what your contracts say, because I can see this situation becoming very, very expensive if you don't stop it.

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    Hi @gnasher729 I had a massive talk with customer. We clarified the situation and I put in black and white , what we were supposed to do, what we were not supposed to do and what they were supposed to do. It was draining but I managed it. Many thanks for your help. I.O.U – Andy K Mar 1 '16 at 14:46
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This might not be the correct answer as I've never owned a business, but I have worked for them!

It seems to me that you sold a product to your customer - they knew (or should have known) in advance what they were buying... (Have they paid yet? ;) )

If they need changes to the new software to make it more like the old software, then that is additional work for you and - unless you agreed to do it as part of the sale - you should charge extra for it!

This is what contracts & specifications are for! Now you may want to just make the changes for free as a gesture of good-will and to maintain a happy relationship with your customer (maybe they are planning future purchases from you), but that's up to you really, you're not obliged to.

If I buy a car and it doesn't have a CD player, I can't really go back to the seller and complain that because my old car had a CD player, he should provide one to me too...

  • Hi @colmde, as you said, they were aware of it or almost. However, unkike a cd player where you can test it, in any company that you are implementing software, the lower echelons , in most cases, have not tested the sotware. They are "shoved" with the technologies because it is better , cheaper or whatever reasons , management can come up with. – Andy K Mar 1 '16 at 11:48
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    @AndyK - Maybe it's more like my kids going back to the seller and complaining there's no CD player! If the lower echelons have a complaint, it should be with the person who bought the software. They are the ones who tested - or should have tested - it first. – colmde Mar 1 '16 at 12:18
  • I agree @colmde. We are a small company and we are trying our best to steer/train the customers as well – Andy K Mar 1 '16 at 12:19
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The most obvious answer is that you shouldn't have created "bad" software to begin with. I've run into more than my fair share of that and it is far more frustrating to your customers than to you as the customer tends to not have a clue what is going on "under the hood" and they have no ability to figure it out since they don't have the source code. Just keep that in mind when getting annoyed with your customer.

But now that you are "stuck" with each other, your best bet is to find a way so the customer can easily submit problem reports. Calling on the phone is in nobody's best interest unless you can actually help them in real-time. Which is probably doubtful.

Frequently, just having the ability to submit a problem report quells the user's frustration. Then it is just a matter of responding within reasonable time frames. e.g. We plan on fixing this by xyz date. We aren't going to fix this. Did you try abc? yadda...yadda...

The other thing you can do is make sure you have decent documentation. I am currently working with a company that only reports error codes. Their documents have a large number of error codes listed. Guess what....none of the error codes I run into seem to ever be listed in that documentation. Also, 95% of the error codes in the documentation don't tell you why you might be getting a particular error code. So my only option is to call or email. I usually email first, if they don't get back to me soon then I'll call. Being a pain in the .... customer frequently is the only way to get any action to take place.

Another option is to setup a training session or multiple sessions. This can go a long way in changing the mindset of your customer to start thinking like you want them to think instead of their previous products' way of thinking.

Face to face training would be preferable. It seems that once people have actually met each other in real-life they tend to be nicer to each other.

  • Hi @Dunk, many thanks for your answer. The situation is not an easy one: Public company bought our software , in group. 1 minor subsidiary was very fond of their old software and now forced to use our software. They are the one complaining. They were invited to all the preparatory meetings but attend none and they are complaining the loudest. The thing is that we did not foresee that point. Usually, we had one big or smaller customer but this is the first time we sold to a group. – Andy K Mar 3 '16 at 6:45
  • -- continuing @Dunk -- I had a talk to Big Boss and said we need a champion for any next time and that we are not a shoulder , they can cry on. We are starting the training in a week period and I'm helping to sweeten the "sour" deal :) Last but not least, but the software is more than ok. Customers in general are happy with that. I'm noting for the documentation. we have one already but dustering it can be very good. – Andy K Mar 3 '16 at 6:46
  • @AndyK - My points may or may not be valid, I was just trying to express from the customer point of view to shift the thinking a bit. It is too bad that they refused to show up for the preparatory meetings because IME meeting people in person goes a long way in helping to establish a more cordial relationship. Of course, that assumes that there aren't people involved that have a knack for alienating other people in short order. – Dunk Mar 7 '16 at 14:55

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