Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada
With almost a decade of experience in hospitality, Pamela Alfred is a leading expert in the private concierge service. Originally from Paris, Pamela has been a concierge and an entrepreneur for eight years now, starting her career in London, England where she worked for billionaires, celebrities and business men and women providing dedicated lifestyle services.
Pamela has ran two concierge companies, one in London, England and the other in Montreal, Quebec where she applied the concept of personalized experience to the corporate environment. This experience is what motivated her to start her own business, Ask PAM. Ask PAM facilitates seamless customer experience through concierge service with a focus on the travel and hospitality industry. Through a unified multi-channel messaging platform they help hospitality organizations respond, support and engage with customers using popular messaging apps, SMS, websites, mobile apps and more. Ask PAM is enhancing the customer experience with local concierges powered by artificial intelligence while keeping the human at the center of the relationship.
Recently Ask PAM had a pivot with their business model. This pivot required them to review their solution, value proposition and market segment. Like most entrepreneurs, Pamela was trying to build too much at once by trying to solve all the problems within the industry in one platform with limited resources. This meant that different clients were seeing different values in their product which started to become confusing for communication purposes. This ultimately led the Ask PAM team to start over with the product, choosing one feature and mastering it. However, naturally this presented a few challenges.
For starters, getting the team onboard to include them in the process and changes was tough. However, now that they’ve accomplished that they have to deal with changing the strategy, the message and even the product with existing clients. Ask PAM removed some of the features of their product that clients were using and although they are maintaining the appearance of their previous platform and positioning it as an “upgrade” they basically are building a brand new business behind the scenes. All these changes also meant they’ve had to slow down the growth (if not stop it) which has to be justified to investors and advisors.
Like many entrepreneurs, Pamela was presented with multiple challenges with her business so we reached out to a couple of our friends and experts to share some of their advice. Here is what they had to say…
Mark Elliott is the Founding Partner of Venture Accelerator Partners Inc. based in Toronto, Canada. Venture Accelerator Partners helps drive revenue for growing technology organizations.
How to manage existing clients, who may be losing some features with the pivot
This is a position that many new businesses find themselves in. Since you have determined your niche or ideal customer, how many of your existing customers fall into your ideal customer? For the ideal customers take some time and explain to them in detail the benefits of the features for their business. Also then look at which of your customers are paying for the solution, versus being on a free beta. I would then finally look at the customers that were actually actively using your solution. That will likely be a much smaller subset of the customers that you should actually be worried about. Focus on those customers and don’t worry in the medium term about the others.
How to relaunch to clients who may not have originally seen the beta as valuable
Hopefully the team has been using a CRM and recording their interactions with both prospects and customers. If you have, it should be easy to determine the prospects that would be a good fit. Create an email or call campaign for those prospects on why the new solution is a great fit for them now versus when the beta was released. Follow-up with outbound calls or an additional drip campaign.
How to manage the pivot with staff
I would suggest having a very open dialogue with the team. Explain about the ideal customer and how the new version of the product will fit with them. Explain the short and medium term efforts, goals, and tactics for growing into a successful, sustainable and profitable business.
Princess Alexander is the President and Managing Partner of Alexander Learmond Inc. as well as a lecturer at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University.
I have summarized my advice into four key areas:
1) Create a dedicated transition team
Create an empowered and dedicated project team with the skills necessary to complete a seamless transition of the clients. The team could comprise of one or more core team members with specific support from other members across the organization. It should be business as usual for the remainder of the organization. This ambidextrous approach ensures the organization continues its focus on growth and new business. It is positive that the employees are onboard as this approach could temporarily result in a shift or additional workload for some team members.
2) Analyze the client base
Segment the existing client base into homogeneous groups of customers to understand client impacts. The company’s summary did not indicate the share of the existing customers to be transitioned hence I am assuming that all clients are utilizing the communication feature and therefore the challenge will be to get clients’ approvals to discontinued other features. This requires the development of specific client or client group proposals as the pitches for client conversations and negotiations could vary depending on the respective client impact.
3) Develop existing vs. new client strategies and communication plan
New Client Strategies
In the case of new clients a cutover date should be established. Effective the cutover date marketing to new clients, including the unique value proposition and messaging, should reflect the feature(s) picked to move forward (e.g. the communication one).
Existing Client Strategies
Step 1: Create a value proposition to migration pitch for the client/client group
Assuming that all clients have the planned discontinued features and grandfathering features is not planned then the negotiations should be centered on the termination of features and functionality that clients might or might not be utilizing.
It would be helpful for the company to understand quantitative and qualitative business case for the transition both from the company and client perspectives especially the client “pain” or impact associated with the proposed changes. The objective should be to match the current client benefit and/or add value when the transition is completed.
Step 2: Engage client in the process
Aligned to seamless and enhanced customer experience, my suggestion is to engage clients in transition conversations. It is important to have prior understanding of how clients are utilizing the feature set. In the case of the clients that are not willing to relinquish their features, the company could examine pricing /promotional incentives.
Step 3: Mitigate Risks in the Transition Process
My suggestion is to start the negotiations and the actual transition/cutover process with the smaller less risky clients within each group to prove in/validate the messaging, pricing, and solution.