Customer Info.

This playbook explains how we expect to treat and support our customers and partners when we work with them to achieve their goals. Its shared with all our staff so that they can contribute more effectively to your business. Please use the contact form in the main menu to send us any thoughts you have to help us improve it.

Our goal is to deliver success to all our customers, whether through advice, research, innovative ideas, software, support or training.

Our Plays

  1. Develop a relationship.
  2. Solve problems that really exist.
  3. The best is the enemy of the good.
  4. Data and/or decisions.
  5. Flexibility for changing your future.
  6. Security and Privacy.

PLAY 1: Develop relationships.

We learned early on that customers don’t appreciate sales calls offering the next greatest product or service. So we don’t do sales teams. Our technical and professional staff are the people you will talk to when you call or email us.

We realise that sometimes customers don’t know what they really need, and it’s important to offer advice which gives you options for how you can progress. We’re happy to work informally, and certainly in the early stages pre-project, to get to know customers’ teams, through meeting up and talking about your needs.

We don’t want our relationship to be based on a 30-minute pitch or monthly calls asking for business. It has to be real and relevant, and it has to prove valuable to the you.

Key questions for customers:

  1. Do you have a wish-list of things that would make your life better as well as improve your organisation?
  2. Do you have priorities for the coming year?
  3. Do you have things you need to know more about to help you firm up your priorities?
  4. Do you want to talk through your ideas or knowledge gaps without any sales pressure?
  5. Would it be helpful to have someone who could suggest alternatives?
  6. Would it help if these initial discussions could be done at no cost to you

PLAY 2: Solve problems that really exist.

AES will never sell you a solution to a problem you don’t really have. This sounds like such a cliché, but we feel that there is a tendency for suppliers to tell customers that they have the exact solution to your needs, when in-fact your problem is different.

Currently people are turning to Apps for a range of useful facilities, but its very easy to have an app developed which does not match your requirements, or which is the latest product from a supplier, hell-bent on convincing you that you need it.

Problems begin as little thoughts like “How could we…” or “Why can’t we…” Some of these problems can be best fixed without tech development. Perhaps via staff training, or by just changing your policy. If that’s the case then AES will tell you the truth that some suppliers avoid.

And before you start a project, AES can help you decide what pre-project research is needed so that your problem is crystallised, and has a potential solution, tech-based or otherwise.

Key questions for customers:

  1. Do you know what your key problems are?
  2. How do you know that “the problem” you’re addressing really is a problem? What evidence do you have?
  3. Do you know what the likely solutions are for each problem?
  4. Do any problems need further research?
  5. Would it be worth having a mini project to provide options for a final solution and to gather cost estimates?

PLAY 3: The Best is the enemy of the Good.

We love to provide great services and systems for our customers, but one issue that crops up is that customer requirements are often generated almost by a committee. This means that the customer has a wish list which is very long and which keeps growing. This leads to increased costs and our experience is that customers end up with an expensive result which is fixed in stone.

If you need AES to provide systems and services, then we would recommend starting with a smaller, more cost-effective solution which covers your key requirements. Building this “Good” system means that you can have it up and running quickly. It costs a lot less than the “Best” system and it lets your teams start using it and then provide feedback on what the next good step would be.

This iterative method for spec’ing, design and development works well with training, support and systems development or even with App production. It means that you can manage the change process as well as the costing in structured sprints between milestones of the overall project.

Key questions for customers:

  1. Where do your ideas for projects come from?
  2. Are they properly researched or would you benefit from support at this early stage?
  3. Looking at very large projects, do your staff understand them? And can they fully use them?
  4. What would be a reasonable time to have a system or process created and ready to go?
  5. Would your teams benefit from being involved in the project development at each stage?
  6. How many of your existing systems are easy to change or to add to at a reasonable cost?

PLAY 4: Data and/or decisions

We understand that when a service or project is commissioned you (the customer) have to bear immediate costs, and the benefits come later down the line, once the product or service is in use, or even later, if the work provided has to build the number of end users, for example with an app to support your business.

The problem is that some benefits are nebulous and really hard to achieve. They require behavior change —and, sometimes, policy changes—on the part of some other person or department. They may require behavior change that is dynamic, based on the output and analysis of some data that they didn’t necessarily collect.

Sometimes you, the customer, is far away from knowing how to affect the required behavior change in your staff or your end users. That’s why AES tries to accommodate “data” but also move beyond “data” or “algorithms,” and such tech-talk. We’ll talk in plain speaking about the stuff that makes those things useful and usable by you and your people.

Key questions for customers:

  1. Have you identified the behavior or policy changes associated with the system or product you need?
  2. Are you staff able to handle the the behavior change or flexibility that you’d like to see?
  3. If applicable, do you have, if necessary, union backing for the behaviour changes necessary?
  4. If applicable, can the unions clearly see the benefits to their members?
  5. How far ahead can you road-map the project you need?
  6. Will the data be manageable and understandable by the people who need to use or supply it?
  7. How does your product make decision-making easy? (not just a pretty interface.)

PLAY 5: Flexibility for changing your future

The only thing that customers know with some certainty, is that the future will be different to what you currently have. New technologies, ways of working and needs of your end users are bound to create change.

Continued success relies on continued change, but what sort of change? AES recommend not going for a knee-jerk reaction but for a considered, staged response to change. If you have a great idea as a start-up then go with it but be fleet of foot so you can change tack as circumstances dictate. If you are a large organization you can protect against an uncertain future with multiple smaller projects, any one of which could grow and blossom to increase your bottom line. If you are a council faced with budgetary issues, then perhaps work towards making your residents the agents of the changes you may need to make. A competent end user gives you a better chance of creating a smart outcome.

At AES we can talk with you about not over complicating your systems and processes, and not putting all you eggs in one basket. Not installing very large high cost single systems but instead installing multiple small systems and having smartphone apps available. Talking to your end users so they share in your goals, and gradually growing your systems by bridging in new ones to the existing network.

Key questions for customers:

  1. What is your biggest system? How much does it cost? How long are you locked in to it for?
  2. How are your products or services being made “future-proof”?
  3. Are they interoperable with other technologies and standards?
  4. Do you see any issues with multiple small systems or Apps which your end user can access?
  5. How can you get buy in from senior staff, peers, delivery teams to developing multiple small systems or Apps?
  6. What communication do you need between systems?
  7. Who can help you arrive at a standard, and are your systems / Apps capable of update to achieve this?

PLAY 6: Security and Privacy

Organisations using technology generally gather data either for use internally or for contacting end users. AES are very aware of our responsibility to support our customers with Security and Privacy, and so we protect any web servers we use so that only our customers can access the back-office elements of any system. AES is Cyber Essentials accredited.

Where customers allow end users to access their systems, we ensure that the end users can only see their own data and we build in GDPR level privacy procedures so that end users know how their data is being used and can ask for it to be removed.

Increasingly customers need to ensure that this approach is implemented in all their systems and any procedures where private information might be accidentally available to anyone other than the owner. Our advice is to collect as little data as possible to solve a particular problem.

Key questions for customers:

  1. What are your data-sharing and data-management policies?
  2. Do you have Privacy policies for staff and end users?
  3. How do you make people aware of your responsibilities via GDPR?
  4. Do you have a Security policy in place that you share with your suppliers?
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