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Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023 Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023
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Hallmarks of High-Performing Companies 2023
The Importance of Proactive Service

author - Emily Paxman
Emily Paxman
author - Marcus Hadfield
Marcus Hadfield
August 24, 2023 | Read Time: 8  minutes

Facing unprecedented staffing and financial challenges in an ever-changing HIT landscape, provider organizations have a critical need for proactive support and guidance from vendors. While KLAS data shows that most customers are generally satisfied with their vendor’s proactive service, roughly one-third are dissatisfied. This report highlights where proactive service failings occur, the impact of not proactively serving customers, and ways both provider organizations and vendors can better partner to get the most out of technology.

Note: This report is part of a KLAS series diving into the factors that drive HIT vendor excellence. Data shared below was collected in the last 12 months across all provider-focused software market segments KLAS measures (does not include services or payer solutions).

Proactive Vendors That Can Lead Customers to Success Are Vital in a Financially Strapped Market

HIT vendors should consistently strive to proactively address customer concerns and provide customers with the greatest likelihood of success. The importance of proactive service is evident in how top performers for proactive service perform across all areas. Proactive service is one of the KLAS questions that has the greatest impact on customers’ perception of their vendor’s performance in other areas. Vendors who consistently receive high marks from their customers for proactive service tend to also score well in other areas, including areas related to functionality and development, earning them an overall score 30 points higher (on a 100-point scale) than those who receive low marks for proactive service. This trend is consistent across organizations of different sizes, years live with the vendor, and other demographic differences, illustrating that proactive service is a critical differentiator in a crowded technology space. All vendors must continually evaluate and improve their own proactivity to become or remain high performers.

how does proactive service satisfaction ccorrelate with overall performance score?

Common Beliefs about Proactive Service Don’t Always Match Reality

Below are four commonly held views about proactive service that often don’t hold true in the actual customer experience. One common theme is that technology cannot remove the need for proactive service. While developing strong functionality is important, even vendors with the best technology must combine that with proactive service so customers can get the most out of their solutions. Without communication and partnership, organizations are left to their own devices, and vendors miss the opportunity to support a great technology experience. New releases alone are unlikely to solve customer experience problems.

Belief: If vendors deliver a superior product and the resources needed to use the product successfully, they can eliminate much of the need for proactive service and high-touch guidance.

Reality: Vendors can provide impactful proactive service by guiding customers beyond optimizing the core use of the product or improving the product. Respondents highlight proactive service such as monitoring and reviewing legislation/regulatory changes, identifying new integration opportunities, and sharing best practices from similar organizations.

Belief: Selling additional modules detracts from vendors’ support and their ability to proactively serve customers.

Reality: Vendors need to find the balance between selling more solutions and ensuring customers receive the service they need for the products they already have. Ensuring that customers have what they need is a way to proactively help them succeed. Respondents who are more satisfied with their vendor’s proactive service cite sales discussions with the vendor that feel evenly balanced in frequency and topic. Customers who are regularly pitched more solutions as well as those who aren’t ever pitched new offerings report less satisfaction with their vendor’s proactive service.

Belief: Proactive service adds only supplementary value to a core product and doesn’t require considerable, continued attention.

Reality: Effective proactive service underlies all parts of a vendor’s offering and requires continual, intentional focus. Respondents who have positive views of their vendor’s proactive service often mention their regular vendor interactions. Additionally, many say they have done extensive work alongside their vendor to reach their current state. The right cadence for vendor interactions will vary based on the market, complexity, and more. (See KLAS’ white paper on strengthening customer success management programs.)

Belief: Automation tools alone are sufficient to facilitate proactive service as vendors grow their customer base.

Reality: By itself, automation does not increase customer perception of a vendor being proactive. Automation should only be a part of a vendor’s strategy to provide proactive service. Many respondents say their vendor has automated proactive communication across different channels (e.g., customer meetings, webinars, user groups, emails), with many citing that as the only proactive service from their vendor. Communication channels that are most effective still facilitate a human connection between vendor and customer even when using automation. Customers report more satisfaction with automated communication that prompts them to take action.

To Best Differentiate Their Proactive Service, Vendors Need to Own Support Issues and Guide Customers to Improve Outcomes

Customers often highlight two keys that contribute to their perception of their vendor being proactive: (1) support responsiveness and follow-up and (2) the ability to meaningfully improve an organization’s outcomes and performance. When providing support, highly rated vendors demonstrate proactivity by establishing effective mechanisms to promptly acknowledge customer issues as well as providing regular status updates throughout the process of resolving problems. Additionally, these vendors empower their support teams to take ownership of problems, allowing them to escalate issues or call upon necessary resources as needed to effectively tackle challenges.

Understanding that customers seek guidance to optimize their success, proactive vendors go beyond just selling a product or service and provide valuable insights and recommendations to help their customers understand what is required to achieve their goals through regular check-up meetings, user groups, webinars, etc. Whether through communication channels or the technology itself, these vendors ensure the necessary reporting and analytics are available to keep customers aware of their performance. A lack of helpful reporting can leave customers questioning their solution’s value. A proactive approach to helping customers achieve outcomes fosters a strong partnership between a provider organization and their vendor, demonstrating a shared commitment to continual improvement and mutual success.

commonly reported factors influencing customer satisfaction with vendor proactivity

Customer Confidence in Vendors Is Enhanced by Shared Vision and Diminished by Poor Upgrades

When a vendor proactively communicates their development road map, their customers’ likelihood to recommend the solution and incorporate it into their long-term plans significantly increases. A shared vision creates confidence in the technology’s ability to meet future needs and enables effective planning for broader technology strategies, IT resource allocation, desired outcomes, and software budgeting. Regular meetings foster a collaborative environment where vendors address current needs and provide transparency into future plans. Customers don’t want a sales-oriented approach from vendors but do see selling and communication about future plans as an important part of their partnership with technology vendors.

The upgrade experience also affects customers’ retention and willingness to buy. Clear communication during upgrades about changes, impacts, and training minimizes disruptions and ensures the optimal performance of the system. Moreover, customers value vendors who actively share information on identified bugs from upgrades, as the communication fosters trust and strengthens the vendor-customer relationship.

how proactive service challenges impact retention & evangelism

A Holistic, Comprehensive Plan for Proactive Engagement Increases Customer Success and Satisfaction

Although the responsibility for proactive service largely lies with vendors, provider organizations also can take action to better partner with vendors and enable them to more proactively meet their own needs.

Best Practices for Vendors

  • Schedule customer meetings on a mutually agreed upon cadence to ensure consistent, regular communication with customers. Prioritize these meetings appropriately, and avoid allowing other tasks to take precedence over this critical time with customers.
  • Ensure customer meetings include strategic guidance discussions. Before meetings, ask customers for specific questions, and prepare insightful content to share. Follow up on unanswered customer questions.
  • Allocate time for staff to monitor and identify industry trends, and prepare relevant resources for customers.
  • Utilize a variety of communication channels to share critical or time-sensitive information. Where possible, implement a user action that can be monitored to verify whether customers receive and understand the communication.
  • Determine and implement a strategy and schedule for sales communications that best fits customers’ needs and prioritizes their success over short-term benefits.
  • Note important events that will affect customers (i.e., product updates), and integrate information on those into staff’s workflows and communications. Create a process for handling variable events (staff changes, emergency outage, etc.), and consider how these can best be integrated into a customer’s communications and relationship.
  • Own mistakes and other shortcomings when they arise, and communicate with appropriate transparency as quickly as possible.

Best Practices for Provider Organizations

  • Appropriately document and manage important communications from vendors and act accordingly.
  • Where possible, implement any suggested actions and provide timely communications to vendors of any issues or challenges.
  • Assign internal resources to be the vendor’s point of contact, and empower that individual/group to act accordingly on behalf of the organization.
  • Clearly communicate needed resources (i.e., information, content, fixes) to vendors. Ensure that needs are delineated clearly. If an outcome isn’t being realized, be sure to highlight it and ask for additional assistance.
  • Prioritize meetings with the vendor and strive to not let other priorities cloud the scheduled time.
  • Inform vendors of the best communication channels to ensure important information is captured and reviewed.

About This Report

Each year, KLAS interviews thousands of healthcare professionals about the IT solutions and services their organizations use. For this report, interviews were conducted over the last 12 months using KLAS’ standard quantitative evaluation for healthcare software, which is composed of 16 numeric ratings questions and 4 yes/no questions, all weighted equally. Combined, the ratings for these questions make up the overall performance score, which is measured on a 100-point scale. The questions are organized into six customer experience pillars—culture, loyalty, operations, product, relationship, and value.

customer experience pillars software

This report (part of a KLAS series diving into the factors that drive HIT vendor excellence) focuses specifically on whether provider organization customers feel their vendor provides proactive service and how vendors can be successful in this area. Data was collected in the last 12 months across all provider-focused software market segments KLAS measures (does not include services or payer solutions).

author - Carlisa Cramer
Carlisa Cramer
author - Jess Wallace-Simpson
Jess Wallace-Simpson
author - Andrew Wright
Project Manager
Andrew Wright
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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2024 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.