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Customer Orientation in Software Development

Customer satisfaction comes from focusing on clients’ needs, and is a cornerstone of any enduring customer relationship. Here at MailStore, we’re gratified that so many of our customers have been using MailStore for such a long time. In addition to a fair and serious pricing policy, our focus on providing a top-rated technical support to the customer helps ensure that small and mid-sized businesses remain loyal to MailStore. Indeed, the head of IT at the Solinger Tageblatt attested to the outstanding quality of MailStore’s technical support; not only in terms of competency and response times, but also customer orientation and friendliness.

Successful Software Development is not Just About Writing Good Code

Daniel Weuthen, Director of Engineering
Combines agile software development with elements of design thinking: Daniel Weuthen, Director of Engineering at MailStore.

It goes without saying that customer orientation is always important in areas where companies come into direct contact with their clients. But in product development too – in our case, when developing our email archiving software – focusing on the clients’ needs is the key to success, something that Daniel Weuthen, Director of Engineering at MailStore, reiterates: “Today, being successful at developing software is no longer just about writing good code, it’s about offering customers fully functioning solutions that are perfectly tailored to their needs.” An important distinction here is whether a company is developing individual software “to order”, or – as is the case with MailStore – is producing standard software designed to cover a broad range of customers and industry segments. According to Daniel Weuthen, the situation at MailStore is special: “We have a very heterogeneous clientele; there’s no such thing as an ‘average customer’”.

Agile Software Development Combined With Elements of Design Thinking

This being the case, models such as design thinking don’t always fit the bill at MailStore. “That’s not to say we can’t adopt certain aspects of design thinking and adapt these to our needs,” says Daniel Weuthen, adding that, as with agile working methods, we should refrain from taking too dogmatic an approach to such models. “Looking at the software from the perspective of a user’s, i.e. a customer’s needs is an important element when it comes to designing new MailStore software or upgrading existing components.” Channeling this concept into the development process calls for a continuous exchange of information between Technical Support and the development department. At regular meetings, Technical Support relays customer feedback on a specific process (very often in the form of feature requests) to the team of developers. This direct transfer of customer feedback from support cases helps the development team to generate new ideas that focus exclusively on the customer. What’s more, as Technical Support is also involved in beta testing, the customer’s point of view is taken into account in that process as well.

Feature Requests are Checked for Relevance

But not every user request can be fully realized. The reasons are manifold, but essentially have to do with the fact that email archiving software is highly complex, with any updates and modifications often having an impact on all the other functions in the construct. What’s more, requests submitted by customers are often highly specific and subjective in nature, and it’s a judgment call whether these feature requests really apply to a majority of all the different customers.

The Status Report: An Example of an Implemented Customer Request

Status report of MailStore Server
Customer’s feature requets resulted in the development of the status report in the MailStore software.

An example of a feature implemented in response to a client request is the status report in MailStore Server and the MailStore Service Provider Edition (SPE). A status report is basically a summary of the most important information concerning an email archive that can be emailed to a specific group of individuals at regular intervals. The MailStore admin can decide how often the report is sent out, i.e. daily or weekly. The report may include, for example, information on the license, the installed MailStore version, the compliance settings, and the most recent archiving profiles and jobs executed. Many IT administrators approached us with the request to have an error message issued each time an archiving procedure failed or was executed incorrectly. However, the reasons for such errors are many and varied, and are often temporary in nature: for example, they can have their origin in the email server or in network connectivity, and to receive an error message each time something like that happened would only distort users’ perception of a solution that otherwise operates perfectly smoothly. With this in mind and a desire to comply with the request, the development team headed by Daniel Weuthen got together and devised the “status reports” feature, which takes account of the customer request, the functionality of the technology, and usability.

Heterogeneous Teams Encourage Client Orientation

“The heterogeneous structure of our engineering team also plays a part in customer orientation,” reckons the Director of Engineering, who has been with MailStore for ten years. “We set great store by recruiting people from different vocational backgrounds, from the practitioner who has experience as an IT administrator at a mid-sized company, to a doctor of physics”. MailStore’s heterogeneous structure ensures that the design of its email archiving software is scrutinized from many different angles. In addition, public meetings known as sprint reviews take place in which staff from other departments of the company can find out about the current state of play in development and give their feedback. This allows different opinions and viewpoints to be channeled into the development process – the final result being email archiving software which, thanks to our focus on the customer, garners broad-based user acceptance.

If we’ve aroused your curiosity and you’d like to get to know our software, then why not take part in one of our free webinars for MailStore Server or the MailStore Service Provider Edition? Or take advantage of our free, 30-day trial license at no obligation.

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