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September 26, 2016
“Obsession” is not a word I use lightly. However, in my experience, taking a truly “customer obsessed” approach was the only way our business was able to thrive.
Our need to become customer-obsessed was ignited by some of our biggest “fail” moments with regard to truly understanding and responding to our customer needs. Beginning in 2003, Lifesize offered on-premises videoconferencing technology, but as cloud solutions and services gained traction among increasingly mobile and globally distributed workforces, we knew we had to reinvent Lifesize as a SaaS solution or close our doors for good.
By shifting our product strategy, restructuring our internal organization and parting with our parent company, Logitech, we made great strides in the market. To date, we have more than doubled the number of paying customer accounts on the Lifesize flagship cloud platform, to more than 3,500. We are also adding more than 140 new customers every month, and we’ve surpassed industry medians for annual recurring revenue growth rates.
A number of factors helped us make these strides. They include shifts within the marketplace — in particular, the convergence of meeting technologies from independent apps and delivery systems for audio, web and video conferencing; chat; and recording and streaming to a unified platform. Combined, this is forecasted to be a $9 billion global market by 2019.
But even with market trends on our side, we needed more than a winning product to continue to grow. The way we do that is through customer obsession. In essence, we listen closely to what our customers are saying and focus our entire operation on one mission: making sure the customer is happy above all else.
It sounds simple in theory, but execution is another story.
Those familiar with Lifesize’s customer-success program today would be surprised to learn that customer satisfaction hasn’t always been our strong suit. In the “Dark Ages” of our customer service initiatives (or lack thereof), we left much to be desired. Our support email alias was rarely checked, and our Net Promoter score was an abysmal negative-4.
I’m proud to say we’ve since made significant changes to the way we serve our customers — changes that have raised our Customer Support Net Promoter score to an impressive 70. So let me walk through the three major pillars of how we did that.
To become customer-obsessed, you need to bring everyone on board, from your executives on down. Everybody has to have customer satisfaction chief in their hearts and minds — after all, it’s customers who keep the lights on. In order to do this, we created a new position dedicated to this notion, bringing on Chief Customer Success and Happiness Officer Amy Downs, who has transformed our customer service programs.
Amy implemented a multifaceted customer support program to ensure that clients get the appropriate, high-touch service they need. We also hired customer success advocates (CSAs) to help customers get the most value out of our solution throughout their life cycle, and we empowered front-line tech support folks to make critical, time-sensitive decisions without having to wait for manager approval.
Our CSAs are actually evaluated on the annual recurring revenue pulled in for their respective clients as one way to ensure they’re truly serving our customers. We also work closely with our partner network to ensure small companies are getting the same personal, hands-on service as enterprise clients.
It takes more than confidence in your product to gain customer trust — it sends a strong signal when you put your money where your mouth is. While our partnership with IBM SoftLayer gives us utmost confidence in delivering the best possible performance, reliability, scalability and security, we go beyond that with our service level agreement (SLA) for enterprise customers, one of the first in our industry. Our SLA guarantees 99.9 percent availability for our videoconferencing customers with Extreme Support, subject to limited exceptions. If we don’t deliver on that, the customer is eligible for a 10 percent service credit of their monthly contract value toward the next annual subscription renewal.
A proactive, collaborative approach is the best way to handle customer feedback. We developed Lifesize Community as an online forum for customers to ask questions and provide feedback.
The crucial part is to really listen to what customers are telling you.
Customer feedback in the community is one of the most important drivers of our product road map. In the last 12 months, more than 30 of our product enhancements were discussed in our forums. Our product-management team monitors the forum daily and responds to customers’ questions on product features, upcoming releases and general inquiries. When we make improvements or updates to our products, we announce them to the community to show our commitment to their satisfaction. We use both our forum and our newsletters for these announcements.
Having a solid product is at the heart of gaining your customer’s trust, of course, but there are many other factors critical to growing a business. Ultimately, for us, it comes down to making a great service that we know our customers will use, and then standing by it. That’s the core of how we at Lifesize have more than doubled our customer base: By reminding ourselves every day that we’re in it for our customers, and showing it in how we support them.
Craig Malloy is CEO of Lifesize and is on a mission to reinvent the video communications industry. Craig started Lifesize in 2003, oversaw its acquisition by Logitech in 2009 and served as CEO until 2012. Drawn back by his unceasing passion for the industry and reinventing video technology, he returned to Lifesize in 2014.
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