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“Obsession” is not a word I use lightly. In my experience, taking a truly “customer obsessed” approach was the only way our business was able to fully 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, we offered on-premise video conferencing technology, but as cloud solutions and services gained traction among increasingly mobile and globally distributed workforces, we knew we had to reinvent ourselves as a SaaS solution or close our doors for good.

After shifting our product strategy, restructuring our internal organisation and parting with our parent company, we have 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. We are also adding new customers every month, and we’ve surpassed industry medians for growth rates of annual recurring revenue.

There were a number of factors that helped us gain the leadership position we have today, including shifts within the marketplace, such as 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, which combined, 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, and the way we do that is through customer obsession. In essence, we listen to what our customers are saying and focus our entire operation on this obsession — making sure the customer is happy above all else.

It sounds simple in theory, but execution is another story.

Those familiar with our customer success programme 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.

Make it a full company effort

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 the 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 who has transformed our customer service programmes.

They implemented a multifaceted customer support programme 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 frontline tech support folks to make critical, time-sensitive decisions without having to wait for manager approval. Our CSAs are actually evaluated on the ARR pulled in for their respective clients as one way to ensure they’re performing the best for 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.

Put skin in the game with a guarantee

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 SoftLayer, an IBM company, 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% availability for our video conferencing customers with Extreme Support, subject to limited exceptions. If we don’t deliver on that, the customer is eligible for a 10% service credit of their monthly contract value toward the next annual subscription renewal.

Take the community approach

A proactive, collaborative approach is the best way to approach customer feedback. We developed Lifesize Community as an online forum for customers to ask questions and provide feedback. The crucial part is to listen to it. Customer feedback in the community is one of the most important drivers of our product roadmap. 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 product 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 customer trust, but there are many other factors critical to growing our business. Ultimately, 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.

 

By Craig Malloy, CEO, Lifesize