CloudTrade Podcast - Episode 5 - Customer experience

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

Watch the podcast here, if you’d prefer to read about what was discussed, please read on.

In the fifth episode of CloudTrade's CTTV podcast, Richard Craig, Chief Operating Officer, talks with Steve Britton, Director of Sales, about the role of positive customer experience. They discuss CloudTrade's commitment to being completely transparent, how their aim is to provide their customers with all the information they need, and how they are asking for and responding to customer feedback.

Steve: Richard, good morning. Welcome, to I think this is our 4th podcast in the series of CloudTrade TV to talk about the industry as a bit of thought leadership, and as an information forum for our listeners to understand what CloudTrade is doing, and how we go to market.

So Richard you're the Chief Operating Officer of the company. You've been with us a couple of years now is it?

Richard: I want to say that I'm coming up to my 4-year anniversary. I think that is the beginning of July - so not too far away from it now.

Steve: Time flies when you're having fun! That time has definitely gone by quickly and there's been an awful lot of changes in the company, and we have moved office.

Richard: More than once!

Steve: You've been spearheading on that. And we’ve grown our headcount quite significantly over that period of time. So, a really interesting time for the company.

“Without customers, our businesses are not going to grow”

The title of this podcast is Customer Experience, or CX as is the acronym commonly used in the market today. It’s a really important area, and I was thinking about it this morning. I suppose customer experience in times gone-by was a bit of a cliché. The UK wasn't very good at it. I remember as a youngster going to the US and seeing a completely different approach to customer experience. I'm glad to say that globally the world has woken up because customer is king at the end of the day. Without customers, our businesses are not going to grow. So I thought that was a great title for this podcast.

Indeed in your role, customer experience - from sales engage with the customer and hand over to operations - that's your domain and your job is to make sure our customers stay happy throughout the journey and for a long time,

So I really just wanted to start off with asking you a question. We've been around 10 years now, which is great and we've had success. We’ve grown in that period of time, and I think our retention rate has been nearly 100%. I believe in that 10 years we've lost one customer.

Richard: Yes, it’s pretty close to that. So we must be doing something right. That's the way I look at it.

Steve: I think that one customer actually changed their business model so our service wasn't right for them.

So I am just really interested to hear from you about what your view is of customer experience and how the operations team are working to provide the experience that we want our customers to have, not only in the early stages of delivery, but throughout their time with us. Richard, over to you on that one.

Richard: Basically, customers pay our wages don’t they, and I think sometimes companies lose sight of that. They don't treat their customers well. Once they've got their customer’s business through the door and they have signed their cheque, they feel they don't need to do anything with them.

But if you've got happy customers that can benefit you as a company in a lot of different ways. Obviously, we work through predominately a partnership scheme, so our customers are our partners. By working closely with them, making sure they are getting excellent service from us, dealing with their problems and looking to get feedback from them, we cement that relationship. We make it stickier. When they are going out and they are looking for their next piece of business, when they think about CloudTrade not only do they remember we have a great technology solution and can help them out in a lot of situations, but actually, when they think about us, I'm sure they think what a great group of people to work with: they're very responsive; they're always thinking of new bits of technology; and when we come to them with problems, they've got a yes-culture there; they don't look at problems and go, no, that's not something we do; we enjoy getting problems there, because it means that we can look at new solutions and we can work with them.

“It is important that when somebody comes to you with a question, you explain what's going on”

So once you've got that relationship, that benefits everybody. The customer is having a great time. They’re keen to do more business with us, and put more projects our way. We want to work with them because we've got a good relationship. So one of the things that we drill into the guys here, is that it is important to build those relationships with customers. It’s important to work with them about problems. It is important that when somebody comes to you with a question, you explain what's going on. You look at alternative solutions, and you look at how we can work together. You don’t just have a shut-door mentality, saying this is fractionally outside what we do on day-to-day basis, say we are not interested. We are completely different.

As I say, our customers are our partners. We work with them as much as possible to make sure that everything works well.

Steve: You're absolutely right and, yes, businesses looking after their customers is really important. But you raised a point there that people buy from people, at the end of the day, and it's building that relationship that is so important. We see customers come back to us time and time again because of that relationship. And it's not just about us having empathy with the specific solution we're delivering. We really want to understand the end-to-end business process that we're engaging with with the customer to ensure that whatever we provide, delivers against our customer’s outcomes. That's so important, and that's why we've retained, I believe, customers for such a long period of time.

So, moving that forward, no company can stand still. We continue to improve and I know we've got lots of programmes that we’re due to launch in 2021, so that's really exciting. And we'll talk about those in future podcasts I have no doubt. But in terms of customer experience, and just looking at the near- and medium-term road map, what are your plans in terms of improving that experience of enhancing the engagement with customers, and indeed in giving them more information, more feedback, around how the service is performing, as an example?

Richard: Yes, so there’re a few things there. One of the things we accept at CloudTrade is that we do need to make sure that we maintain these relationships with our customers and we're always looking at ways to improve. What I've set up recently is an innovation group and there's various parts to it. One is a customer success group, which is looking to work with our sales team and looking to get feedback from their customers and the markets, to make sure that what we are providing, and what the service is providing, is meeting people's needs. Parallel to that, internally, we've got a group which is going to be focusing on improving the technology, the processes, the experience that customers have with us. And the key thing about all of that - the way that we are going to improve things - is that we are going to be talking to customers.

We already do this a little bit because we've got a customer-satisfaction survey which goes out, I think every six months or so, to all of our customers, which gives them a great opportunity to give us feedback and give us metrics about what's going on, how they're finding our tools, where there are any particular areas that we can help them with. That's good, but I don't think it's a substitute for actually sitting down, obviously virtually, with your customers and talking about how they use our tools in their day-to-day processes, and how do they not use them? Why do they not use them for some things, but maybe for other things? What are the blockers that they see on a day-to-day basis?

“… people can be using our tools but not to their full potential. And sometimes it's because they're not aware of that.”

Because what we found, from having these conversations with people, is that people can be using our tools but not to their full potential. And sometimes it's because they're not aware of that. It's sometimes because - and we're all guilty of this - you get caught up in the day-to-day and you’re just dealing with the problem in front of you, and sometimes you need somebody to come in and talk to you about what those problems are, so you can take a step back and say that well, actually, I had this problem every day, but I’ve just solved it. Those are the kind of things that we can look to automate, by working with our partners.

So I'm very excited about that. And you know, we've done some of this in the past, but what I'm looking to do over the next year is turning it into a really structured piece of work. We’ve got dedicated resource put on it now. It's one of those things that it's easy to put in the nice-to-have bucket, but actually we’ve recognized that this is essential work that needs to be done. It needs to have people dedicated to doing it.

“… you're getting feedback from the market and you’re feeding that information into a product team…”

Steve: So what I hear there, which is really exciting, is both a customer success management role or focused approach, but also continued service improvement. So that, as you say, you're getting feedback from the market and you’re feeding that information into a product team, and to our development team. So we are listening to our customers and delivering that as part of our road map. Really exciting. As a customer, as a user, sometimes we are processing business-critical documents and clearly we have SLAs agreed with our customers based on the service we're delivering to them.

Just talk to me a little bit about what we do today and how you see reporting improving. So, things like our service packs, things about the average time documents were processed, the SLAs, that type of information that you think would be valuable to a customer, not to beat CloudTrade up with, but really just to get a deep insight into that partnership role. How are we performing there? What can we do collectively to add additional value to the service that we provide?

Richard: Yes, great points there. So, you know me, I love data. I love the spreadsheet. I love analyzing stuff. So all the things I'm very keen on. Obviously at the moment we do provide quite good information to all our customers in a monthly service pack. If people do have reporting requirements, in specific areas of their service, we’re always happy to work with them, to set up bespoke reporting.

“…if there are things that we need to work on together, everybody's got the relevant information…”

But could we go further with it? Absolutely. I think we've been doing some great stuff internally and have touched on a few things here, looking at the service as a whole, identifying processing times and looking at where those are a little bit outside of where we would expect is a good example. I think where we want to get to is the transparency, where we are just sharing all of that with our customers - firstly, because we're proud of it, and we should be because we are very good at the service, but, also, having that courage to share it with customers means that we're not trying to hide problems from people. What we want to do is have everybody see what's going on, so that if there are things that we need to work on together, everybody's got the relevant information. Everybody can work together on those solutions.

So, that's a big area that we're looking into, and we’ve obviously set up our reporting on PowerBI, which is really great tool, very intuitive, and one of the mini projects that we've actually got on the road map is again working with customers, talking to them about what is the information that they want, because it's very easy to give a lot of information out there. I could send you a million reports about your account, but if that's not giving any value to the customer, if it’s not a question that they want the answer to, all we are doing is probably hiding the important stuff within all of that.

So, we've got the tools. We've obviously got the data behind us. So it's all about working with the customer at the moment, to understand what they need, tailoring that, and then we can start circulating these reports out. So that's a good example of one of the things that we're doing in the coming months.

“… I love that: transparency, the openness…”

Steve: Fantastic, and I love that: transparency, the openness. You use this word a few times today: pride. We’re very proud at CloudTrade of the fact that we are open and we're transparent and probably the last question today is around that. What are your thoughts on a wiki, or a user forum where people can share information about you, about their experience of the service, and also how they've overcome particular challenges, where other customers can benefit from that knowledge?

Richard: Yes, so again, another one of the projects that we're going to be working on this year is getting a lot of our documentation and support online, so that it's really easily accessible to our customers - putting in place: articles, videos, examples, so that people can access that a lot easier. And I think there's a natural evolution from there, isn't there? Once we've taken that initial step, and got some collateral out there that people can look at it, of course we want people's feedback about whether it was useful, whether it's solved their problem, whether it didn't, whether they actually managed to solve it in a different way - all those kind of things, which I think will naturally evolve out of that, making all that sort of information a lot easier to access, and having a tool that people can go on and find it on.

Steve: Fantastic. And you see there being a full rollout, providing information online, and moving forward into the wiki etc in 2021?

“… I think towards the end of this year we'll see something being launched…”

Richard: Yes, there's obviously work to do there. And yes, we've started some of it, and we've done a lot of work in the last couple years about creating that for the internal resource, so we've got experience on how to build it out. And now we're coming to the end of that. We've managed to get all of that information out of people's heads and written down somewhere which has been great. So the next stage is looking at the customer-facing stuff. And I think towards the end of this year we'll see something being launched, hopefully.

Steve: Fantastic. Richard, really deep insight there in terms of what we're doing around: customer experience; the roadmap that we have planned; the transparency. Long may that continue.

Thank you for your time this morning. We talked earlier on about making sure that in these podcasts we present some happiness and positivity. I think we've done that today, but also looking at your background compared to mine you’re definitely in a happy place there, so thanks again for your time today, Richard.

Richard: No problem, great to chat as always.

Steve: Speak soon.

Watch the latest podcast episode in full below: