When I started at Dixa as VP of Product and Customer Success, it was to bridge the gap between what the customers wanted and what was being developed. Having worked in the customer service industry for more than 20 years, both as a team member and as a Customer Service Manager, I had insight and experience in an area that none of the Dixa developers had.
As Product Owner I quickly became involved in creating tasks for new features, feature improvements and bug fixing, prioritizing these tasks and testing them. Today I facilitate our daily stand-up meetings and go through our current tasks and backlog with the CEO on a regular basis. We use the parts of SCRUM and agile development that work best for us.
As Customer Success Owner I began to take part in sales meetings. This usually consists of listening to what support channels and systems the customer is currently using, understanding their needs and requirements and doing a thorough demo of our platform. Based on this dialogue we determine if there is a good match between their needs and our solution. Because we want to be transparent and make our customers happy, we do our best to avoid acquiring customers who are not the right fit for our product.
A customer-centric approach to sales & support
By taking part in sales meetings we have learned it is a lot easier to have a dialogue Customer Service Manager to Customer Service Manager than it is Customer Service Manager to Sales Manager. Since I have experienced many of the same situations and am familiar with the issues of managing a contact center, it is easier to relate to our customer's needs and requirements.
Sales meetings are also very much like focus groups because we use a lot of the feedback and input we receive from customers on our product development. And in this instance, it actually doesn't matter if they become customers or not because we gain invaluable insights from these meetings. I'm sure our Dixa salesman who also takes part in these meetings doesn't agree with me though!
Since we are a growing startup, I also answer customer calls, chats and emails most days. Fortunately, I have recently gotten some help. However, I am still very hands on with our customers on a regular basis.
Lastly, I do on-premise onboarding for customers who need help with setting up the system and training their team members. It is very important for us that new customers get a good start with Dixa. This entails me helping them set up the system including queues, call flows and chat flows for their particular needs. I also do group and individual training of new team members as well.
Additionally, there is a period right after a new customer goes live, where there can be a lot of questions from the users. I assist with these questions to help customers transition with minimal stress. After a customer has spent a couple of weeks using the system, I often help with making minor adjustments to the setup. This ensures the platform has the ideal setup for the customer’s needs.
Achieving customer-centric product development
When it comes to product development, we have a few internal unwritten rules and questions we always ask ourselves:
1. Is the feature for a current customer?
We don’t want our product development to be inside out. Therefore, our first rule is that we only develop features that have been requested by one or more customers. This also allows us to ask our customers how they would like this feature to be implemented to create the most value for them and their customers. We do occasionally have some tasks that improve infrastructure and stability. They do not have a receiver but are still necessary to maintain continuous operation of our systems.
2. What value does this create for our customers?
When we create a task, we make sure to be very explicit in describing what this particular feature should achieve and how it creates value for the customers. Once we create a new task, we assign each task with a “CV” tag or “customer value” tag to help prioritize tasks. When we start developing a new feature, often times it can consist of several smaller tasks. When it makes sense, we ask our existing customers in what order the development will create the most value for them. We then look at how much effort it takes to develop and match that with the value it creates. Tasks with high customer value and low development effort are prioritized first.
3. Does the feature work across channels?
Features that work across all the channels we support in most cases creates more value for more customers than features that only work for one channel. If possible, we try to see, how a new feature can be utilized in multiple channels. For instance, our Quick Response makes it possible to create a template with commonly used replies. Quick Responses work in the same way for email and chat. Our rich text editor is also identical in chat and email. This creates a consistent user experience in our platform across all channels.
4. Is the feature requested by more than one customer?
We map the feature requests that come from our customers and the features that multiple customers request are prioritized higher than others. This led us to develop Call Recording, Customer Signatures and Quick Responses before other feature requests that were not as popular among our customers. Always keeping the customer’s needs in mind is vital in product development because they are the primary users of the product.
How to scale a customer-centric strategy
With Dixa we have built a platform where a new customer with no onboarding or training was able to roll out a service department on two continents with 17 local numbers in 14 countries and go from zero to more than 3,000 conversations in only one week. Although it is possible to do this with our platform, many customers need more assistance throughout the onboarding and go live phase. For those customers, I provide in person assistance during the implementation phase and am their single point of contact. This strategy can work well when there are not a lot of customers, but it is not a scalable solution as I cannot always be a customer's single point of contact.
With the number of customers we currently have now, it is already not possible for me to respond to all the feature requests and product questions I receive directly from customers. We have tried to help our customers by providing 24-hour in-app support. Our support team members on the 24-hour chat can't help with all issues, but they provide a valuable "filter" so we can focus on product development and sales without being interrupted as frequently. Most of our new customers understand and accept this form of communication, and it means they get their issue addressed more quickly. Moving forward, the most important thing for us is to make sure our Customer Success Processes are scalable. This will be done by creating a formal customer success plan and involving our customers in the development process.
Creating a formal customer success plan
This plan will be given to new customers and used to align expectations between our customers and our Customer Success Team. This way customers will know exactly what kind of support they can expect and who they can get support from every step of the way. By implementing a scalable plan like this, we can ensure customers get the support they need when they need it, while managing their expectations.
Involving customers in the development process
We currently involve our customers in the development process by gathering customer feedback through contact forms and emails. On our website, we have a contact form where customers can request features from a list. We use those responses to get an overview of what features customers want from the platform.
To further utilize our customers in the development process, we have implemented a tool, Receptive, where we invite some of our users to add feature requests and prioritize existing feature requests according to their needs. This tool also makes it possible to share our product development roadmap with our customers so they know when they can expect a certain feature to be implemented. Having customers prioritize feature requests has the benefit of taking us from a ‘gut feeling’ of what features we think are most important to customers, to a feeling of truly knowing what features are most important to customers. As our product and customer base grows, this will become an invaluable tool in our future product development.