The announcement this week of the appointment of Lyanne Naiker as customer support manager was the culmination of several months of work at our head office in Cape Town.
The late Steve Jobs once said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way round”.
And we heartily agree with this ethos.
So over the past few months we took a good look at our processes and asked ourselves a very simple question.
Is the customer experience of our clients the very best it can be?
And the upshot is that we could do better.
Our focus on providing the very best, cutting edge technology had perhaps clouded (no pun intended) our vision and we had lost sight of what is most important of all – what our clients experience.
So with the words of Geoff Ramm of Celebrity Style Service ringing in our ears, we studied every interaction we have with our clients from the moment they find out about us to when they send in a support request – and even pay their monthly license fee.
We asked our clients what they thought of us and what we could do better.
And we asked our staff what they thought Merlin Software was about.
And why did we do this? Because it makes sense at every level in a business operation. We know that:
- Customer experience is now the critical business differentiator because no one can successfully compete on products and or price alone;
- Negative experiences get quickly and broadly shared among people;
- 89 per cent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience;
- After a poor customer experience, 26 per cent posted negative complaints on a social networking site like Facebook or Twitter; and
- 50 per cent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.
We realised early on that customer experience is not just about support. It is the cumulative result of the collective effort. So everybody’s individual contribution is critically important.
Customer experience is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.
So we decided it was time to change the focus. Set ourselves apart from our competitors and make the customers’ experience of Merlin so great that they all want to show off to their peers.
And this is what we have done:
We looked at our mission statement and asked the staff “why are we in business?” This is their response:
Our mission is to develop innovative software that will enhance the operations of our clients and to deliver, at all times, a memorable customer experience.
Then we looked at our core values – the essence of our identity and what Merlin is all about. This is what our staff came up with:
- We are passionate about innovation and pursuing new and creative ideas that have the potential to change the industry;
- We are committed to providing the very best customer experience;
- We strive to be excellent in everything that we do;
- We accept responsibility for the actions, products, decisions and policies of individual as well as the company as a whole; and
- We encourage employees to use their initiative, lead and make decisions.
We are no longer just about providing the best software. We must also provide the very best customer experience – from the initial point of contact to installation and training through to support and working with customers to develop new generic and custom enhancements.
Then we looked again at ourselves and realised that giving the best customer experience isn’t just about improving a few customer-facing business processes or eliminating a few common causes of customer complaints.
Everyone from the top down must make the customer experience a core competency and a passion. If a team member is not passionate about the customer experience and making sure that Merlin is the number one provider in this area, then Merlin Software is not the business for them.
And we have begun to survey our clients on a regular basis to see how we are progressing. If you do receive one of these surveys, please take the time to complete it. We value the feedback.
Having listened to Geoff Ramm we realised that we must treat our clients as celebrities – go that extra bit further for them and be amazing every day in the roles that we play.
Why, we asked, should someone from a resort in Scotland or Australia be treated any differently from George Clooney or Charlize Theron if they were ever in the market for timeshare software?
So this is where Lyanne comes in. While support is just one part of the entire customer experience, it is an important touch point for our clients.
Lyanne will make sure that the support team provides an excellent customer experience with the highest levels of celebrity-style, extreme support and communication. She will ensure that we ask how we can help you, how we can solve that problem and take responsibility to ensure a satisfactory outcome.
Many tech companies say they are fanatical about support but we want to go further than that. So we have recently introduced new staff support guidelines that will increase the speed that support logs are completed. Any logs that are not completed within our new time frame will be escalated to our top management team to ensure our customers get the very best – or should I say – celebrity support.
While we are passionate about innovation and developing new creative ideas that will change the way our customers work, we realize that it is equally important to ensure that they have a positive experience when using our software or seeking assistance and support.
Historically our focus has been on our technology but we are shifting this focus and making a company-wide commitment to ensuring that no client should ever find himself or herself lost, confused and alone with our software. The appointment of Lyanne Naiker as customer support manager establishes the foundation for this initiative.
Let the journey begin.