Mike Rivisto and Jessica Countess, ServiceChannel
Recently, our Chief Customer Officer, Ashvin Vaidyanathan, met with Mike Rivisto, Senior Vice President, Customer Success, and Services at ServiceChannel along with their Senior Director of Customer Success, Jessica Countess. While their recent NPS score of 73.8 is incredibly amazing by itself, the underlying game-changing story lies in:
- How ServiceChannel obtained a 52% response rate on their NPS Survey
- How they reached this level of customer engagement
- The business impact from these wins
Even Mike Rivisto was more interested in the response rate as opposed to the actual score, “because to me, the response rate is actually an engagement rate.”
ServiceChannel is the number one facilities management platform that helps businesses source, procure, manage, and pay for facility maintenance and repair services. They serve varied levels of every industry, from commercial contractors across their enterprise. They provide a real-time, web-based view of service data with respect to all trades, locations, and contractors. This allows facilities managers to drive significant brand equity and ROI for their organizations without outsourcing or investing in new infrastructure. Their platform, like Gainsight, is a business-impacting tool for their clients.
With a large number of customers in a variety of industries, keeping customers happy and healthy can be quite a challenge. That is why Mike and Jessica were so excited to share information about their recent milestones and “why Gainsight has been such a great partner in our progress, year over year.” Gainsight has helped ServiceChannel further enrich their customer relationships and improve their CS motion. Their commitment to understanding the real voice of the customer is reflected in ServiceChannel’s position as a category leader and their most recent survey results.
Initially, Mike and Jessica shared their exciting information internally. However, one of the first things they had to do was to explain what an NPS was to the rest of the company, as well as the significance of the number.
An Incredible Response Rate
Not long ago, companies, especially B2Bs, weren’t using customer surveys in the most opportune way. They were missing the ability to gather the ultimate feedback on customer relationships. Since then, companies have caught on and remarkably improved their survey methods. Surveys became so popular that companies went into overdrive in their use. Every time a customer purchased something or had an interaction online or in-person, they were sent a survey. Companies were guilty of over surveying their customers. Still, with all the survey data at their disposal, businesses were not consistent in using the gathered information to improve the customer experience. Simply said, most companies were great at surveying their customers but failed to turn customer feedback into real and meaningful action.
ServiceChannel realized that they first had to improve customer response rates, which they believe is a direct proxy to a customers’ level of engagement. They sought to attain more diverse feedback and feel more confident in the survey results, positive or negative. ServiceChannel re-crafted and distributed their survey using Gainsight’s Journey Orchestrator. In fact, their customer response percentage was “incredible.”
The response rate was over 50 percent. Even more astounding was that this was across six hundred participants. Some customers did receive the survey more than once because ServiceChannel had more than one primary response factor. But if it is calculated at about 500 customers in the census, the response rate was close to 52%.
This is the highest survey participation rate ServiceChannel has ever had through an NPS survey. Jessica stated that when examining the survey score itself the number of detractors was the lowest it’s ever been. Meaning, they had more promoters than they realized. This is huge because it can impact the business significantly by generating customer-led growth by drawing from a larger sample of promoters than ever before.
What Was The Difference This Time Around?
ServiceChannel worked diligently at operationalizing the survey itself. First, their CSMs made sure that customers knew a survey was coming via email. ServiceChannel also encouraged customers by letting them know that it was an important email for them to fill out, that it was an important score to them, and not just a throwaway number. The team also made sure that it was short in length and easy to understand.
Mike explained that the focal point of the questions was items that gave visibility to issues that were important, especially to the Executive team. The process was also reflective of what ServiceChannel learned from their customers and past NPS survey questions. The initial question was, “Would you recommend ServiceChannel to a friend or colleague?” Simple, right? What they discovered from the past surveys is that many times that question is answered based on a temporary sentiment, such as, “What score do I want to give ServiceChannel today?” This is actually a different measurement and answer than what they were seeking. Unfortunately, customers misunderstood the process in the past. It was as if customers were thinking “I don’t want to give you a nine or 10 because I don’t think you’re exactly perfect.”
To correct it and solve this problem, ServiceChannel gave their customers an education surrounding the survey. They made sure customers understood the question was not centered on whether they believed ServiceChannel was perfect. Rather, would the customer recommend ServiceChannel? If the answer was in the affirmative, then the customer could give an answer of a nine or 10.
The process continued with the question “If someone asked you about Service Channel, and you were simply not willing to say that it is a recommended product, then report an answer as a 0 to 6.”
The next question was “If you just aren’t sure about either a positive or negative answer, give a seven or eight. This level of educating customers about the comprehension of the question and response choices allowed them to have results they could easily interpret.
NPS Doesn’t Just Improve Magically
Ashvin was so surprised by their NPS results that he drilled into the tactics that Mike and Jessica employed and, more importantly, into the organizational strategies leading up to the survey, suspecting that there was even a better story behind their results.
Mike and Jessica both agreed. Jessica stated, “There’s always a ‘strategy’ because customer success is not something that you do overnight. You can’t just get a good NPS survey by having good NPS tactics. So the more important stuff is all the strategic things that have happened over the last 18 months in building out our CS practice. It led us to revamp the CSM and AM role, with more direct ownership in CS than before. This allowed us to intensify our customer retention efforts. We also built out the team. Ten of my fifteen team members have been hired since January 1st of last year and five of them in the last 12 months. Even though this is a relatively young team, we did hire with a lot of industry experience, as well as from our own customer base of CSMs that were actual users of the product and walked in the same shoes as the customer.”
Ashvin concurred with the strategy of hiring industry knowledgeable persons as very critical and a real differentiator between good and great CSMs.
What’s Next and the Cross-Functional Impact for ServiceChannel
According to Mike and Jessica, the Gainsight piece of all this has been huge. They’re getting into a higher gear with their ability to use Gainsight to understand customer engagement levels like never before. “Understanding where those engagement levels are low for certain customers helps,” Jessica stated. For her, it enables her to direct her CSMs to customers that are at greater risk. “We also have health score measures that are automated as well as manual,” she added. “And we use that in our defined risk process, in our whole risk workflow, all within Gainsight. It is what we’re using day in and day out to drive the customer and to monitor and drive better customer experience.”
An additional benefit of the improved NPS program and customer visibility is how this fits into ServiceChannel’s strategic product roadmap in terms of a cross-functional partnership between CSMs and the product development team, and even the marketing team.
Through Mike and Jessica’s leadership, they’ve been able to adopt a plan that gives the CSM team the ability to put feature requests into the roadmap. They now have a whole process around understanding what are the most important features and what the voice of the customer is telling about the product.
Additionally, according to Jessica, “we’ve built awareness to customer risk, especially in response to urgent feature requests and bug requests. Where, in previous years, it’s been difficult to get those one-offs addressed because it didn’t represent a large population. Now, we’ve been able to create a partnership with the Product team so they better understand the product risks and why they require attention. And then another big element within the last year is the improved product communication cycle, where previously customers felt very unaware of what was available in the product.”
NPS was the Catalyst to Overall Improvement
As Ashvin wrapped up the call, he asked, “With all the changes in incentives, hiring, and other process improvements, why did you decide to double-down on NPS? Why now?” How Mike responded was insightful: “The ‘why now’ is not a matter of now. It’s always been in the plan to put a level of focus on it because we realize how important it is and how every other day, we get requests from Sales around referenceability. And the detailed type of references that Sales is demanding has increased. Knowing that NPS is one of the ways to go about identifying references and having that information was kind of the first thing. Now, we have the right team and everyone is bought into a broader philosophy of CS.”
Jessica added, “That the level of ensuring a customer is willing to stay with you into the next cycle is a measure of their satisfaction with the product and their satisfaction with their experience with us. NPS is one of the ways that you get insight outside of a renewal cycle. NPS is a really great way to, at one fell swoop, aggregate the customer experience and the customer sentiment. The NPS score validates that we had the right strategy. We want to give our customers a contact person, a CSM at ServiceChannel, who can help drive their journey. Help drive them to better experiences and outcomes and that gets reflected in NPS. So I think NPS is going to be a trailing indicator, but it also informs you for the next cycle. I don’t feel very much that we drove 12 months of improving our NPS score as much as we drove 12 months of improving our customer experience and the service we provide them.
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