Last month, I presented to the Nashville Network of Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and shared how we’ve built a remarkable place to work at Rustici Software and how that leads to providing exceptional service to our customers. While what we have built here has taken years to build and might not be totally replicated at your company, I hope it gives you inspiration or an idea to share with others in your organization.
Before I jump straight to that, a bit of context…
I’ve been in the service industry for close to 25 years. I started my career as a software developer, but I took the hint that I wasn’t a very good developer after one of my colleagues reviewed a bit of my code that I had been working on for a while and slowly slid a copy of Code Complete across my desk, telling me in the most kind way he could, you really need to read this. I did, however, find a better fit in the customer support department. While I knew serving customers was my passion, my work environment was still lacking something. So when Tim and Mike called me to ask if I wanted to help their clients, I eagerly accepted.
I’ve been at Rustici Software for 11 years now and in addition to customer support, I help with our new hire on-boarding process. While it might sound odd to ask the customer support person to take on a typically HR related role, we see these going hand in hand. How you treat your employees directly correlates to how they in turn will treat customers. I often come back to the saying, “supported people support others” and we have built a culture at Rustici that does just that.
Making sure that people have the tools they need to do their jobs is one thing, but creating a culture where people feel valued, their voices heard, and where they want to be is another thing entirely. So, here are 4 ways we operate that go a long way in not only keeping our employees happy but in turn, delighting our customers (and keeping them).
1. Listen to your employees and get them involved
Ideas are everywhere and we do our best to make sure all of our employees know their voices and ideas are heard and valued. Not all big ideas come from a room filled with a bunch of suits. Your employees are in the trenches talking directly to your clients, which means they probably know things you don’t.
Make sure your folks understand how their work trickles down to the customers. As leaders, we try our best to make sure everyone understands how their work affects customers. From the developers writing code, the accountants sending bills, to our office managers who may not ever talk to a client, we want employees to know how they directly and indirectly touch our clients. Everybody should feel like they are a part of the team and understand how their work contributes to our overall success.
2. Being excellent starts at the top
Having leaders who offer support helps us create an environment where employees want to support each other and not let anyone down. A common saying we use around the office is, “be excellent to one another.” This might look like:
- Refilling drinks when you take one
- Emptying the dishwasher
- Making a new pot of coffee if you took the last cup
- And most important, replacing the toilet paper roll
Being excellent to each other extends well past our office and can be seen each day in how we help our customers and prospects and anyone else we work with. While we can’t help you with the toilet paper, we will do everything possible to help you navigate the SCORMY things. Even if you don’t pay us. True, I spend about half of my day answering questions about SCORM from people that will likely never use our software.
3. Be accessible
This starts within your own organization. We’re pretty open here at Rustici and encourage employees to ask questions and challenge ideas. If you see a door closed around here it’s more often in consideration for keeping noise levels down than keeping people out. It’s not uncommon to hear a leader here start a conversation with “is there anything I can do to help you?”
This transparency and availability comes through in how we support our customers. We help as many people as we can, even if they aren’t clients. If we don’t have a solution for them, we try to push them down the path in the right direction. If we don’t have something to sell them, we tell them. eLearning is hard enough without pushy salespeople.
I like to think that a lot of this was born from Mike and Tim’s inclusion of the “ask us anything” button on our website. For me, it leaves an open door to people that other companies just don’t have. We say “yes” more than we say “no”—both externally and internally.
In the age of support behind paywalls, we want folks to be able to have a place to ask questions about learning standards, about how they tie into their applications, about our products, our favorite recipes, if we were a color what would we be, favorite comic book character. Those last few have most definitely been asked.
4. We own our success and failures
Each support ticket we solve gets an automated survey asking if the client was satisfied with the service they received. The Delight-O-Meter keeps track of our customers’ reactions with the 100 most recently closed tickets. This is a good way to hold ourselves accountable to what is going on in the support world. If we get less than 97%, we have to talk about it.
Internally we also have a “customer quotes” Slack channel that highlights things customers have said about us because we always like hearing nice things. From a company perspective, we gather a few times a year (we call this Quell) to plan the coming months and see how we succeeded or failed in the prior months. TJ hosts a monthly breakfast where he gives us a brief state of the company, welcomes new employees, etc. It also serves as a great platform for us to have a direct line of communication with the leadership group.
The bottom line
I honestly have struggled with how to finish this post, mainly because it’s just common sense. When leaders support their teams, employees find it easier to support others. How we maintain the culture at Rustici Software isn’t rocket science. We don’t use any special tools and we believe that by not only treating others as we would expect to be treated, but also treating them better, they will work harder, they will want to be here and when that happens we all succeed.