Interview: Creating a customer obsessed culture and going from NPS -4 to +80


This interview is with Amy Downs, the Chief Happiness and Customer Success Officer of Lifesize, a provider of enterprise & business-class video, audio, & web conferencing solutions, software, equipment & support. Amy joins me today to talk about customer obsession, Lifesize’s transformation and what it takes to turn an Net Promoter score (NPS) of – 4 into a score of +80 in roughly 730 days.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Non-obvious trends and what they mean for customer experience – Interview with Rohit Bhargava – and is number 207 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Amy:

  • Lifesize’s number one core value is customer obsession.
  • Amy joined Lifesize back in June 2014 when they were transforming themselves from being a predominantly on-premise and manufacturing business that was servicing their clients via resellers to a Saas model. They continue to manufacture equipment.
  • However, she found that they were largely removed from their customers.
  • Amy was hired to help Lifesize create a culture of ‘customer obsession’.
  • Since mid-2014 they have shed most of their on-premise business and have acquired more than 4,000 paying subscription customers.
  • In June 2014, Lifesize’s Net Promoter score (NPS) was – 4 and has been transformed over the last two and a half years. They now have an NPS score of +80.
  • Initially the leadership team attributed their low score to a poor product release but when Amy dug into their survey data she found that the problem didn’t lie with their product but with the fact that they weren’t really talking to their customers.
  • One of their biggest post transaction issues (and one of the easiest things to solve) was that customers wanted acknowledgement that Lifesize had received their support ticket.
  • Amy believes that people want to come to work, do a good job and be recognised. But, one of the challenges she found was that, their support team didn’t feel part of something bigger and that their work really mattered.
  • Education and data were at the heart of Amy’s approach to get the senior team on board.
  • That included a lot of interviews (customers, suppliers, resellers, partners, employees and all of the leadership team) to establish the differences in perceptions in what they (the leadership team) thought was going on and what actually was going on.
  • If you don’t have a way of bringing the voice of the customer into your business and you are relying only on internal (re)sources then it makes it hard to figure out what is really going on.
  • NPS is not just a score, it allows Lifesize to establish an operating rhythm in their business.
  • One key step was the establishment of a team of cross-business ‘customer obsessed’ ambassadors. They go out and talk to customers, do root cause analysis and then go and fix problems for customers.
  • This has allowed them to develop cross-business insight and break down a lot of organisational silos.
  • They have built on this by developing a strategy for the business based on customer obsession. This is supplemented by quarterly goals based on what they could do to improve the life of their customers.
  • There were a few functional areas that were more difficult to persuade than others.
  • Alignment at the leadership level is key and the key to this is education, particularly around making the business and financial case for why it is important and beneficial to treat customers well.
  • To anyone that is embarking on this journey, Amy says that it is essential that you tie back any customer obsession programme to the financial benefits that will accrue to the business as well as educating not only the leadership team but all employees on its importance.
  • It is possible to transform a company from being product to customer obsessed.
  • One of the things that has surprised Amy about the journey is how the whole team has banded around the customer obsessed vision.
  • The business results:
    • The business has acquired more than 4,200 new paying subscription customers,
    • Their NPS is currently +75 and for many months has topped the +80 mark,
    • They won a Gold Stevie in 2015 for customer support team of the year,
    • They are growing 3x faster than any other company in their VC’s portfolio (to date), and
    • Retention rates have improved over the last year by 10% (which equates to $17m over five years for Lifesize).
  • Now that they have completed the transformation, Lifesize are now focused on driving their churn to as close to zero as possible, really working on their customer advocacy and, generally, improving the overall customer experience.
  • For Amy’s customer success team in 2017 they are focused on proving and improving the value that their customers get from their service, product and their people.
  • For anyone embarking on their own journey, Amy believes that:
    • 1. The interview process was key. You have to get to the front line because they are the people that are most engaged with the customer.
    • 2. You have to bring the voice of the customer into the business as this is critical to breaking down silos.
  • You have to manage from the top, manage from the bottom and everywhere in between.
  • Leading through change and getting people comfortable with that takes a lot of communication.
  • Anything that you do that requires change then talk to your team.
  • People need to understand why things are happening and the context around it to allow them to draw conclusions on their own.
  • Wow service for Amy is delivering more value than the customer anticipated.