From the time when Zayo burst forth on the scene some 10 years ago, the company aimed to be more than a simple asset roll-up. They effectively rewrote the book on how to operate fiber assets, especially when it comes to sales and customer management. With us today to talk about just how Zayo goes about shaping the customer experience when it comes to the infrastructure business is Sandi Mays, Chief Customer Experience and Information Officer. Sandi is a co-founder and has been a part of Zayo’s team since the beginning.
TR: How did you get involved in shaping the customer experience at Zayo?
SM: I began managing IT and the customer experience about four years ago. Prior to that I managed operational finance, human resources, and was Dan Caruso’s Chief of Staff. Customer experience at Zayo includes Tranzact (our online customer platform), Customer Care, Billing, Accounts Receivable and Marketing. By combining customer experience and IT, we are able to provide customers with the best experience.
TR: In what ways did you change Zayo’s approach?
SM: Traditional customer experience metrics measure the time to answer the phone or close a case. I viewed that as using metrics to describe the customer experience versus asking the customer how they felt about their Zayo experience. Reflecting on my personal experience as a customer, getting off the phone quickly is great, but only the process to resolve the problem was easy.
We needed a way to motivate our employees to provide customers with the best experience in every situation. We decided to change our metrics. We send two surveys. The first, is what we call an “Effortless” survey sent after every case is closed. We ask one question: “How much effort did you have to put in to resolve your issue?” The customer then ranks their experience on a scale of one to five stars, where five stars is the best. The second is a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey sent to our key contacts, that asks one question: “Would you recommend Zayo?” The customer ranks their willingness to recommend Zayo on a scale of one to ten, where ten is the best. Both surveys provide space for customers to add additional feedback about their experience.
I remember the pushback that I received from my team when we first rolled out the Effortless survey. Employees were concerned that customers would never give them five stars because they were already frustrated and had put in effort to call Zayo or open a ticket. I am happy to report that over the past four years our Effortless survey scores on average have been greater than four stars. We have one employee who have achieved perfect scores with all of her surveys. What we found is that by asking our team to make the customer's experience effortless, it really changed our employees’ point of view. Rather than rushing through a case, they make sure the customer knows that their issue is important and then we take care of them.
TR: Zayo has of course been active in M&A, how hard is it to change the approach of acquired employee bases?
SM: Every company that Zayo acquired was passionate about customer service and had their own processes. I think the passion from the existing employee base around the Effortless survey helps new employees understand that the customer’s perspective on the experience is the only thing that matters. Employees see customer feedback like, "Wow, Kathy saved the day! I didn't know what to do and I just reached out to her. She took care of everything." Direct customer feedback -- positive or constructive -- is typically all it takes to convince employees that this is the most important measurement. Zayo posts these messages through Chatter, our internal communications application, where all employees get to see how customers feel about our individual customer care, and, ultimately, about Zayo.
TR: How important is Tranzact and its self-service capabilities to the customer experience at Zayo?
SM: We use Tranzact both internally and externally, so our customers look at the same system that our employees look at, which is pretty powerful. When a customer calls in, what our care team ideally does is say, "Hey, let's walk you through how you can find that information in Tranzact." A customer can not only go in and get a quote really quickly, they can see all of their orders and exactly where each order is in the delivery process. They see their account manager's name and phone number, their customer care person's name and phone number, and the service delivery person who's working on their order. They have all the touchpoints right there and can get answers. They can see a list of all the tickets that they've ever had. They can communicate with the trouble ticketing team, or with our network team on repairs. They can escalate. They can open tickets and troubleshoot their own tickets. We have learned that seven in ten trouble tickets are not due to our network, but they're actually due to a failure on the customer's side. We can identify that right in our system, and they don't even have to pick up the phone and talk. Another thing that is unique to Zayo is that they can get their service inventory, even export all their services and invoices through a CSV file, and just view them instantly. It's all in there, and it’s a really intuitive platform. We also allow them to see all the network maps, so they can see where Zayo’s fiber is connected to their building at any time. You don't have to place a phone call, it's just all right there. We've designed the system to interact much more like a consumer-based product. What are the things that you need to have there at any given moment? What are the questions you would have at midnight? How will you get the answers you need at your fingertips? Frankly, the world is going that way.
TR: There are always some customers who prefer to talk to a person whenever they can, how do you keep them happy too?
SM: While we believe that self-service is the future, we also know that there are times where the answers aren't just there, or they aren't apparent. So, we have a team of service experts that are available with all of the information who can get back to you instantly. For those who don’t want to pick up the phone, we use a live-chat feature. If you want to pick up the phone though, all those service expert numbers are right in the platform. You dial one number and you get to a person who's going to help you on anything, even if it's not related to what they're working on, they're going to make sure you get an answer. Then as a customer, you provide them with feedback via an Effortless survey.
TR: Where do you think other fiber infrastructure players come up short on the customer experience?
SM: It's hard for me to know why different companies do what they do, and I think everyone strives to serve the customer in the best way possible. I think we have some very strategic advantages because we grew up in the cloud. We were able to think about things in a very entrepreneurial way from the start, whereas some of our competitors are dealing with legacy systems, legacy data challenges, things that are really tough hurdles for humans to get over. When we acquire a company, we look at the data that we have available and how the employees are interacting with that data, and we migrate that data as quickly after close as we can to our system. Our employees have the ability to just have information at their fingertips.
TR: Zayo has been in the cloud since the beginning. But being in the cloud doesn't mean it's not possible for a system stop evolving and become legacy. How do you continue to keep your systems fresh?
SM: There's always such an urgency around making quick fixes, versus maintaining a system that is robust. We certainly aren't perfect, but we strive to have a foundation and architecture that allows us to be nimble. As long as you've got those building blocks in place in the cloud, you can change out and build new products pretty rapidly. We try to keep it simple. Often people want to make things overly complex. Complexity is not your friend when you're trying to serve a customer. You want to have simple answers, simple feedback, and stay true to those roots. And we've been very focused on that. Dan Caruso has always been a big fan of having one source of record and keeping things simple. It's great to have an advocate in your CEO. We have weekly meeting with each product group and our most senior Tranzact developer, and we listen to the challenges they're having. We provide them feedback, work together on a solution and just continue to iterate as a group. We do one release a week. No one even notices it, things just get better.
TR: Do you do the programming of those systems in-house or do you it?
SM: The super majority is in house. We have a lot more agility by having employees who are very proud of and invested in the system that they represent. We feel pretty strongly that having solid employees who can build their careers here and build a platform that they're proud of is the right way to go.
TR: What’s the biggest challenge in maintaining a good customer effortless score?
SM: Employee motivation is important. We have to make sure that the projects that we're working on are the ones that serve our customers and accelerate our ability to amplify our customers' businesses. We give them the ability to innovate, so as we hear their challenges and we can have our product groups prioritize those. I believe it is important that this is where our focus is.
TR: What other metrics do you find important to focus on?
SM: About a year ago we rolled out a Net Promoter Score (NPS). The NPS question is, "Would you recommend Zayo?" Even if we are doing everything right on a transaction basis, if the answer is "No" that would be a red flag. It’s important that our most strategic customers tell us whether Zayo is a vendor that they're loyal to. The feedback we’ve received has been really telling. Everyone that you're delivering products to may say they love you. But there might be someone in the customer’s organization who we haven’t worked with in years who may have a negative opinion of Zayo. The NPS score alerts sales, marketing and our executive team to those opinions and gives us the opportunity to rebuild trust. Implementing the NPS score has been among the most transformational things that has happened in our business over the past few years.
TR: What trends do you expect will shape this industry in the near future?
SM: We are in an industry where many of our competitors are also customers since by and large carriers buy and sell from each other. It’s an environment where we are not trying to take the competitor down. It's an environment where you are all trying to partner together to really change the world through connectivity, moving and storing data in ways that empower all these new applications that our customers are putting out there. Sometimes we provide that service and sometimes our competitors do, depending on who is in the best position to provide that service. We must embrace that community. I think that's going to come next in our industry, a real embracing of each other instead of working apart from each other.
TR: Are you also embracing that community from an automation standpoint?
SM: It’s important that we have great buy/sell relationships, and we have teams that are in place that manage those relationships. For us it's great because we own so much fiber and therefore we tend to be the foundational carrier in most of our agreements. We have very little that we rely on third parties for. Where we do have to partner it’s about having really good systems and processes to communicate with each other. So, we have rolled out an API group at Zayo which is about connecting to carriers in their backend systems, so when they're working with Zayo, they're working in their normal processes. They don't even have to log in to Tranzact, they can order from us just though their day to day jobs. And we are working on doing the same thing so that we can work with carriers in our systems by tying directly into theirs. So far, our API program has been very successful and has generated a lot of interest.
TR: How far along are you in that process?
SM: This is really new; we launched it about three months ago. We're not advertising it, and we're working with alpha customers at this point. The volumes that they're generating are in the multiple thousands of interactions with us already, and the feedback is great. We're very pleased with the progress, but we still have a long way to go before we have APIs out there that anyone can connect to.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!