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This post originally appeared as a podcast on Allegiance Radio.
As many of you who listen to our podcast on Allegiance Radio already know, we like to bring in guests who are experts in VOC.
Last month, I had the good fortune to speak with Porter Williams and Jacob Bauer from HireVue. Located right here in the Salt Lake City area, HireVue is the leading provider of digital interview services serving companies such as Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Nike.
Porter Williams is the director of client services and operations at HireVue since early 2010. He oversees HireVue’s 24/7 support operations, the Voice of the Customer program, and also serves as a hub between products and customers. He pioneered HireVue’s customer success program.
Jacob Bauer is currently the VOC and customer success analyst at HireVue. He joined the team in May of 2011 as a client’s support representative. Realizing the importance of VOC and the impact it can have on businesses, he focuses efforts on gathering and analyzing data from clients. He now currently administers the VOC program under porter as well as managing data that comes to HireVue through the different VOC channels.
Jeff Olsen: First of all, I know this is your first time on the show so welcome to the show, both of you.
Porter Williams: Hi, thank you so much for having us on.
Jacob Bauer: Thanks, Jeff, it’s good to be here.
JO: Since many of our listeners may not know much about HireVue, Porter, if you could spend a few minutes and give us a brief history of HireVue and your need for a quality VOC program.
Porter: Yeah, absolutely. HireVue has actually been very interested in customer input in our product and process from the very beginning. One of the very first things I did when we started here is my COO and I started actually making a bunch of phone calls to some of our more prominent users and picking their brains about what they thought, how we could do better, and that was really kind of the start. We got a lot of great feedback from that process.
That was kind of the beginning and we’ve been really lucky to have a leadership team that is really educated about NPS and as an experienced leadership team they saw a lot of value in a program like this very early on. And so, we were tasked about a little over a year ago, a year and a half or so, with starting to gather this data in a structured format that we could draw on. We were lucky to begin with that kind of foundation.
Then there’s an element where HireVue is really new and it has a very direct impact on a customer’s brand. As a result people are always asking, “Do people like it, do candidates like it, do my employees like it?” We wanted to start finding out the answers to some of those questions. We found a need to prove that yes, it’s new, and it’s scary, and it’s different – but it works and people dig it. That was really a big part of our driving motivation to get started.
JO: Porter, I guess to follow up I’d like to know about competitors in your industry, are you guys like the trendsetters, is it something that you felt could be a differentiator for HireVue?
Porter: Yes actually, it’s a very competitive space, it’s a new space, but we have a lot of different competitors popping up all the time. HireVue has really managed to carve a niche out for ourselves in the market as a thought leader and has really kind of defined the direction that the market has moved in a lot of ways. The VOC program is something that we’re really proud of.
JO: Jake this next question is for you. You currently administer the BSU program and I heard Porter talk about MPS and so I’d like you to take a minute, if you wouldn’t mind, and just kind of outline for our audience what the main goals of your VOC program are and how do you measure success?
Jacob: We have a couple of main goals that we’re trying to accomplish with our VOC program. One of our goals is to measure our adoption and utilization and raise both of those. When we talk about adoption it’s the spread of HireVue through our clients and then utilization is how much our clients are using. In some cases we can have one or two people that use HireVue a lot, but it’s not really spread throughout the company. In other cases a lot of people in the company are trained on HireVue, but they just don’t use it very much. I’m measuring that and trying to help see both of those, to bring those up.
One of our other main goals is measuring retention and churn. I’m trying to keep the customers we have, keep them engaged and spread that adoption as well as identify customers that may be at risk of churning, so we have a lower churn rate and a higher retention rate with most of our customers.
Part of the third main goal is making our customer success managers more efficient or effective. Most of these are measured through our engagement, keeping the customer engaged, whether that’s through our unsolicited feedback like social media, willingness to participate in case studies or being involved in any promotion that we do have and as well as our structured survey channels, gathering feedback from all those ways.
Like Porter did mention the MPS score is really important to us in that we kind of use that to measure how well we’re doing with these goals. It’s one of the ways we measure that. We don’t fully rely on MPS, but we rely on the comments and feedback given that pertains to why they gave us that MPS score.
JO: You do use MPS but it’s more like you just said it’s the why behind the MPS rather than just focusing on the score itself. Is that a fair statement?
JO: I like what you’re saying with, “it’s the why behind the score, the feedback that comes behind it, that really helps you determine how and where to take action.
Porter, going back to a point you made initially, one of the recurring themes that I hear from a lot of the VOC professionals that I’ve interviewed is that engaging the executives is a critical first step in rolling out a successful VOC program. I know you said you have good buy-in from upper management, but I’d like you to share with us two or three of the techniques either your used to engage the executives or what you think the key elements were that sold them on this whole idea of rolling out a VOC program. Any lessons learned that you might pass along to our listeners?
Porter: As I mentioned, we were lucky to have a lot of really early support. When we first started our program, we weren’t actually using Allegiance, we were just using a straight survey tool and as we started researching more and kind of understanding what can happen, we started seeing it as more than just a quarterly survey. That’s when we started looking at other tools and engaging with allegiance was a really big deal of recognizing the value of a full program and it was a bit of pill to swallow because it cost a lot more than just using some standalone survey tools. There’s tons of stuff out there you can use if all you want to do is deliver surveys and get data.
We’re trying to really drive a consistent gathering of data for multiple data points so that we’re able to make a consistent picture out of it all and Allegiance has been good to help us with that. They’ve really done an excellent job of educating us and that’s helped me and Jake working with our executives to say, “These are the different things we want to do in order – by adding this faucet to our program we can gather this different level of insight and have a different level of action-ability within our system and dealing with our customers.”
We’re actually coming to a turning point now, we’ve covered a few initial bases, we feel we’ve done a good job, and we’re really trying to take a next step to expand the reach of the program so that it covers a lot more touch points of the customer experience. We have to validate the investment in the platform and the data we’re gathering is always front and center, the executives are hungry for it. We’re always trying to feed that in and an ongoing challenge for us has been to make enough connections with the data.
We’re trying to work on making our data more segmentable and being able to do more like correlation analysis and things like that and really drive insight and that’s really been the next step for us is moving beyond just data collection and presentation and making conclusions and driving understanding. That’s the hard next step.
JO: Absolutely, but it sounds like you’ve done a great job in creating the need and sharing the vision and working to start providing those insights rather than just collecting feedback, that’s great.
Jake a question for you, the other aspect of really getting buy-in also has to do with engaging the frontline, getting your employees to buy-in and support your VOC program. How do your employees feel about your program and what, if any, techniques have you used to get them on board?
Jacob: That’s a great question. I know that sometimes it is hard to engage the frontline employees to get them excited about it, to use the data that’s provided there, to use the insight to help the company have a better, give a better customer experience. Our employees, our customer success managers, they like the program, they enjoy getting all the data that we receive from our different touch points about their specific clients. They can always reach out to me and say, “Hey, can we have information about this or this or for client A,” and I can get them the information they need so they can have better talking points with clients to help keep them engaged, to find out . . . and already know some things about the client that makes the client feel more cared-about by us, so they can keep that customer and build that retention with our clients.
Some techniques: it’s always nice to have one or two of those frontline who are really using it and kind of understanding it because then there are great ‘success stories’ to share with other frontline employees. We had a couple of customer success managers that were really using the survey data that we’ve been gathering and some of our other outside data to be able to talk to customers, to help them.
Getting those great success stories from a few of the frontline and then going to others and saying, “Hey I have this information, so and so has used it and has been really successful in being able to talk to and help customers. This could be really helpful to you, and give me any feedback that you have on it that I might even be able to help you more, to get more data.”
As we talked about the leadership team bringing in board meetings, questions for us, to correlate things with our frontline employees, since they speak with the customers most. Have a really great idea what the customers really want or what they need and then they can bring that back to us to help us fish for more of that information to give them a better footing for how to help the customer better.
JO: Great. I mentioned a minute ago that I was going to save listener questions for you and Jake, but a question actually just came in and I thought it was good – let’s just bring it in right now. It has to do with what we were talking about. A listener just asked, “Do you associate Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, with your VOC program to your employees, or have some element of a rewards program with it and, if so, what are you doing?”
Porter: Let me actually take that one. Our customer success managers are actually directly measured on the MPS of their portfolio of accounts and it’s something that is looked at very carefully and it’s part of their annual bonus, actually. That’s probably the most direct element of performance and reward that is tied to and because it is seen as a critical indicator of the strength of our relationship in our accounts and that is probably the most direct example you’re asking for there.
JO: Excellent. Thank you. That answers the question. I’ve had a wide variety of VOC professionals on the show and the question that I always like to ask is, what is that you think makes HireVue’s VOC so unique?
Porter: We have a really interesting dynamic in our business which is we have our customers and our customers are the HR departments of companies. Company XYZ – their recruiters use our tool, they’re the ones that we interact with on a daily basis. Our CSMs work very closely with them. That’s our direct customer; however, they are using our tool to issue digital interviews to their candidates. The candidates of our customers are also a class of end-user. Our customers are very sensitive about their candidates’ experience with their brand and this interview is part of that process.
The customer’s candidate is not our customer directly, but they’re a critical component of the experience and everyone is incredibly interested on what that candidate thinks about the experience. One of the most common questions that comes up during a sales cycle is, “This is kind of weird, what do candidate think about this?”
That dynamic is really something that I think makes HireVue’s VOC program unique because we’re not just looking at voice of our customer, we’re really listening very closely to the voice of our customer’s candidate. We actually run quarterly relationship surveys without direct end users and then we also are running constant transactional surveys with candidates at the end of their interview, where after they complete their digital interview through the HireVue platform they’re given the option to provide some feedback on that experience, and we collect tones of those.
Those have created a great body of data and actually early on, shortly before or right as I joined HireVue. We had a grad student at Pen State named Nicole Toddy who actually did a thesis research project on The Candidate Experience in Digital Interviewing and included HireVue in that study.
She found a number of findings that basically said, “When given proper context about the experience, candidates view the following things positively.” She had her set of findings and that study was an important part of our early sales process of answering the question, “What do candidates think about this?” Actually, since we’ve been able to launch our VOC program, we have thousands upon thousands of data points now that are proving out the exact same things that Nicole found in her study. It’s really exciting to see that.
We ask questions about what candidates think about the different elements of the process, flexibility, things like that, would they recommend it, along those lines. The overall answer is that, yes, candidates do like this and we have some more detail within that but it’s really exciting that we had that Pen State study early on and we have actually validated, further validated her findings through thousands of data points later.
JO: That really is a unique dynamic, that the candidates transaction surveys are influencing your customers who are taking relationship surveys. I’m really seeing how important it is to gather that transactional data.
To follow up on that Porter, have you seen, and I know you mentioned earlier that you’re kind of moving forward and start following through on some of the data gathering, but have you had any experience where you interacted directly with a candidate or do you gather the candidate data and interact directly with your customers to fix something or address a situation. I’m just curious how that works?
Porter: We take candidate feedback, and we actually take all of the verbatims and sort them into different categories, and send them to the appropriate people within the company. And the biggest set of that data is actually products, comments and our product managers actually go through, have gone through those and said, “Oh that’s a really good point, we should fix that or turn that into a feature,” and it’s driven very real changes in our product in terms of providing a better, smoother, easier candidate interface – providing better troubleshooting tools in app rather than making candidates call into our support team.
Things like that, and then our support team has a very direct channel to our product team and so the support team gets feedback from candidates as well. They’re the main kind of point of contact for any candidate interaction and so they get a lot of feedback and they’re always feeding input to the product team as well, so that there’s a lot of flow of data to the product team and they’re very open and receptive to that feedback.
JO: That’s great. Well, the final question: A lot of our listeners who listen live on the show, or tune into the podcast later, are novice when it comes to developing a VOC program. In many cases they’re still planning the stages or basically in fact wondering if they need to implement a VOC program. Now that you’re down the road a little bit, you’ve got a good program in place . . . I’m curious if you have one or two suggestions that you’d give our listeners about lessons learned. What would you do if you were starting over from scratch? Give them one or two things to kind of watch out for based on your experience.
JO: There’s an awful lot that you can do in a VOC program and it can be really daunting and so my big advice is, don’t try to do everything all at once – start somewhere. We started with quarterly relationship surveys, now we’ve added transactional surveys with candidates. We have a list of things that we’re going through, things we’re trying to add to that, we’re trying to work in more social elements. We started doing things with our voice of employee program, but it’s all happening over time and if you try to do it all right upfront, you’re going to choke on it.
Start with something and execute that, start getting data flowing. As you do that, it starts getting easier to add more to that. And make sure that when you’re doing that you ask the question first of – what are your objectives, what are the questions you want to answer – and make sure that your data is actually going to answer that question.
Our first generation of surveys that we were putting out, we’d get results back, we were kind of scratching our heads looking at it going, “What? Didn’t necessarily tell us a whole lot, did it?” We’ve overhauled our questions several times as a result of that. Make sure you involve other groups, there’s a lot of stakeholders when it comes to VOC, there’s service and support, there’s sales and marketing, there’s product… Almost every branch of the company is going to have someone who cares about this in a different way. Get them involved, and make sure that data flows to all those different stakeholders.
I think that’s one of the things that makes VOC hard is that it doesn’t have a clear ownership in service or support or sales or marking, but there’s an interest in ownership from all of those groups and as a result VOC ends up becoming a really valuable hub between different parts of the company. It’s really our job to make sure that people are talking and that they’re getting the information to make good decisions. Really get those people at the table. We’re trying right now to do a better job of bringing more people to the table and we’ve done an okay job of it, but we definitely can be doing better.
One last thought, we’re really starting to look a lot at the idea that emotion plays into experience or into a customer experience with your brand and recognizing that the likelihood to recommend is a very emotional reaction, and then we logically rationalize it. Think about how you engage with your customers, how your customers engage with you emotionally, and what your brand means to them. We’re not quite sure what to do with this yet, but it’s something that we’re really interested in and excited about and will probably drive some changes in our own process.
JO: Excellent. Well, great advice guys, and we’re just about out of time. This is awesome and I’d really like to bring you guys back on and maybe when you’ve got a chance to analyze your data and get some good success stories we can bring you back and talk about those.
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