Vendmanager – SB Software Customer Service Team
1) The Wasteland
Clients should always be front and centre of any discussion about, or initiative to improve, customer service. We hold that mantra dear.
So, starting our submission for this particular 2020 award some two and a half years ago, when three of us were standing alone on barren scrubland in Sheffield – far away, and disconnected for once, from any of our clients – may seem odd.
But to us it makes perfect sense.
To understand why, you’ll need a bit more background.
Much of our core business at SB Software, the makers of Vendmanager, is based on a recurring licence model: the larger the client, the more licences they require.
The licences generate funds monthly to sustain our ongoing development of Vendmanager (including software, hardware peripherals and support services both remote and on-site) – continuing to get “simply better” at what we do: helping clients to achieve their own objectives.
As Vendmanager has been improving, more new clients have been drawn to “join our club,” and we have been able to accelerate the speed at which we recruit and deploy additional resources (people), to advance further still. Faster. It’s a virtuous circle, benefitting everyone.
Until you hit a bump in the road ….
3) The Bump in the Road
Our “bump in the road” was that we were running out of space. Programmers were almost sitting on each others’ laps. It was getting harder to concentrate. We had little flexibility. And it was difficult to entertain clients for focused discussions.
We did not want to split our team up, by going multi-site, so we needed to move office.
The “sensible” option would be to find and adapt an existing space – something a little bigger, but similar – to see us through the next three years, before we reviewed priorities again ….
4) Back to the Wasteland
… which brings us back to the scrubland.
None of us present had actually said it out loud yet. But we all knew already.
We were not going to take that “sensible” option. Because we saw an opportunity that made even more sense to us as a company – against the criteria that matter to us.
With the developer’s plans in-hand for the outline structure of the new-build office that would soon be rising in front of us, we saw not wasteland but the site of our new home. An office that would be designed off plan to our specification.
And that specification placed our customer service at the heart of everything. Literally. Physically. In bricks and mortar, as well as spirit and philosophy.
5) Fast Forward to Today
We have been in the new office now almost a year – enough time to settle in.
And the core initiative to build the whole operation – and the physical infrastructure – around the customer service team?
It is up and running successfully. Already better than we had foreseen by this stage. And getting better still as we constantly demand (and always will).
Other functions are located around the customer service team at the centre. There’s quiet spaces for meetings, a dedicated room for developers to focus in peace, casual areas for informal discussions – everything we could want, and it all radiates around the “beating heart” of SBS: customer service.
6) So What?
We started this submission with the new-build office, transforming wasteland into a living organisation centred both physically and operationally around customer service because we are taking full advantage of an opportunity that has come our way.
We feel privileged – many companies will claim that they put customer service at the heart of what they do. Few have the chance to prove it like this. We are not wasting it.
And at the same time we recognise it for what it is in reality: a good foundation. A platform, no more, on which we can deliver what really matters – results for our clients:
6.1) We are ever responsive, providing effective/efficient resolution of issues as fast as we can.
6.2) In addition we are pro-active using our experience to anticipate needs in advance, putting guides in place alongside training for key stages like implementation and important initiatives like “single walk”.
6.3) We are also pre-emptive wherever possible – if an aspect of Vendmanager causes problems, we get the developers to change it whenever feasible. Simples.
6.4) Our in-built support functions continue to grow from strength to strength, including online video tutorials, and Vendex Midlands (June 2020) will see the next major step-change with the launch of the all-new Help Centre, accessed on-tap from within Vendmanager 24/7.
6.5) Investment in support staff continues – at a pace even faster than our growth: during the last 3 years, total Vendmanager licences have increased by a factor of 2.26, yet over the same period “help-cover” (the provision of front line staff PER LICENCE) has also increased by a factor of 1.35. We have more support on tap remotely per user than ever before.
6.6) These new help-desk staff are encouraged to deploy and share the experience and expertise that they bring with them (typically from customer service in large organisations) – on one condition: that we don’t mess up any of the good things we have in place already. Our “tribe” is very good already, but if anyone has suggestions for improvements, we want to hear them.
6.7) In addition to desk-based help staff, we have doubled our roster of technical managers – expert staff whose role includes on site visits, and coaching/training aligned with account management priorities.
6.7) Our newest recruit, Dan Varney will be building a whole new function within SB Software: Customer Success. It’s all about delivering success for our clients – because their success IS our success.
It should be evident by now that customer service is dear to our hearts. It is not just core to what we do. It is what we do.
And we will always be stretching things further – to benefit our clients.