How this property player is tapping employee and customer voice for success
- 16 October, 2017 08:53
Rockend has been in the property software game for more than 35 years, providing real estate and strata software solutions to agents and strata managers across Australia and New Zealand. But it’s the group’s more recent voice of customer and employee efforts that are paying fresh dividends.
Established in 1979 by Tony Maple-Brown, Rockend started out with a range of general accounting solutions before focusing on property and strata management applications. Today, the company employs 200 people and offers property management software to commercial, sales, property management and strata management.
Rockend, which was the name of a house in Punt Road, Gladesville NSW where Maple-Brown’s great, great grandmother, Emily Mary Barton, lived for 40 years, has always prided itself on a customer focused outlook, according to recently installed chief customer officer, Scott Downing.
“But to accelerate and catapult ourselves towards our 2020 vision, we’ve got to fundamentally change not only the things we do, but our thinking,” he said.
Downing, who reports directly to the CEO, joined the company late last year to rev up and accelerate the brand. With the ‘customer experience’ mantra never more important than it is today, the family-owned company looked to deliver a more personable, community-feel approach and reached out to experience management vendor, Qualtrics.
Rockend adopted the Qualtrics XM platform across its customer, employee, product and brand experience areas, taking just five months to roll out all four pillars across the business. It’s a challenge Downing described as both exciting and challenging.
“It’s really around bringing customer centricity into the business,” he said. “To do that, we’re also creating an overarching advocacy strategy around the way that we work, striving to break down silos within the business.”
Having a platform in place to gauge Rockend’s customer experience efforts is significant in terms of measurable and quantifiable business results. “We now have a new set of segmentation for our client base, which is based on brand research we’ve undertaken and is really exciting. We can not only market from a retention perspective, but also a growth perspective,” Downing said.
“We also have a baseline in terms of our customer measures, and we can understand strategically how to drive the model using the Qualtrics platform around brand, price, product and service. Everything we do is building data around those four drivers.”
Finding a voice
One key achievement is launching an internal app, referred to internally as ‘the voice’ and dubbed MyHub, through the Qualtrics system. This supports all aspects of the business and is linked to an internal reward and recognition platform.
“All of our employees now can give us feedback, either when they are on calls, straight into Qualtrics, or when they are out and about,” Downing said, noting it could be customer feedback in terms of service or around product and price. “We’re constantly building the data 24/7 through multiple channels into the platform.”
From there, Downing and his team are using the data to understand employee, customer and financial impacts. “Employees are now saying, ‘we are turning the ship and look how focused we are with customer data and how I now have an ‘empowered voice’ to tell you what customers are telling me,” he continued.
A key ambition is to alleviate key challenges around customer engagement, namely a ‘lack of clarity’.
“Conventionally, organisations believe they know what their customers want, and will make decisions around product development or strategic decisions based on that,” Downing commented. “That’s all great, but what Qualtrics has allowed us to do is take an ‘outside interview’ of the world.”
According to Downing, a major part of his remit as chief customer officer is to take the “customer message” to the top and prioritise outside-in views that can be connected with company strategy.
“It is my role to hold that up at a c-level within the business to say, ‘Unless you have fully grounded data, you do not know what your customers really want,” he said. “We might think we know, and we will do some things that are purely strategic that we want to do as a business with our products. But if we are going to do something based on what we believe customers want, we have to take that outside view. Now I have a tool and a platform to go and solicit that data to prove ourselves right or wrong.”
Additionally, Rockend has built a ‘customer champion’ network across the business. This is about breaking down the silos so that all staff start to think horizontally about everything that they do.
Asked what advice he could give others about the customer experience journey, Downing said businesses need to be ‘really clear’ and have a strategy.
“Don’t just look at implementing something because customer experience is a buzzword. You have to feed into a clear deliverable and strategic direction, which has to be top down. It has to be driven from the top,” he advised.
“Once you get your leaders on board around breaking down siloes, and not being led by function or budgets, and you start to use data from your employees, your brand and all of those four quadrants within the XM platform, the data stands up for itself.”
At the same time, companies need to be very aware of the ‘speed of change’ and associated effects on company culture.
“Your absolute strategy has to respect your people because changing behaviour is a big thing,” Downing said. “Be really clear when you’re changing behaviour; be prepared to always be grounding in data because then you are making informed decisions. Your strategy needs to be driving data informed decisions.
“If you want a great customer experience, be really aware of what your employees, product and branding experiences do to that. Because when you put all four of those quadrants together, it potentially changes the direction.”
Certainly, a great customer experience also involves efforts on the digital front. For Rockend, this has included ramping up its social media program with a new internal team, and launching LiveChat across all products.
“We’re putting some of that social media presence into the frontline teams within our contact centres, so making them feel more empowered,” Downing explained. “We are just starting to look at how we use key industry influencers within the real estate market to help us within that social platform. I think that is a big thing around driving customer loyalty.”
Of course, some of the company’s marketing is done through social media networks the company isn’t even part of.
“People talk about our brand and they talk about our product versus our competitors, so we’re really starting to focus on how we do that and how we use the Qualtrics platform through digital marketing to see what’s actually going on in those spaces so we can be more active and lead in those spaces,” Downing said.
While getting the martech ducks in order is key to success, Downing couldn’t stress enough the importance of having a chief customer officer - a role in his case that will help Rockend disrupt the property industry.
“It is a massive shift for us to move away from just managing businesses with conventional metrics, such as how long do you talk to your customers and how much do you sell to your customers,” he said. “It is all important from a commercial perspective, but we really have to start and think customers have an opinion and they have feet and they can walk.
“Every time they give you bad feedback, it is a gift. Do something with it. Make sure they know that you have listened to their bad feedback and that you have done something with it. And unless you have someone with ‘customer’ in their title who is absolutely empowered to make decisions quickly and drive that strategy, you are on the back foot as an industry.”