Voxeo's New CCO Puts the Focus on Customers

If you want to increase revenue and decrease churn, listen to your customers, says Anne Bowman, who in mid-January was named to the newly created chief customer officer's post at Voxeo. Bowman has held leadership positions at Voxeo since 2009, and in her new role, will drive the company's commitment to its customer-centric culture and ongoing success.

As the company's CCO, Bowman will build on Voxeo's core customer commitment. Her area of responsibilities includes sales, marketing, professional services, customer experience, culture, and human resources. She reports to Jonathan Taylor, CEO of Voxeo, and spearheads Voxeo University, a global training program for the company's developers, partners, and customers.

Listening to customers sounds elementary, but it's the driving philosophy behind Voxeo's culture, and Bowman identifies it as a reason for the company's success.

"I don't think this is earth-shattering, but if your customer is happy, loyal, staying with you, and buying more, your company's revenue and profits are ultimately going to grow," Bowman says. "We talk to end users at conferences, and it's amazing to see the consistent problems some companies are faced with. A lot of them are just trying to fix their IVR systems. There were limitations because of either original metrics that were being used to gauge their problems or success that had nothing to do with making customers happy. It was all about reducing costs. If they spent a little bit more time focusing on what the customer needs, it would be a lot more efficient and would have a better impact on customer loyalty."

Bowman also believes a company's focus should not just be about the external customer, but employees or "internal" customers, whom the company refers to as Voxeons. She is responsible for the departments that she says directly impact the customer experience, including sales, marketing, and customer service account managers, and what she calls the customer obsession division, which includes the support teams, human resources, and Voxeo University, which is used to train employees, partners, and developers.

"These departments roll up to me because I need to directly impact the strategy to ensure that all that is tied back to global earnings on our Net Promoter Scores, surveys, and feedback, as well as what we call 'frictionless to do business easier with us,' but also internally for Voxeons because, obviously, the happier they are and the better tools they have, that tracks back to the customer experience as well," she says.

Bowman traces her customer-centric focus back to when she worked as vice president of the intensive hosting division at Rackspace Managed Hosting.

"At the time, a lot of folks had thought of support as a cost center," she says. "We flipped that around and thought of it as a revenue-generating center, and that's the philosophy I've taken throughout my career. It's that these guys are talking to customers daily and they're developing trust. They're in the best position to communicate to these folks about things they may need, such as additional products, because it is actually being brought to their attention, understanding what the costs and challenges are, and helping resolve problems."

To understand both internal and external customers better, Voxeo this year is instituting what it calls Top 5 lists. The company is also using a tool developed by the Gallup organization, called Q-12, which measures employee engagement by asking 12 questions based on a study they've done.

One Top 5 list is aimed at Voxeo's direct customers, and is based on Net Promoter Scores, as well as feedback that Voxeo gets from its annual surveys.

"I always say that there's a reason why you have two ears and one mouth," Bowman says. "I'm much more interested in what's in your head and how it relates to what we do and how we can potentially help solve your problems. I'm not interested in pushing a product on you. I would much prefer to uncover what your needs are, how the flexibility of what we've built matches up to what a customer needs, or how we can tweak it to fulfill their needs."

The second Top 5 list is for end users coming from the company's partner network.

"This is extremely important because we're often very far from the end customer, and we need to understand how our products are being used, how problems are being solved, and how our partners are doing that," Bowman says.

As far as Voxeo's partner programs, Bowman says it has recently created a channel program called Voxeo Connect, with five certified partners in the U.S. The company is offering a similar program for its EMEA partner network as well. There are also Voxeo global partners, which are much larger companies like IBM.

"We're taking the approach that it's not a shotgun blast where we have tons of partners and it becomes difficult to gain traction and really understand customers," Bowman says. "If we don't develop a strong relationship with our partners then ultimately the end user will be negatively impacted."

Bowman, a member of the Chief Customer Officer Council, also says she sees the role of CCOs growing, although surprisingly, only 26 percent of members are from tech companies, while a large majority of members are from traditional companies in the utilities or insurance sectors.

She also believes that the CCO factor will grow, whether it's a unique, separate role or part of a marketing department.

"At the end of the day it's where the rubber meets the road on a day-to-day basis, where the customer is interacting with the operations team once they close the deal," Bowman says. "Companies are realizing that there needs to be a lot of customer focus in order to really have an impact on revenue because if it's just sort of a passive, half-hearted effort it's not going to have the impact and results that a company really needs in order to get to that next level of profitable growth."

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