Saturday, May 3, 2014

Details matter!

My first international trip was to London to facilitate a day long meeting with Lloyds Bank. Lloyds was founded in 1765 and like many old companies, and an old bank to boot, Lloyds had a very well established talent management process that they were fully committed to. My job was to help implement performance management and goal setting on the software as a service platform. They wanted software as a service to move away from their paper-based process, but they also wanted exactly what they already had. The expectations were very high. Lloyds represented the first big international logo for SuccessFactors and I was feeling the pressure. I was in London alone with the customer and our partners at SumTotal and Accenture, for a prep meeting the day before. And then the question was asked. “Where are your training materials?” My response: “Uh…”

At that time, SuccessFactors employed about 150 people, similar to where HireVue is today, and they were focused on product innovation, winning the big logos and accelerating sales with every opportunity. Like HireVue, they were releasing product every month and most customers accepted that the pace of innovation was more valuable than training and product documentation. Lloyds did not. Although it was out of line with where SF was at the time, our partners were adamant that we needed training documentation. It felt like our lack of documentation would derail the meeting. That night, from after the team dinner until 4 am, I copied the in-product help into MS word. It required clicking on every help icon, cutting and pasting the material into Word, adding context to the content, and formatting the document to look like a cohesive set of training materials. It was incredibly painful. As the team arrived the next day, our glossy new training materials sat on the back table along with those of Accenture and SumTotal. Exhausted and bleary eyed, I somehow survived the meeting.

There are two important lessons I took away from my Lloyds experience that are relevant to where we are as a team today. 

Over prepare for every customer interaction  This means not just having the right materials ready, but ensuring that the customers’ expectations are aligned with where we are at as a company. Preparing means ensuring that everything we are presenting is customer ready, spell checked, up to date, complete. To get to the next level as a company, to seize the opportunity we have, to move from good to great, we need to pay attention to the details at every turn, at every opportunity. If you are sending incorrect materials internally, you are allowing yourself to get sloppy. And that is going to carry forward to customers. Details matter! 

Pick priorities carefully  I wish I could say that the time spent on those training materials won the logo, saved the account, or created an opportunity with Lloyds that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. But it didn’t. In hindsight, it was more important for me to be well rested and ready to engage Lloyds, SumTotal and Accenture that it was to try and create something we didn’t have and that didn’t drive a lot of (if any) value. We have limited bandwidth as a team, and more to do every day. We need to pick and choose where to invest our time. But that does not mean choosing to let details slip. It means focusing on the things that matter, on the items that drive the most value.

Developing as a team means doing more with less but not sacrificing quality in the process. Are you over prepared and poised to seize your next opportunity?

About David Verhaag 

David is the Vice President, Client Experience at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, David established and scaled the Customer Success function at Kahuna and HireVue and spent eight+ years with SuccessFactors where he led the development of the global Customer Value team. David lives on a sailboat in Half Moon Bay, CA.

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