The Customer Confidential Podcast
CA Technologies’ Dayton Semerjian joined me on the podcast in 2016 to discuss his approach to managing the enterprise software company’s customer experience in a rapidly changing industry. At the time, the business-to-business service provider was deep in a Net Promoter® journey that would ultimately rebuild its customer relationships and return it to growth.
Fast forward two years and Dayton’s efforts as general manager of global customer success and support not only surpassed senior leaders’ expectations, they made CA an attractive acquisition target. In July, leading chip supplier Broadcom said it would pay a 20% premium to buy the company for $18.9 billion.
Broadcom CEO Hock Tan later told analysts that CA’s customer relationships were a key factor in the deal, and that the company was “deeply embedded” in its customers’ businesses. After all, Dayton used the Net Promoter System to bring the voice of customers inside CA’s walls at every level. He used feedback to identify critical ways that CA was falling short. And he dug into the root causes that the company needed to address to become an industry leader again. I look forward to seeing how these customer relationships evolve under the Broadcom umbrella.
In light of CA’s success, I invited Dayton back on the podcast to reflect on his experience in a two-part interview. You can listen to the first part of our conversation on iTunes, Stitcher or your podcast provider of choice, or through the audio player below:
In this excerpt, Dayton and I discuss the early weeks of CA’s Net Promoter journey:
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: We went to our customers. We had our NPS® data. We looked across the customer journey and asked, “What's most important to you? How do we perform?”
Then across that customer journey, we also said, “How are our top competitors doing? Who's the very best? Who's the gold standard for delivering a great experience to you?” And we got the best answer that I could have possibly heard.
ROB MARKEY: What is that?
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: Nobody. In enterprise software, nobody was great. For our biggest customers, they said nobody delivers a great experience. So we don’t like that category. It was, “You guys, collectively as an industry, haven’t figured it out.”
And the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry started to pop up. But as a guy who's got strategy at his core, I love that.
ROB MARKEY: Because that's opportunity.
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: Because I hear it's wide open field. And so that is a ground we can claim if we're going to be serious about customer experience, if we're going to get serious about investing time and energy in our customers.
The other thing that popped out was that we over performed in the buyer journey relative to what they thought was necessary. And we underperformed in the user journey relative to what they thought was necessary. It says, “We're going to focus on the journey, make sure they get the outcomes that they're promised.” But when you say, “Well, where's that investment going to come from?” Well, when you're overinvested in one area and underinvested in another area and nobody's writing checks for incremental investment, you can get a sense for where things might come from.
ROB MARKEY: Now, at the time, there must have been indications that some competitor or other was better than CA on certain dimensions.
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: Yes.
ROB MARKEY: So it wasn't just that nobody does it well at all. But even on some of the important dimensions, CA was performing at one level. And there was a competitor performing at a higher level even with this methodology. And I say, “even with this methodology,” because a critic would say, “Oh, come on. They're your customers. They know that it's you doing the survey. The very fact that they respond is probably an indication that they're a little bit invested in the relationship with you.” And so it's going to be skewed. It's going to say nicer things about CA than a blind benchmark survey.
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: Right. But if I put that information on the table in front of you, what I'll tell you is that in that early survey, they weren't saying nice things. If there was bias, it was, “I'm a little fed up with this relationship. There are some real issues. I'm not going to be shy to tell you what they are.” And I would have thought that somebody would have named three or four competitors and said, “Be like them.” But their answer was, “You all kind of share the same model. And that model's not particularly satisfying.”
ROB MARKEY: It's not working for us.
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: That industry model isn't working for us, and it's a little bit outmoded.
ROB MARKEY: That is a great. I mean, I like the way you characterize it. That is great news for the reason that it's a good opportunity. Based on that, you then had to prioritize some things to tackle. What was the short list?
DAYTON SEMERJIAN: There were three things that popped out. One was, “Hey, we're a software company. And so any issues with the software?” There were some complaints about product quality. I could see that in the support organization, but I didn't have hard data. So product quality was something that popped out very quickly.
Next was account management. How do we do account management better? There was a clear understanding that our customers wanted to have a strategic relationship with us, not a vendor or a transactional relationship with us.
And then third—no big surprise—was technical support. The customers wanted us to deliver cleaner, better, faster technical support. And so those were the high-level areas that we went at first.
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