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Five Questions with David Roberts, CEO of Alchemer

Shifting the Conversation Toward Customer Engagement and the Democratization of Feedback

Alchemer interview

The Dash Network team recently caught up with David Roberts, CEO of Alchemer,(formerly SurveyGizmo), and enjoyed a demo from Vanessa Bagnato, Director of Product Marketing. Alchemer is a provider of customer feedback management platform and survey software, serving more than 15,000 global customers, and 30% of the Fortune 500, across all departments and industries.

Our conversation with Roberts touched on Alchemer’s strengths, barriers to successful CX implementations, and CX maturity. (Responses have been edited for clarity.)

You have been at the helm of Alchemer for a few years now. Can you provide some background on what were the personal or professional experiences you have had that shaped the way you approach leading an experience-focused company?

David Roberts, CEO of Alchemer

Sure, I came on board about three and half years ago. I was a long-timer at Accenture, working in their CRM [customer relationship management] practice. During my tenure, one of the projects I worked on that really sparked my interest in the customer space was supporting the British government in its efforts to improve the experience of pensioners. After that, I did a stint with the Mayor of Denver, and then went back to private industry and worked at the Reed Group where I helped grow the organization from 200 people to 2,000. I was wanting to get back to something customer-focused, and when I crossed paths with Alchemer I was intrigued. I felt like it was an amazing product in a huge industry but that it had a limited future view.

One of my main goals was to help the company pivot towards solving business problems rather than selling feature functions. I came out of CRM, where everyone knew exactly what that meant. In the CX space, I found that no one was really talking the same language. VoC [Voice of Customer], CX, EFM [enterprise feedback management]– everyone was defining it differently. I wanted to shift the conversation away from these “boxes” towards helping Alchemer customers determine how they can best engage their customer, and run their business to their benefit. We want our customers to be able to show real business impact and return on their CX workflows.

Internally, the Alchemer team focused on building up our marketing and sales organization, and started shifting the organization from being heavily DIY-market focused (about 60%) to enterprise. Our split is now more balanced towards enterprise with DIY accounting for 20-30%.  

Alchemer is obviously known for its strengths in surveying, but can you give a quick elevator pitch on how Alchemer is more than just surveying and where the company fits into the CX ecosystem?

Our focus is really on helping customers figure out how they will engage their customers through feedback in a way that will also meet their own internal needs. We try to move our clients to get beyond pie charts and dashboards to focus in on the true purpose of the feedback. We want their engagement with customers to result in more than just numbers, but something that will result in deeper understanding and true impact.

Many people are just using NPS [net promoter score], showing up with the stat at a quarterly all hands meeting, with another readout a quarter later. We know that NPS isn’t enough, and that we need to look for ways to help our customers drive workflow, integration and automation so that action can be taken. I will give you a simple example. If someone is giving feedback, and they are deemed to be a promoter, we send them to share their love with the world on peer review sites such as Capterra, G2, others. If it is a detractor, and they include a verbatim about what the issue is, we create a supportable event, send it to support, and the detractor gets contacted. If it is a passive, we have figured out that this segment has low engagement and sometimes doesn’t renew well. For this group, the response gets sent to the Customer Success Management team to drive engagement with that customer. So, with a few simple questions, we can help customers drive marketing, sales, and customer service activities. Of course, there are much more complex examples, but the power of seamlessly moving the data to the place where it can best be acted upon is where the true benefit comes from.

We are very focused on privacy and data security, and we have been doing well lately competing for customers based on our abilities in this area as well as our enterprise capabilities, which are comprehensive. Something as simple as having user, teams, and role permissions allow big teams to be on the same platform together and not see each other’s stuff is turning into a differentiator. It’s an example of a little thing, but it makes our enterprise platform more appealing.

What are some of the current barriers for successful implementations? How does Alchemer help overcome these?

Vague purposes don’t bode well for a successful engagement. We really like to see that a customer has a specific business result they are trying to achieve. We don’t really talk about implementation, but talk about onboarding. We like to ask questions like:

  • Why are you trying to get feedback?
  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • How will satisfaction move the needle within your business?
  • Who is responsible for the feedback when it comes?
  • How do you want to segment it?

We help teams get set up and teach them along the way, so they are then able to start building things on their own. We like to work with the actual business owner. We know that the action piece can often get overlooked so we like them to know they can set up the triggers to action. We took our DIY roots and we have built an enterprise e-learning platform, Alchemer University, that offers online tutorials and walk- through videos to help smooth the process. All of this adds up to great customer experience for our own customers. G2 reviewers recently ranked Alchemer highly in many categories including easiest to do business with, easiest to use, easiest setup, and fastest implementation.

In a previous conversation, you mentioned how the democratization of CX is critical for company success and the industry in general. Can you provide expand on that?

This goes back to some points we have already been talking about. We think these feedback tools provide the most benefit when they are put in the hands of the people who own the business result. Not sitting up in IT, C-level or centralized CX.

We want IT owners to know the data safeguards are in place, the procurement rigor is there, and all the things that the CEO would ask about are checked off. IT should know the data is safe to manage, but that the project control lies in the hands of the people that need the data for their job every day.

So, it’s important to have the data in the hands of those that are empowered to respond, but another piece of this is to get it to the people who might not be customer-facing. This could include product marketing, management, and engineering. Alchemer has a Slack channel that unifies all customer feedback, and it is completely unfiltered. This gets the customer “voice” to everyone.

Another piece of this, in our view, is realizing that customers have their own ecosystem. They don’t want all things to be about you and your technology. We are hearing that many customers want to be in charge of their own data, correlating it with other metrics they might have and integrating it with the systems they want to connect with. They don’t want to have to conform to a rigid platform but want flexibility and the ability to be nimble.

What are your thoughts on overall CX maturity and where companies are “at” in their ability to solidly perform the insights to action piece?  What are some of the things you are excited about seeing in the evolution of CX?

So many people say CX is a top initiative, but a low percentage say they are actually acting on it. There is a real gap between saying it is important and showing it is important. Many are not able to figure out how to drive real benefit out of these technologies. For such a large industry, people are really not that far along. It’s just not that mature yet in terms of the potential these programs can deliver relative to what they are operationalizing. We have done some work ourselves in mapping out the steps needed to become a more customer-centric and CX-mature organization. It is an evolution. A lot of it revolves around executive support, automating the feedback process and making the information accessible to people throughout the organization.

We are seeing evidence of progress every day in our conversations with customers. Alchemer is excited to help the market expand their ideas of what customer feedback is, pushing away from the traditional feedback view towards business process and workflow.

Author Information

As a detail-oriented researcher, Sherril is expert at discovering, gathering and compiling industry and market data to create clear, actionable market and competitive intelligence. With deep experience in market analysis and segmentation she is a consummate collaborator with strong communication skills adept at supporting and forming relationships with cross-functional teams in all levels of organizations.

She brings more than 20 years of experience in technology research and marketing; prior to her current role, she was a Research Analyst at Omdia, authoring market and ecosystem reports on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and User Interface technologies. Sherril was previously Manager of Market Research at Intrado Life and Safety, providing competitive analysis and intelligence, business development support, and analyst relations.

Sherril holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from University of Colorado, Boulder and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University.


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