We have a pretty lofty goal for response rate. We need 70% participation, every survey. And you know what? We’ve consistently exceed that goal for more than two years. This time around, 73% of our clients participated in the survey and 92% of those respondents gave us a 5.0 or higher overall score!
It has been a little more than a year since we took the radical step to eliminate traditional management entirely. The goal was to extend the observations we had made from human psychology and the performance of Agile teams to the furthest extent we could imagine. It was truly an experiment: there were a handful of well-known examples to learn from, but the literature is pretty thin on the practical realities of self-organizing teams outside the software industry. And there were no peers that we knew of in eastern Iowa that had gone as far as we were intending to go. So, we rolled the dice and went for it using the best information we had at the time. Since we declared we’d be open about the experiment, it’s about time to revisit where we’re at, what’s working and what’s not. This post will just outline a few of the areas where we’ve seen success, and some where we’ve had difficulty. I’ll use the same format we use each week on each team in our retrospectives.
What is the difference between a project manager and a client advisor?
It’s an interesting question and one we at Geonetric have been answering for some time now. During our company-wide roll out of agile, we refined some of our internal roles, and with that came the transformation of our project managers.
Geonetric’s project managers have always handled more than just timelines and budgets. We are a very hands-on group – we do everything from place content to test new website functionality.
But now, we’ve taken on more of an advisory role. What does that mean for our clients?
What do you get when you gather 150 digital project managers together for two days? A well-organized conference that runs on time.
I spent two days in Philadelphia at the inaugural Digital PM Conference produced by the Bureau of Digital Affairs in association with Happy Cog™. This event is being touted as the first of its kind. There are plenty of conferences that include topics relevant to project managers as a side discussion. But to have a conference dedicated to the trials and tribulations of the digital project manager was definitely unique.
The topics covered how to manage projects from a variety of perspectives. The sessions shared ways to keep projects moving, clients happy and teams engaged. I have to say I picked up some really great tips and met a lot of “my people.”
Rachel Gertz presented “Clients Matter; So Put Your Team First.” This topic fits well into the agile culture we work in daily at Geonetric. Clients continue to make requests and our primary goal as project managers is to keep them happy, but sometimes we do this at our internal team’s expense. We are so buried in the weeds that we forget the needs of our team. If we lose our team’s confidences, we’re sunk.
It’s a well-documented fact that Geonetric surveys our clients every quarter to find out how we’re doing. In fact, we just wrapped up our Q3 survey.
Some might ask why we survey so frequently. Doesn’t that lead to survey fatigue? Aren’t we worried about over-surveying leading to skewed results and lowered response rates?
On the other hand, good businesses have to pay attention to the “Voice of the Customer.” What are their preferences, expectations, and experiences with our company?
So how do we balance these two seemingly conflicted questions?
Change is scary. But what happens when you throw all convention out the window? Like really let loose and do something totally extreme. When you keep doing something over and over that doesn’t work… isn’t that the definition of insanity? So instead of driving yourself crazy, beating your head against the wall doing the same old thing, what’s stopping you from trying something different?
If you follow our blog, you’ve probably heard how we jumped in and implemented agile methodologies throughout our entire organization. Whether you know what that means or not, the bottom line is we knew we could do things better but the constraints of traditional management and organizational structure were preventing us from changing.
Does your organization have great quality data but no way to share it? Are you required by law to report quality information? Is your organization looking for ways to become transparent to your patients?
At our last company meeting, we watched a video about pit stops. Why? Because it was freaking awesome to watch! The Red Bull team set the record for the fastest pit stop in April of this year. The video shows it in slow motion for a minute and a half, and then the entire process in real time.
So, before you watch it, predict right now how long you think it takes to do a pit stop for a Formula One racecar. Remember it, we’ll come back after you check it out (you will want to put in on HD, and turn up your speakers):
If you’re in the Creative Corridor, you might know that Geonetric is planning a big move next year to the New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids. We’ve been in our current location since 2004, and while it has treated us well, we’re excited about swapping our current office park for a real, well, neighborhood.
We’ll be on the third floor of a building that will look something like this:
If all goes according to plan, the new facility should be ready in the Spring of 2014. This is an important move for Geonetric for a couple of reasons:
- We’re continuing our steady growth and we simply need more room. Our new location will be almost twice as large as our current one, and can accommodate projected growth for the next 10 years, at least.
- We have a creative team. We need access to coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, markets, and beer to fuel all that creativity. New Bohemia is packed with this stuff: everything will be available in a one-block radius of our new location.
- It’s being built on a former industrial site (it was once a steel plant at 415 12th Ave SE). Our project will convert an empty brownfield lot into a state-of-the-art office facility for several progressive companies.
- Our current location doesn’t offer the collaboration space we desperately need. Our Agile adoption has put tremendous pressure on our teams to be flexible and communicate better. The new location will have lots of room for us to easily get together and make things happen.
- The new facility will feature important amenities we don’t have now:
- Open floor plans for easy pairing (two employees work together on one task)
- It’s on the major bike path in our area, so employees can bike to work
- Showers for those who do bike to work
- A café for serendipitous conversations
- A room large enough for our all-hands company meetings in which we can sit comfortably as we grow
- Training lab space for group learning
- An indoor grill so we can continue our mission-critical provision of meat (or veggie burgers) to our team, even in the winter. Grilling outside in the winter in Iowa is not fun.
In short, the new location will help Geonetric grow and continue to deliver outstanding work for our clients.
When we’re ready, I promise we will throw one heck of an open house party!
Geonetric was named one of the Coolest Places to Work this morning by the Corridor Business Journal along with 23 other companies from the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor. Before each company accepted their award, a one-minute video played highlighting the culture of that company. The video below was played before Ben got up to accept the award on behalf of Geonetric.
The video does a great job highlighting was makes Geonetric cool. It could easily have gone longer than one minute. Especially when it listed the part about the employees being what really makes the company rock. Here are some other things that we didn’t have time to include in the video:
- We are all about candid, constructive criticism and praise between peers and co-workers.
- Managers don’t improve team performance – teams do.
- Our company-wide monthly meetings are all about transparency.
- We have a no-hierarchy peer-accountable culture.
- Flexibility in our work hours enables us to produce exceptional work.
- It’s OK to have fun at work.
Sound like you’d fit right in? Check out our current job openings and browse the site to learn more about us. If you don’t see a job that matches your talents, send us your resume anyways! We’re always looking for bright, dedicated employees.
The recent announcement from Google underscores the growing importance of structured content on the Web. This is not a new trend, but it’s one that has definitely been gaining more and more momentum recently. I expect this to continue to increase, which is why I’m excited to talk a little about how our upcoming VitalSite 6.7 release will begin supporting schema.org microdata.
Based on the enhancement requests I’ve seen since schema.org was launched by Google, Yahoo! and Bing, I know that a fair number of clients will be excited by this support. If it’s a new concept for you, hang in there: I’m about to give a quick overview describing what it is and why you should care. At the end, I’ll also share some helpful links.
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know we’re relentless about measuring Client Satisfaction and posting it here.
Last quarter, and most of 2012, the primary pain point our clients revealed in our Client Satisfaction survey was issues with deployment of our software. So for the past few months we’ve been implementing our new push button automated deployment system, which takes a single click to do, is more reliable, and much faster.
We looked with anticipation to the Q1 2013 survey to see if the changes had any effect. The results are in, and we had the highest overall score we’ve ever gotten: 5.27 on a scale of 1-6.
Clients also commented positively on how we’re deeply aligning our work together on the website to their corporate goals. In many cases, we’re helping clients draft eHealth goals in the first place. We also got kudos for our new Responsive Marketing Campaigns that produced amazing results for Crozer-Keystone Health System. And, we got a bunch of comments about the attentiveness and thoroughness of our client advisors that regularly meet with clients and help them manage their projects.
That said, there were some areas for us to work on that clients identified. Two came up in particular:
- Some clients expressed that they didn’t find our current clients-only GeoLabs as useful as they could be. So we’re going to revamp them this summer.
- A few clients mentioned that certain types of services take longer than they should. We agree; our no-hierarchy peer-accountable culture initiative is designed to address exactly this problem. We should see an impact from these changes over the next few months.
All in all, getting the highest overall score we’ve ever gotten is a great way to start 2013! We’re excited about the improvements we’re making and the incredible work we’re doing with our clients every day!
“You can only manage what you can measure.”
– Peter Drucker
It’s easy to get obsessed with numbers and metrics when you’re working with the Web. There’s no shortage of information about what’s happening with your website, app or campaign. The cup of data overfloweth.
For a certain set of people, and I count myself in this category, data is just fascinating. I find myself getting lost in spreadsheets and databases while attempting to tease out just one more insight.
But the point of data isn’t in the data. It’s often not even in the insights that come from the data. The point is the act of measurement itself.
Measurement creates focus. This is really the reason why we do it. This is really why it matters.
If you’re doing your metrics properly the process starts with defining goals. Aiming only matters if you know what your target looks like. So you start with goals and the goals lead to metrics.
If you don’t approach the problem from this direction, it’s easy to get into trouble. I was recently reviewing the pay per click (PPC) campaign work that a client was having done with a third party. Initially they were thrilled with the numbers they were seeing – a large numbers of clicks, with a low cost per click. As we talked about why they were making the investment and what their goals were – questions that they were never asked and hadn’t considered before starting the PPC campaign – it became clear that there were many issues:
- Traffic was going to the wrong pages – generic service line pages rather than campaign landing pages
- They needed offers associated with the campaign that didn’t exist
- The quality of the traffic (complete with near 100 percent bounce rates) was terrible
- They were paying for many brand keywords that were not specific to the campaign and which they already owned from an organic search perspective
- And, in some cases, they were promoting offerings for which patients rarely choose providers of have much input
Where was the problem in this? They never defined the ultimate goals of the effort! And they confused operational metrics with goal targets. Beginning with a goal of scheduled procedures rather than the general tactical charge of “promote this service line” would naturally have led to questions about converting browsers to patients, targeting audience segments, messaging needs, and a just a more holistic view of the process.
Instead, they’d been feeling good about money that they were throwing away.
Setting up a process for goal-driven marketing is not hard to do. To learn how to do this, and to learn more about how metrics and transparency will make you a better digital marketer, watch our webinar - Translating Site Data Into Action.
Yesterday I posted the key takeaways from our quarterly client satisfaction survey. Some questions we hear about it is: where does the data go? Who sees it? How do you use it?
It’s an interesting set of questions, because the answers have evolved a lot in the past few years.
It used to be that we’d collect the data and then just a couple of us would pick some action items to be done and distribute them through the organization. This had the advantage of letting us hide anything we didn’t want everyone to know about, or we didn’t want to deal with yet. But now it’s a bit different. We’ve matured a lot as a company, and we’ve been eschewing top-down management methods and empowering teams to solve problems. Sharing the data widely forces us to face candid feedback even if it’s uncomfortable. Therefore, we share the data very widely within the company, and only in a few cases make it anonymous when we feel it must be.
Who Sees it and Takes Action Based on it?
The data from the client satisfaction survey is:
- Viewed in its entirety, verbatim, by the entire Geonetric leadership team – 12 people – and discussed and debated for a couple of hours. We want to make sure that the team charged with guiding Geonetric forward is 100% clear on whether we’re accomplishing our mission to “Wow!” clients. We identify trends and propose possible ways to address shortcomings or pass along kudos to teams doing things right.
- Client-by-client scores and most client comments are shared with the Account Managers and Project Managers to give them feedback on areas they’re excelling or failing to meet expectations. AMs and PMs tend to have the closest relationships with clients and often can best address issues. In almost every case, the surveys are confirming what the AMs and PMs already know, but the survey helps us stay focused on resolving any outstanding issues, or illuminating exceptional work that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
- Teams, like our software development team or design team, are given the scores for their respective areas of influence through the company meetings, where we present the aggregate scores in each of 12 categories in front of everyone. Depending on the feedback, they might choose to take action within their realm of control.
- The monthly company meeting after the survey closes includes a discussion and rank of every client from best-scoring to lowest scoring: everyone knows where every client stands at that point.
We’ve been having a great year at Geonetric and we’re making huge strides in a number of areas. One thing we hold constant is our focus on client satisfaction. In fact, though we’ve consistently surveyed clients every quarter for about five years, we recently updated our mission statement to include “To ‘Wow!’ our clients.” So as you can imagine, we don’t just strive for average. Mediocre survey results simply won’t do.
We share the compiled results every quarter with our entire team. We pat each other on the back for successes and talk candidly about opportunities for improvement. We also share the results with our clients – especially in instances where we changed a process or enhanced a feature due to their direct feedback.
We don’t always post the scores publicly. But every once in a while something interesting comes out of the survey that makes me think… this is blog worthy. This is one of those times.
The primary measure we watch is the overall satisfaction score. This quarter’s overall average client satisfaction improved slightly over last quarter, with score of 5.06, up from 5.00 in Q1. This is on a scale of 1.0-6.0, and our goal is to be at 5.0 or better – intentionally a difficult measure to achieve. For example, we need to be getting a bunch of 6.0s – perfect scores – to keep ahead of our 5.0 mark in the event any individual client ranks us less than 5.0.
In short, the Geonetric team has been working exceptionally hard this year to ‘Wow!’ clients, and the scores reflect that, overall, we’re doing very well by our clients.
Areas Where We Excelled
In addition to the overall scores, we ask clients for their ratings in 11 other categories. The highest areas of satisfaction were with the relationships they have with individuals – the Project Managers (5.22) and Account Managers (5.15). It’s not surprising that we scored highest here, since we focus tremendous energy on the depth of the relationships we have with clients. Some of the ways we do that include:
- Weekly or biweekly status calls with almost every single client to keep projects flowing smoothly.
- Clients generally keep the same Project Manager and Account Manager before and after launch – in many cases for years at a time. Clients don’t get passed off to a help desk. Ever.
- Quarterly calls to evaluate performance, track ROI, and benchmark against peer groups.
For our clients who have come over from competitors, where they often haven’t talked to anyone except the help desk for months or years, the depth of these relationships is a shocking change!
Here are some actual comments from our amazing clients:
- “My experience with account and project management is always superb.”
- “You have excellent, hard-working employees, an ace of a system in VitalSite, excellent account and project management, amazing follow up and support and you are all so nice!”
- “My team is extremely pleased with how things went [with the new site launch]. I am pleased with the overall relationship, the attention to detail, and the on-time delivery of a great new site.”
- “I think, overall, very highly of Geonetric’s people, processes and technology and recommend them to others.”