A Q&A with Rob Brewster, VP of Global Alliances at Twilio
Rob Van Brewster is Vice President of Global Alliances at Twilio, the cloud communications platform for building voice & messaging applications. Delivering stellar customer service has been a hallmark of his 20+ year career in enterprise sales leadership at technology companies including Twilio, Eloqua, and Salesforce.com. Building great teams is his passion, so we are excited that Rob has recently become an advisor to Wootric focusing on our go to market initiatives. We sat down with him recently to hear his perspective on the role of customer experience and Net Promoter Score in the success of SaaS businesses.
Wootric: What’s your gift with respect to sales?
Rob Brewster: I would say my energy and initiative, but I also bring a sense of fun to sales. I hire people who are very customer service oriented and celebrate the win of customer success vs. the closing of the deal. I’m also a big fan of initiative, and I’m sure the sales team gets tired of constantly hearing that word from me! I strongly believe that those who show initiative are those who will succeed and continue to grow. It’s one thing to say, “This isn’t working”; it’s another thing to say, “I fixed it, and here’s how I did it.”
W: Everyone is now talking about “Customer Experience,” and Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a key metric. What’s your take?
RB: I think they’re incredibly important concepts that go hand in hand, so I consider customer experience and NPS to be critical to your success. There are so many companies in similar spaces that the differences between them can get cloudy. Customer experience can easily become the differentiator in these cases, and NPS is a simple way to measure customer satisfaction. It allows you to ask your customers, “Do you like us enough to tell your friends and colleagues that we are someone with whom you want to do business?” This is a simple question to ask, but it’s an accurate gauge of how well you’re doing with your customer experience.
W: What has been your experience with Net Promoter Score (NPS)?
RB: I joined Eloqua in 2008 after leaving Salesforce, and our CEO was talking about customer experience when I first walked into the building. He said we were going to be implementing Net Promoter Score, and I remember thinking, “What’s that?” I thought NPS was kind of strange when I first heard about how it’s calculated, but then I realized how simple it is to use. We can easily benchmark our customer experience to see where we’re doing well and where we’re not. NPS also shows us how our customer experience changes over time and how we stack up against our peers. And, when you get a high NPS score with positive feedback like “You really thought about the complex solution that I needed,” you know your whole team — the whole ecosystem — is really doing their job.
A lot of people figure NPS is something you do every 6 months, it’s an email you send out. The customer-focused world is changing so much faster than that. One of the advantages of in-app NPS technology that Wootric offers is that you don’t have to wait 6 months. The ability to get actionable, real time data and put it into dashboards and reports that people can use, I think that’s a huge advantage.
W: How is technology changing the way in which companies engage with and understand their customers?
RB: You need technology to scale your business and you need it to obtain insight at scale. For example, we have over 700,000+developers and customers at Twilio. We use technology to tell us when a customer is having a challenge and to identify what it is, such as pricing or support. We can then bring in the right personnel as needed to solve those problems.
W: What challenges are customer-focused companies currently facing around technology?
RB: I think the biggest challenge for customer focusedcompanies is the decision to build or buy. For example, Twilio is an API, rather than actual software. Customers typically come to us with an idea of the software that would help them with their customer service. We have to explain that they have to build the software with our API. Some customers will decide to buy the software from one of our partners that have already built what they need. On the other hand, some customers who have the resources and skills may opt to build their own software due to the unique needs of their business.
W: What do SaaS companies in the customer experience space, like Wootric, need to do to succeed?
RB: You certainly need great software with amazing uptime that will solve your customer’s problems. However, you also need to differentiate yourselves with customer service, especially if you’re in a competitive market. You need to make it clear that you’re someone with whom the customer will want to continue doing business. You can do that by solving problems immediately and taking responsibility for them. You need to do everything you can to help your customers, rather than just focusing on your needs. Operational transparency also helps to separate the winners and losers in customer service.
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