Nextiva, which provides cloud-based business telephony (VOIP) for businesses of all sizes, is perhaps the fastest-growing telecom in the entire U.S., having grown 1548% [as verified by Deloitte] in the past three years, as well as being the fastest-growing cloud communications company-public or private-in the state of Arizona.
But for all of that, the Nextiva offices in Scottsdale, Arizona are surprisingly serene, exhibiting what appears to be an enviable steadiness of corporate culture. (Disclosure: Nextiva has been a licensee of some of my written work.) As CMO and member of the founding team, Yaniv Masjedi, puts it, "All of the key players who were in the office when we got our first customer, on May 15, 2008, are still working here."
The secret to both Nextiva's pace of growth and feet-on-the ground atmosphere of continuity? "It comes down to a culture of customer service, internal and external," according to Masjedi, with whom I sat down recently.
How seriously do they take this "customer service culture?" As far as external customer service, Nextiva continues to handle every customer support call in-house, and they go absolutely overboard in handling even the smallest and most unique inquiry. Here's an example of how far Nextiva will go to provide superior customer (and even non-customer) communication. While I was visiting their Scottsdale HQ, an employee noticed a tweet coming over inquiring about something Nextiva actually doesn't offer at present (VOIP in Europe, if I recall correctly.) Instantly responding, the employee fired up a video camera and recorded and tweeted the most adorable little video response explaining why they didn't offer this at present and thanking the prospective customer for his inquiry. Needless to say, the original tweeter was stunned.
As far as a culture of internal customer service-serving others within the Nextiva office- this cultural commitment as well is evident everywhere at the HQ. While there aren't quite as many ping-pong table-type clichs-of-visible-happiness at Nextiva as there are at other proud-of-their-culture tech company, the touches that they do have are striking. For example, their weekly, video-based "newsletter," dubbed NEXTV.
NEXTV isn't the kind of well-intentioned but deadly dull undertaking you may have seen at other companies, a big yawn that employees look forward to not watching every week. Far from it. At Nextiva, they go whole hog producing a new NEXTV episode every week (they're currently at episode 142!), using professional video equipment and a pair of hilariously cheeky interviewers who are devoted to introducing Nextiva employees to each other via interviews that ask truly hard to answer (and endless to ponder) questions, like "What would you rather be for the rest of your life: itchy or sticky?" that draw truly engaged responses like "Before I answer, HOW sticky are you talking?" and "would this itch be treatable with a powder?" Masjedi explains the impetus behind NEXTV:
Every Friday we publish our weekly episode of NexTV. It's a unique show. It's filmed by us and can involve absolutely anyone on the team in the office. We use it as a forum to communicate company updates, talk about what is ahead, what's happened, get everyone on the same page. We're well aware that one of the top complaints you hear in so many companies is communication: 'I want to know what's going on. They do things without telling me. Oh, this happened, that happened and I had no clue until after the fact.' We really try to get in front of that. NEXTV, for us, is a key channel for that. It serves as our way, the growing team, need to know about what's going on. This is the way we've found to effectively communicate throughout the company; it's fun, and we never, ever miss a week.
Best service means "being" the customer: Of course, being nice to customers, external and internal, isn't enough to drive a business if your product or service isn't something that customers want. But at Nextiva, it all fits together. In fact, Nextiva's origin story-Nextiva come to design, sell, and service a business-oriented VOIP service in the first place- comes from an incident of "being" the customer: developing a service and product that served their own needs as a growing business, and never losing track of this customer's eye viewpoint. Masjedi:
The idea for Nextiva came from challenges that we'd had ourselves [at a prior company] with our own attempts to have a sensible, effective phone system. It was a sorry scene: After doing a ton of research, we plopped down over a quarter million dollars to buy a phone system for our office- but here was the kicker: as soon as we deployed our new quote unquote "true business phone system," we were miserable. We needed to hire a full-time, technical employee to manage our phone system. We had to pay the company that made the phone system, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to support us in terms of licensing and ongoing support. There were fees on top of fees. It was difficult to manage, difficult to use, expensive, and overall a drag.
Tomas, who's our CEO and at that time worked with me at that prior company, saw this as both a real drag and an opportunity: "Hey, if we're having this problem, we know other businesses are running into the same issues." We started talking about the concept of what became Nextiva, a company with a mission of simplifying business communication and providing businesses with the best phone system, the best communication, technology in the Cloud, that's affordable, it's reliable, easy to use, and constantly improved and innovates. That's the key in a nutshell to how Nextiva came to be.
We acquired our first customer in May of 2008, starting with no outside funding. We knew that based on the experience we had, other businesses are experiencing similar challenges. We saw that as a tremendous opportunity to go to market and really disrupt the business phone system market with a much simpler deployment of technology. Looking back, a little over 7 years now, we've done that. Today we're one of the fastest growing communications companies in the U.S., with over 130,000 business customers, very low churn, and an amazing team.
So what how does that "simple deployment of technology" work?
Masjedi: We ship you a phone in a box, ready to use! That's it. We ship you a phone literally already provisioned and set up for your business, you take it out of a box, plug it into power, plug it into the internet, of course, and you start it. Then, you have an online portal, which we call NextOS 3.0, that it allows you to manage the phone system.
Our solution is a lot different from what businesspeople have had to deal with from Comcast and the rest: Make an appointment, maybe they'll show up between 9-4, ring twice, if you don't answer, leave you a $100 bill for a missed appointment.
Don't get me wrong. Competing with Comcast is not easy. They have a ton of money, experience, lots of smart people, but we do it very well. I credit this partly to our simple, smart technology, but even more to our team of very smart people, over 400 in our headquarters. It's the people behind the technology and the people behind the amazing service we provide who are keeping us so close to our customers and keep us growing so quickly alongside our customers.