Over the past year, my co-founder Frederic Kerrest and I have been traveling around the world meeting with many of Okta's enterprise customers. Thousands of companies--of all sizes, regions and verticals--are currently using Okta's identity, mobility and platform offerings and as we grow, it's more important than ever to stay as connected to our customers as possible. Understanding their business challenges and opportunities is the only way we'll make them successful, and visiting their headquarters helps us do just that. Here are a few reasons why breaking bread with your customers should be a top priority for every business leader:
Put a Face to Your Product
No matter what industry you're in, one-on-one connections are invaluable. People, after all, want to do business with people. More than anything else, that's why we decided to have key executives, including myself and Frederic, travel around the globe visiting customers. We wanted to give our company and product a face, and make our customers see us as more than just a software vendor. Now they see us as people who care about security, the future of cloud and mobile and the technology market as a whole--they see us as people who care about them.
Show You Care (and Prepare)
Prior to our meetings, Frederic and I spend hours preparing with our teams. Our sales reps and and customer success managers--the folks who work with the customer on a day-to-day basis--put together detailed briefing documents, outlining how the customer's implementation went and if they've run into any issues. We then meet to discuss the objectives of the meeting and how we should discuss and address the aforementioned issues. We come prepared to every meeting so the customer understands our investment in them is a serious one. Our hope is that someday when a challenge arises, they'll remember our conversation, recognize that we care and pick up the phone and call.
Know Their Business Like It's Your Own
You can read up on your customers and spend hours preparing to meet with them (and obviously I recommend doing just that), but nothing will help you understand where they come from more than going to their place of business. To truly grasp your customer's business and how it operates, you need to visit your customers on their home court. You should see their employees in action, figure out their processes and experience the culture. The better you understand the way they operate, the better you'll be able to serve their needs and make them successful, leading to a trusting relationship.
Ask for Constructive Criticism
During every meeting, ask for honest and direct feedback on our product, particularly focusing on whether or not the customer has any concerns. For us, those conversations and suggestions lead to swift, meaningful improvements. Amway, which offers nutrition, wellness, beauty and home products through distributors in more than 80 countries and territories, has been a customer of Okta's for years and on a recent visit, they shared how important a key application integration we didn't have would be to their IT strategy. We prioritized that integration and since then, other customers have utilized it as well. Upon returning from our visits, we close the feedback loop by sitting down with sales and customer success and talking next steps. We also share takeaways with the entire company during all hands meetings and add our meeting notes to Salesforce for all to see. It's a big investment for us to make these trips--and not just for us, but the team members involved as well--but we make these visits a priority because we know that if our customers are successful, so are we.