Customer Thermometer is a powerful, flexible and popular 1-click satisfaction app. They've seen great adoption and extremely low churn over the last few years, with customers such as BT, Indeed.com, Sonos and other great names. It's clear they're at a really exciting point so we asked their MD Jim Turner to talk a little about their strategy...
Can you give us a bit of the background of Customer Thermometer for those who haven’t heard of it?
Customer Thermometer is a market leader in feedback solutions; its 1-click email feedback solution is helping the world’s most customer-obsessed businesses get quick and accurate feedback from their customers in just seconds. This innovative approach to surveying has revolutionizing the feedback sector since 2010.
What’s the vision statement for Customer Thermometer?
Our ultimate goal is to be the best company to work for, and the best company to work with!
Can you tell us a little about your early growth strategy?
When your market potential is enormous, but you’re starting out with zero customers, setting multimillion-dollar annual sales targets can be counterproductive. So instead of obsessing about large annual growth, we leveraged the concept of ‘microtargets’ that focus on smaller wins in shorter time periods, and into areas other than just revenue. For us it’s proven really successful, helping our business hit the right numbers without being distracted by them.
What challenges did you encounter early on?
We had a few years where we didn’t hit our overall growth targets as we prioritized product/market fit and began adding new features that ultimately brought customers to us. Throughout this time, the micro-achievements of weekly sales or website visitor growth was what kept us going.
What’s your approach to strategy planning now?
Our focus has been on expanding our offering in an increasingly saturated market; our strategy planning has increasingly required caution to avoid over-complication or misdirection of focus. It's so great to have more resource to develop new and exciting facets to our feedback solution, but this comes with issues of ensuring we prioritize effectively when strategizing.
As part of our current strategy, we have scaled via partnering with the world’s most innovative helpdesks, CRM and PSA (Professional Services Automation) providers, including Salesforce, Zendesk and ConnectWise. In the last year we have also been accepted into the ServiceNow partner programme, where we have developed a write-back integration within ServiceNow to optimize and strengthen our offering for that client base.
One of our key strategic pillars of FY20 was to partner with Microsoft to offer a robust survey solution to Office 365 users. Our 1-click email feedback solution is now available as an official Outlook Add-in; this means that Office 365 users can now easily add a Customer Thermometer survey via Microsoft’s Outlook desktop and web apps and, crucially, to track the recipient’s sentiment in real time.
Looking back, have you made any key strategic mistakes?
Good question, I am sure the answer is yes but it’s a hiding to nothing to think about what we’ve missed out on rather than what we are looking to achive next
How often do you review your strategy?
We review our strategy with every piece of client feedback we receive, every team meeting we run and each month in the board meeting. Reviewing doesn’t necessarily mean changing, just checking your map The key thing is to constantly review, reflect and learn. You don’t know what you don’t know so, when you do discover and learn be open minded about it and adapt as you go when required.
What have been some of your key strategic objectives and why?
We live our customer-service brand. By celebrating every customer, you start to notice the job title and industry of each new customer sign up. That automatically lodges in your head when you start to write blog posts or target content or build a new pitch deck. Another microtarget was to gain 1,000 ‘true fans’. A true fan is someone who will likely buy from you no matter what you next produce – in other words, customers whose faith you have earned.
We targeted 1,000 true fans when we had only around 200. Setting out to create fans, not just sales, has been critical to our growth and culture. We finally hit 1,000 true fans in December the following year and, as direct consequence, reached $1m ARR the following February.
We now have over 1,500 customers across 60+ countries. Our customers range from startups to the biggest brands in the world, including Fortune 500 and FTSE100 companies and brands such as Sonos, Dollar Shave Club, Glossier, Catbird and Leica.
How do you engage your employees with your strategy?
We give Amazon vouchers to the team whenever we hit certain microtargets around our half years, like achieving certain numbers of delighted customers, or expansion in customer numbers. Ultimately, these are intended to focus our behavior and develop repeatable outcomes.
We’ve found that a key aspect of using microtargets is to change them once a new behavior is learned and embedded. Some of our earliest microtargets looked at growing enterprise revenue. Once we got better at selling to enterprise, we morphed new targets around MRR growth to ensure we didn’t lose the business we had just won.
Today, lots of our microtarget focus is around tracking the duration we keep customers for, their lifetime value (LTV), and the growth achieved in existing accounts.
And because it’s a team game, we update people throughout the business half-monthly on our Slack channel. Our Salesforce dashboard, accelerator dials and other data visualizations all track progress in real time.
How do you think Customer Thermometer will continue to succeed and grow?
Our future growth is being fuelled by the fact that our entire customer service, sales and marketing team are all now in one place. They are nicknamed “The Ministry of Magic” and their role is to provide excellent service – be that to people enquiring, people wanting to buy, or people who want to up or downgrade or refer. Their particular point in the buying cycle is not a factor in how well we service them. We’ve seen a huge shift in our understanding of what our customer want to achieve and been able to help them be more successful as a result.
Customer engagement and feedback can be key to forming a company strategy, what are your thoughts on this and how your product helps?
We believe that some people buy with very little knowledge of your product and some with loads. As it is impossible to pinpoint the buying “moment” now, the onus must be on the service a potential customer receives. Service needs to wrap around the whole process and experience of doing business with you. If you think like this, it’s a real forcefield around your company.
Our product allows businesses to get feedback from any customer touchpoint – enabling them to see, in real time, what is working well and what needs to be addressed as a priority.
What strategy tip would you give SMEs?
We have learned a lot during the journey of scaling Customer Thermometer. Every business is different and to adapt you need to be flexible and not be beholden to the ‘business myths’ of a perfect formula to launch from with a rigid three year plan to follow. Far better that you face the fact that there will most likely be no inflection point, but if you put service first and have realistic microtargets in place, you have a good foundation for growth.
Thanks Jim! 👍