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Putting Customers First: Living Our Mission and Core Values – And Then Some January 18, 2024

by Mike Tillman

Every organization should possess both a mission statement and a set of core values to guide its direction. Our mission is “to deliver results that drive mission success for our customers. As a services company, we measure our success through the level of success we bring to our customers.” Our five core values are: integrity, customer service, excellence, innovation, and respect.

As a means to adoption, these words and values appear in every corporate document, serve as a major theme of employee orientation sessions, and are articulated in every quarterly “all hands” meeting. The thought is that repetition – and ongoing executive team emphasis – will keep these principles uppermost in employees’ minds, lead to their internalization, and make them a daily practice.

But it isn’t all just “talk.” We strive to live our values, and there are tangible indicators that our approach is working. Every month we receive unsolicited “kudos,” citing specific employees for actions above and beyond. In 2023 alone, we received 70 kudo submissions. Then, there is our average customer satisfaction score on the Government’s Contractor Performance Assessment Report System (CPARS). It is an exceptional number of which we are very proud: 4.4 out of possible 5. Last, but by no means least, is our customer retention rate and our steady footprint expansion within key customer agencies.

But it isn’t all just “talk.” We strive to live our values, and there are tangible indicators that our approach is working.

Internal communication plays an integral role in “living” a mission aimed at achieving outstanding customer success. Equally important is purposeful communications with our customers. We pride ourselves in going a step beyond the typical project meetings and status reports to identify as precisely as possible what service or solution our customers need or want throughout the life cycle we serve them. We’ve learned that often there is a distinct difference between what customers convey orally or in writing and what they actually seek in terms of a solution or service.

A few months ago, Peter Martini wrote an Electroblog titled “Ask These 3 Questions Before Designing a Client Solution.” He reminded us that when customers convey their problem statements, we should avoid the temptation to assume we immediately understand the issue. He urged every project manager to ask three questions:

  1. What do you mean by that?
  2. How did you come to that conclusion?
  3. What is the purpose?

Language, whether written or oral, can be laden with potential pitfalls. Words can convey different meanings to different people. Assumptions may be at play on both sides, and the context framing the discussion may be unknown to one or both parties. All will affect the output defined and eventually delivered.

Language, whether written or oral, can be laden with potential pitfalls.

A recent customer success story is a case in point. A federal agency engaged Electrosoft to implement Personal Identity Verification (PIV)‒based multifactor authentication (MFA). On its face, this project seemed relatively straightforward, and our winning proposal reflected a solution based on the stated parameters.

After contract award, our efforts to fully understand our customer’s desired solution surfaced requirements not readily identifiable from the solicitation. These included:

  • Learning that the customer did not want to move to a domain environment, thus necessitating a modification to the Active Directory approach initially proposed.
  • Recognizing the depth of the customer’s security concerns regarding a proposed middleware solution, prompting us to research and report on other federal customers’ experience with the software in secure environments.
  • Discerning significant underlying nuances in the six prescribed use cases, requiring adjustments that addressed them.
  • Finding that the customer assumed staff would try to circumvent MFA, meaning we would need to implement greater preventive safeguards for every use case.
  • Discovering that customer agency mission performance had critical time periods that could not be interrupted, necessitating an implementation and testing schedule that considered peak activity periods.

Customer satisfaction is not the automatic result of project effort and outputs. Satisfaction derives from purposeful actions coupled with ongoing communications. We message mission and core values at every opportunity with our staff, and we go to extraordinary lengths to solicit precise information about the services and solutions our customers actually seek. It is little wonder that our customers are experiencing success, and we are daily achieving our mission of driving success for our customers.

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