During a recent Leading Through Change webinar, we spoke to Sue Goble, Chief Customer Success Officer at Sage. Sue’s role at Sage is to ensure customer centricity is at the heart of the business, built into strategy and executed flawlessly through their operations, transformation projects and services.
Below are some the ways Sage have been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the pandemic emerged in March, Sage prioritised two things – the safety and wellbeing of colleagues and doing the right thing for customers – and moved swiftly to execute them.
With the world feeling like an uncertain place, ensuring colleague care and customer continuity became fundamental. Sage established and tested its global, regional and local continuity plans. In addition, a global taskforce was formed. It was comprised of representatives from Sage’s Executive Committee, supported by experts from Risk, Security, Travel, People, Property, IT and Communications.
Sage’s regional taskforce replicated this structure and following local guidelines, focused on monitoring and determining the actions of the whole of the geography. This led to the implementation of safety precautions including restricted travel.
Sage understood the impacts of colleague sickness and rapidly mobilised the workforce to work from home/remotely to ensure business continuity and minimise disruption to their lives. Sage knew that the last thing customers wanted to worry about was whether their technology would continue to support them through this challenging time – so Sage set off to concentrate efforts on that.
Even for a technology business, the shift to 100% digital has been an adjustment. Sage knew that frequent and transparent communication was key.
For colleagues, Sage supported those that had concerns with adjusting to this new normal through encouraging participation in Colleague Success Networks (affinity networks) and rolling out wellbeing support tools such as Headspace.
Sage also increased the frequency of all colleague broadcasts with senior leadership, allowing for clear communication of their action plan, whilst providing colleagues with an opportunity to ask questions.
Sage normally use pulse surveys, twice a year, to understand and gather colleague feedback, however with the pandemic wanted to take it one step further. Sage developed an Always Listening survey to better understand how colleagues are coping, and crucially how they need supporting during this difficult period.
Closely following the external impacts, Sage proactively thought about how it could continue to have a positive impact on their communities through Sage’s philanthropic programme, Sage Foundation. Colleagues continue to be encouraged to participate and share virtual volunteering experiences with loved ones.
The peak financial year-end combined with the disruption across the business landscape pushed the volume of support calls to Sage off the charts. In the UK, small and medium businesses struggling to survive turned to Sage for support not only on software questions, but on understanding government guidelines and funding. To relieve colleagues and address customers who required 1:1 expertise, Sage increased its digital presence, with specific focus on COVID-19 related queries.
Working closely with governments in all regions Sage serves in, Sage created a COVID-19 information hub for business owners. It is available to all businesses, not just customers and is regularly updated in consultation with the government, HMRC and industrial bodies. Here, businesses can easily understand what support is available from the government and find free support from Sage.
To support customers year round, Sage runs all-day webinars where customers can drop in, ask specific questions and get expert advice on the options available to them; this approach allows the business to serve thousands of customers quickly and efficiently. In recent weeks, webinars have shifted to focus specifically on supporting businesses in navigating difficult moments like furloughing staff.
Typically, in a non COVID-19 world, these webinars would serve 200 customers, but they are now serving over 1,000 customers at any one time.
The importance of shifting to Cloud has never been more apparent, and as Sue said:
“We’re seeing that our customers really now understand the value that cloud brings, where maybe before they didn’t. They’re seeing it as an important part of sustaining their business going forward”.
Sage has committed to standing by customers and extended the utmost sympathy to support customers in financial difficulty, by freezing all price rises and offering bespoke financial support for those customers in financial difficulty, including payment holidays. As many of Sage’s customers are small businesses, being able to make cutbacks like this may be the difference to securing their long-term survival.
Like many businesses, Sage is finding that this time has given it a renewed focus. Sue believes that despite the disruption, the potential long-term benefits of recent changes will benefit customers most through greater digital agility, robust customer support and the development of increased innovative solutions.