Customer feedback is integral to the evolution of Kologik products. Here's how we strive to keep doing better.
By Paul San Soucie, Chief Technology Officer, Kologik
You’ve heard companies say that they listen to their customers. That they pay attention to what clients say, and even take that feedback and apply it to make their product or service better. At Kologik, we say it too. This is what it looks like in action.
Not long ago, about 22 members of our team—a mix of developers, engineers, customer support staff, and product managers—got together. Everyone packed up their laptops and external monitors and we met at a hotel for four days. After that, the team went home and worked for four more days together. We called this two-week sprint our “bug slayer” event, and it had one clear goal: to fix our processes and improve products.
It started out a lot like you’d expect. As CTO, I’d heard from Kologik Customer Support that while my team was working hard to fix features and correct bugs, as with any development team, there were requests that weren’t getting attention or weren't being dealt with quickly enough. Oftentimes, we’d fix an issue but that information didn’t make its way back to the customer.
Clearly, we had some work to do at Kologik. We started by identifying the problems customers raised with our support team. Approximately 20% were related to an issue with a product, but 80% were requests for new features and functionality. Things like, “Can you make it so COPsync auto populates with all vehicle information so I don’t have to type that in?” or “I’d love it if the CAD interface had a field for the apartment number on a street address.” The latter request might seem like a small thing but it was actually a big deal for several agencies.
We also knew that we wanted to make a significant dent in the backlog of fixes and requests, to get as much done as we could as quickly as possible. That would mean devoting a significant chunk of time and creating a focused environment where we could build and test as much as we needed to find solutions.
As plans for the two-week sprint took shape, we created teams of two and three Kologik staff and prioritized what we’d tackle. Here are a few things we learned along the way that will continue to inform Kologik’s long-standing commitment to integrating customer input to make our products as helpful and easy-to-use as possible for law enforcement:
Should the incident result in incarceration, the information would then flow into the Kologik Jail Management System (JMS), if a customer has that. Jail personnel can then access JMS to review all the information regarding the incident.
1. We improved processes. We didn't just focus on fixing bugs. As mentioned above, we found that even when a problem was fixed, too often word didn’t get back to the customer to let them know it was corrected (and to thank them for bringing it to our attention). That’s a process problem. So we’ve really worked at linking support and development and now have someone who looks at incoming issues and prioritizes them. Feedback to our customers comes via Customer Support, letting them know that the problem has been reviewed and, if the problem is one we can correct fairly soon, the timing on when we expect it to be deployed. In short, there’s more bidirectional communication with customers and between departments, which has made a big difference.
2. We cross-trained our staff. For the bug slayer event we assembled teams of people who didn’t typically work together. While the engineers may not have initially loved the idea, it makes a world of sense for Customer Support. Now when an issue comes up, we have multiple people who can tackle it, not just one. (And the engineers did come around in the end–although I’m sure the after-hours video games and pizza during the first half of our hackathon helped.)
3. We’re doing a better job focusing Kologik around the customer experience. At the core of our corporate mission is keeping communities and law enforcement safer; that’s what our products are engineered to do. Much of our success is contingent on the ability to create products that are easy to use and accurate. If a customer is upset and takes the time to complain about something, we don’t brush it off. What we may think is intuitive may not be for a client. What may be a small problem to us is important to the person who needs help with it. We strive to always remember that.
The hard truth is that there’s no way we (or any other company) can fix 100% of problems or address all requests, but we’ll always strive to tackle as many as we can, as quickly and as efficiently as we can. We know what it means to Kologik customers when they see a new release that incorporates a fix to an issue they had or includes a new feature they asked about.
Our commitment to our customers also includes asking what features and functionality would make your work easier, faster and safer. As my colleague Jan Roe, Sales Operations Manager and a former county judge, says, “we’re extremely interested in what our customer wants to see. In my history in county government, I was never asked what I wanted to see in the next version of court technology. It’s unusual for a company to be that focused, and I think that’s something that sets us apart.” Rob Powell, Vice President, Customer Support, adds that “we can translate from police talk into developer talk when there is something that goes wrong; that’s an important differentiator for Kologik.”
We’ll continue working to do better–solving problems as soon as we can, eliminating a backlog of requests and releasing new versions that make the software our customers purchase increasingly better over time. And if that means another bug slayer event (or two or three), that’s fine with me. I’ll get the pizza and start the coffee.