What Does It Mean to Truly Put the Customer First?

At AlertMedia, customer success isn’t owned by one department — it’s a company-wide priority. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
Written by Adrienne Teeley
May 28, 2021Updated: May 28, 2021

Every business wants their customers to be successful: when products work well and deliver value, everyone is happy.

But at AlertMedia, there’s more to customer success than just keeping people happy, said Kyle Smith, an engineering manager.

“As an emergency communication provider, success means doing everything in our power to help our customers save lives and improve outcomes,” Smith said. “We make sure customers have the information they need to make decisions during emergencies and provide them tools so they can communicate quickly with people in harm’s way.”

The stakes are high during emergencies, which is why the company as a whole prioritizes customer success, regardless of team or role. To Patricia Oldani, a customer marketing manager, having a company-wide value of “putting the customer first” helps unite everyone around a common goal and makes the partnerships between customers and colleagues that much more meaningful.

“When our customers succeed, we succeed,” said Oldani. “We always have that in the back of our minds and ask ourselves: How can we help them be successful in their organizations? It’s really that simple.”

That question is floated around AlertMedia constantly. But thanks to a proactive team that is not shy about reaching out for customer feedback, the company has a steady stream of valuable suggestions to help it determine which new features to build and where to deploy resources. According to Smith, ample feedback makes for more user-friendly tech, higher customer satisfaction, and a better experience for AlertMedia’s customers and their employees.

To see how the emphasis on customer service shapes the employee experience at AlertMedia, Built In Austin connected with Oldani, Smith, and Vice President of Customer Success Lindsey Draper. We learned that the company’s desire to see customers succeed not only has a significant real-world impact; it is also a critical part of professional development, product strategy, and company culture. 


Alertmedia's team, pre-pandemic


What are some standard offerings at AlertMedia that improve customer satisfaction?

Vice President of Customer Success Lindsey Draper: Having a direct line to a dedicated customer success manager who is knowledgeable about our products and the customer’s business is a big differentiator. Thousands of organizations use our product to identify potential threats to their people or business and rely on AlertMedia to communicate with employees during emergencies. No one can accurately predict when a crisis might occur, so it’s critical that we’re available when our customers need assistance — 24/7, 365 days per year.

We also pride ourselves on taking a proactive approach to customer satisfaction. We consistently check in with our customer contacts, even if we don’t receive a specific request. We want them to know we have their backs. We regularly offer resources and support to help them communicate confidently when they need to get messages out urgently.

No one can predict when a crisis might occur, so it’s critical that we’re available when our customers need assistance.”

Customer Marketing Manager Patricia Oldani: One of the coolest parts of my job is working with our customer success managers to understand which resources our customers would find most helpful. We offer a wide range of resources, including planning checklists, communication templates, and advice for preparing for specific emergencies like a hurricane. I get to bring those requests to life. We’re constantly improving our resources using their feedback—there’s a level of customization to our approach.

Additionally, we are always watching the world for events that might impact our customers in some way. We make sure to send out emails in advance of events we can predict, whether that’s around severe weather, wildfire season, or anything that may pose a risk to their people or business.


What is a “customer response team”?

At AlertMedia, the customer response team, or CRT, is an engineering team devoted to customer success. “We act as first responders, tasked with quickly addressing customer requests and feedback,” Smith said. “The company empowers us to prioritize this work, which allows us to rapidly follow up with customers and demonstrate we’re moving quickly to give them what they need.”


What’s the relationship like between the customer success and engineering (customer response) teams? Why is this partnership important?

Engineering Manager, Customer Response Team Kyle Smith: I like to think of the customer success team and the customer response team as one big, cohesive team. If a customer expresses interest in a particular feature or capability during a regular check-in meeting, our customer success managers can relay those conversations directly to the engineering team as they occur. That type of direct interaction is invaluable and helps us effectively address customer requests. Our roadmap is incredibly aggressive. We know how impactful our work is for the organizations we support, so we push ourselves to consistently deliver new features, capabilities, and value to our customers faster than anyone else in the market. Ensuring that we’re doing this with our customers’ needs and specific use cases in mind starts with great collaboration between customer success and engineering. 

We have a daily stand-up, where we meet with the customer success team and discuss all the projects and requests in our queue. We also have a product council where customer success and CRT teams work together to prioritize new product features. Knowing the context and how your work will positively impact the customer is incredibly helpful, both for prioritization and unlocking creative ideas. These interactions also provide an opportunity to hear how happy a customer is once we address their need, which, as a developer, is inspiring.


Knowing the context and how your work will positively impact the customer is incredibly helpful.”

Do you have an example of a product change that’s been implemented because of a customer suggestion?

Smith: The ability to schedule recurring notifications, a popular feature of our software, originated with a customer request. That feature proved to be very helpful for hundreds of our customers during the pandemic, as companies needed to conduct daily wellness checks for essential workers.

One important thing to note is that we don’t wait for customers to bring us that feedback. Part of our job is to check in with them and ask how they are using the product. It’s amazing how often these conversations open up new ideas for features. Usually, if one company has found something useful, other companies will too. 


Where tech skills meet people skills

Life on the CRT isn’t like any other engineering gig. For Smith, his position has allowed him to flex both his tech skills and his communication abilities. “The customer-facing aspects of my role help me tap into my talents and passions in a way I don’t think I’d be able to do in a typical engineering role,” he said.


How has this focus on customer success fueled your career at AlertMedia?

Oldani: When I was on the CS team, I was in the trenches with our customers and witnessed first-hand the challenges they faced when responding to emergencies. So when a role opened in marketing that allowed me to continue supporting customers by developing and providing resources I knew they would value, I was ecstatic. My experience working on the customer success team gave me the ability to empathize with our customers on a deeper level.

I better understand the types of resources that will make customers’ lives easier, and I can communicate that to my colleagues and bring those resources to life.


A large sign that reads "One Team" in AlertMedia's office
Alertmedia's office


Why is “customer first” a core value at AlertMedia? How does that impact the work you do?

Draper: We place customer needs above our own. Nothing is more important to us than helping organizations protect their people and businesses, which means we always respond quickly and with care. When our customers are happy, we’re happy and able to do our best work.

One area of focus in my role is to ensure we maintain our company culture within the broader customer success team and in our approach to service. Putting customers first is rewarding and simply feels right. By keeping that value at the forefront of all decisions, we ensure we not only do what is right for our business but also what is right for our customers.


Rapid Response

At AlertMedia, speedy response times are the norm, as well as a point of pride. When an email hits the customer support inbox, Draper said the customer support team currently has a time to resolution rate of 6 minutes or less.


AlertMedia is growing. How will you continue to strengthen customer support as your team scales? 

Oldani: Every day, we’re given new opportunities to learn from our customers, understand their pain points, and improve how we help them. That translates into more resources — such as advice for communicating with employees during severe weather or successfully reopening their offices post-pandemic. The scope of what we can offer will only get bigger and better as we continue to identify how we’re helping support our customers.

Smith: Right now, AlertMedia is at a really exciting stage. We’re growing incredibly fast, but our core values and shared commitment to our mission remain the same. This year, we have plans to expand our engineering team substantially. That’s exciting to me because it means we’ll be able to do even more for our customers, help them solve issues faster, and continue delivering the high-quality support experience they have come to know and love.

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