Improving Customer Experience a Priority for New CMO

Kathy Schneider joined Sungard Availability Services as chief marketing officer in August last year. During her career to date she has held various leadership roles with Dell, Criteo and Level 3 Communications. At Sungard AS, Kathy reports direct to chief executive officer, Andy Stern.  She has responsibility for global marketing, market strategy, corporate communications and customer experience. Kathy brings more than two decades of technology and B2B marketing experience to her role and has hit the ground running.

AVAIL caught up with Kathy to discuss her thoughts so far and initial plans.


Q: You have an impressive career track record. What attracted you to Sungard AS?

Kathy:  There were several factors…Firstly, having held global positions and then moved into an EMEA lead role at my previous company, I was excited by the opportunity to go back to a global role in which I had full accountability.

Secondly, it’s important to me that I work with a company where I respect what they do and the services they’re providing. The more I came to know Sungard AS, I realised that with the world we live in today when something goes wrong our disaster recovery capabilities really make a difference. For our customers, it’s the day they never want to happen and yet that’s when we perform at our very best.

I also found the culture really attractive – bright people wanting to do the right thing, very dedicated, smart and professional.


Q: What are your observations so far?

Kathy: I see great strength in the investments currently being made in our Disaster Recovery as a Service, Managed Recovery on AWS solution and our production offerings.  These solutions are really exciting because we know our value proposition lies in our combination of proven production and recovery capabilities. So, investing in these enhanced capabilities means when we tell our story we can back it up.

We also need to invest in our brand and clarify what we stand for. We bring our DR expertise to production to ensure that as customers move to cloud-based or hybrid solutions they have a partner who can handle the complexity of these heterogenous environments and build in resilience. We are working on ways to communicate that we are a modern-day DR company that can also handle customers’ production needs and make them recoverable.


Q: What are your immediate priorities?

Kathy: We will be focusing on new business efforts to achieve greater market penetration but cannot ignore our existing customers. We’re hearing that many are unaware of the numerous services we offer in addition to the one they first purchased, possibly some time ago, so we need to start thinking about how best to communicate our full capabilities. We haven’t marketed much to our existing customer base and we will be running targeted programmes to address this.

Improving the customer experience is another big priority for me.  I will be working with the Sungard AS Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) in Europe and the US on this. They are vital to helping us keep our fingers on the pulse, giving us actionable feedback on our services and roadmap. I look forward to working with CAB members to drive improvements over the coming months.


Q: In what ways will the customer experience improve?

Kathy:  Customer experience in the B2B technology sector is critical since so much of a company’s business is dependent on technology infrastructure and services.  I believe taking a programmatic approach to improving the customer experience (‘CX’) is critical to gaining a competitive advantage and that’s something I’m working on. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a fundamental metric in understanding the customer’s experience – knowing if customers would recommend you and understanding why detractors wouldn’t. We’re working to implement a more robust listening platform so we can gain feedback and synthesise it to determine what actions we must take for improvements.

Delivering excellent customer experience also requires a culture of customer focus.  Sungard AS employees care greatly about customers. In fact, we have numerous examples and anecdotes of how our employees have gone the extra mile to ensure customers remained fully up and running during major disasters.  Our CX programme will build on this by training our teams to utilise the insights we gain from surveys and daily customer touches in their day-to-day work. That doesn’t mean fixing every issue a customer might raise, but instead identifying the priority issues and asking, “How do I correct that?”

It comes down to good cross-functional teamwork and having someone take ownership for CX in each functional area.

Everyone needs to see that their role makes a difference. We need to look at the holistic experience of the customer and really drive that connection across the different teams. I find people generally have great intentions to do their job well and it’s typically where roles intersect that something can fall through the cracks.

We’ve initially invested in CX leads for Product and Operations – two crucial areas – and I’ve appointed a programme director to lead our overall framework and gather insights and information, leveraging industry-leading CX tools.

Although we aim to find some quick wins – for example, misalignments or gaps between teams that can be solved fairly easily – we appreciate that achieving leading NPS levels takes time. More fundamental issues that involve rethinking certain business processes, for instance, may take longer to resolve. You’d be surprised how small things taken in isolation may be no big deal but, collectively, can drive people to the point where they feel great frustration, so I hope customers will start seeing small improvements soon.

And as always, I look forward to each and every opportunity to interact with our customers to learn more about their challenges, and how we can help them better achieve their business outcomes.