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CEO Series: Interview with David Roberts, CEO of SurveyGizmo

An interview with David Roberts, the CEO of SurveyGizmo on the challenges of scaling a SaaS platform, the evolving role of CX in organizational strategy and success, and the future of data privacy.

SurveyGizmo is one of those companies that has been on my radar for many years, but for whatever reason, I just never really got to know well. I had heard from many folks about the benefits of their modular, API-driven architecture and knew that they were the engine behind many different offerings, and I certainly recognized their position within the DIY platform segment, but it never went further than that.

That is why I was thrilled when earlier last year they began to engage in a more substantive way with the broader industry and reached out to arrange a chat with their CEO, David Roberts who had just assumed the role of a year ago. David gave me a good briefing on the company and through that conversation, I decided that there was an interesting story here on the evolution of the company and how they are working to differentiate themselves in the crowded SaaS insights platform space.

David’s background leading the CRM practice at Accenture gives him a unique perspective not common to most leaders of insights tech companies, who tend to be founders or entrepreneurs. He was brought in to be a growth CEO though, and he has some really interesting thoughts on what that may look like for not just SurveyGizmo, but the industry as a whole.

As always, these interviews are so leaders of companies can share their thought leadership and experience with others, as well as giving examples of what different companies are doing to achieve growth in a rapidly changing and dynamic industry.  This interview is a great combination of both goals being accomplished: there is much to be inspired by in the story of SurveyGizmo and David’s passion for the opportunities he sees for the company.

He also used Legos and Star Wars as examples in our discussion, which warmed my little geek heart to no end!

This interview was conducted shortly before the holidays last year, but we wanted to save it so more folks would see it. Now is that time. Enjoy!

 

Here are a few key exchanges that I think are particularly interesting (including a really nice analogy using Legos!) and give us a good sense of what is next for the company:

Lenny: You were a leader of the CRM Practice at Accenture before taking the CEO role at SurveyGizmo; is that CX focus what drew you to the role?

David:  This opportunity is a chance for me to really connect companies to their customers and to be way more customer-centric as I reflect back on all my days at Accenture in the CRM practice. We really were helping sales and marketing organizations run more effectively and those were the most customer-facing of organizations to really keep that customer feedback in the eye on the customer every single day. So I’m excited about being at SurveyGizmo to do that.

Lenny: Okay, so then would it be an appropriate assumption that as you look at the opportunities for SurveyGizmo that it’s focused more around the CX space, or are you looking to the broader role of data in driving customer connectivity and customer-centricity across the organization within marketing as well as the operations component of CX?

David: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s really the second of those. So we have built a product that has allowed people to do really creative things and what we’ve done by following our customers is found ourselves in all sorts of places. We’re engaging the customer, and you can define the customer as our typical customer, or a patient, or a vendor, or a partner, or an employee; people that an organization wants to engage to be able to draw that voice into how they’re running their business and how they’re able to adapt and respond to the customer.

So we really think of it in a broad way and we think that customer experience is really around building a business around the customer and not just producing dashboards and insights of what that customer may be telling you.

Lenny:  I would associate SurveyGizmo in the DIY segment, and your competitive set would be Qualtrics, Surveymonkey, QuestionPro, and similar companies. Am I interpreting that correctly in terms of where the company has historically sat?

David: Yeah, that’s our heritage. If you go back to 10 years ago in the early days of our growth, we very much built a product that was really easy to use and powerful. We put everything out on the web allowed people to take care of themselves. We provided awesome customer support, which we still do today. And that was really the business model for many many years. We’ve grown beyond that, which I’ll share more about.

I mean our heritage is our future in many ways. We built a product that was very openly architected. We wanted people to be able to explore and figure out new and interesting use cases they might be able to build with SurveyGizmo. I’ll tell you when I joined early on and one of the analogies I used was that SurveyGizmo was a box of ten thousand Lego parts. We were able to help customers go build whatever they could imagine and there were parts in the Lego box that could leave their imagination unimpeded.

And in the early days, people really wanted to go do that themselves. I mean Market Researchers see a lot of value in asking exactly the right question or filling exactly the right script and they like the ability to go invent and create. Through that process, that heritage and that architecture continue to allow us to provide a lot of strength to people today. But we find as we move into the Enterprise and more and more of our customers (and we serve a third of the Fortune 500, we have many, many large customers!) they don’t want to as much dig around through every single box of Lego parts. They want, you know, the X-Wing Fighter and they might want to swap Luke for Yoda, but they want something that allows them to get there faster and we’re now delivering solutions that are specific solutions to specific problems that allow them to do just that.

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