On October 21, 2016, the British Phonographic Industry awarded Silver Record status to a 34-year-old song as it achieved sales of 200,000 digital downloads. That song, recorded by Elton John and released on his 1972 album “Honky Chateau,” is called “Rocket Man.” Although my musical taste tends to run more toward The Ramones’ “Rocket to Russia” than it does to Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” I have become familiar with the melody and lyrics over the years as the song still gets airplay today on “Adult Contemporary” radio stations which I, sadly, sometimes find myself listening to.
The song “Rocket Man” tells the story of an astronaut who isn’t a hero, he’s just a guy doing his job. He does what he has to do in order to perform his best in the job he has accepted, and he stays focused on his responsibilities. Like most Elton John songs, “Rocket Man” is highly arranged with emphasis on keyboards, synthesizers and stylized slide guitar. Rolling Stone magazine ranks the song No. 245 in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The opening stanza of “Rocket Man” unexpectedly crept into my consciousness a couple of months ago as I sat in the audience listening to the keynote at Calabrio’s customer conference, Calabrio Customer Connect (C3) 2016. The keynote speaker was Calabrio CEO Tom Goodmanson and he was talking about, among other things, the growth Calabrio has experienced over the past few years. The numbers are extraordinary and Calabrio has become an industry force to be reckoned with under Goodmanson’s leadership.
I got the sense that Goodmanson must feel like he’s strapped into the pilot’s seat of a rocket ship that’s heading toward the industry stratosphere. Beyond that, I also got the impression that he is a lot like the rocket man described in the Elton John song. He’s a guy doing the best he can in the task that he has taken on, focused on his responsibilities and in control of his ship. Intrigued, I wanted to find out what made him tick. What follows is a conversation I had with Tom shortly after the conclusion of the C3 conference.
Stockford : I’ve followed Calabrio for many years and it’s always been a solid workforce optimization (WFO) performer, but the growth and changes over the past few years have been remarkable. When you took the reins as CEO in 2009, what did you see that gave you an indication of Calabrio’s growth potential?
Goodmanson : We had a solid base of loyal customers that liked what we were doing, so I talked to them and got my hands on as much data as I could. I come from the software world and had an idea of how we might leverage that. While 90% of our competitors were shipping hardware, we started developing software that could do everything the hardware was doing. Being relatively small and nimble, the company was able to act fast.
Stockford : So you got the rocket to the launch pad. What else did you have to do to prepare for takeoff?
Goodmanson : We spent about a year just talking to customers, then we made sure we had the right talent on board to meet the requirements of our customers. The company had some product roadmaps in place and I literally threw them away and started over.
Stockford : What did you replace those product roadmaps with?
Goodmanson : A sharp focus on service first and providing solutions that offer directional data to our customers so they can make good business decisions and do what they do best. That’s how successful software companies work and I wanted to bring that strategic direction to customer care. Remember, we were a relatively young and lean company so we could take a new strategic direction quickly. We could turn on a dime and put the pedal to the metal, so to speak and that’s what we did. We rebuilt how we wanted to go to market.
Stockford : Does that lean-and-mean attitude still exist at Calabrio today, even as the company has grown the way it has?
Goodmanson : Absolutely! We have maintained our company mindset to stay nimble and responsive. When we first started to change things, we had to change some organizational behaviors but we’ve done that and everyone here is committed to putting customer needs first, taking customer feedback and running with it in terms of product development.
Stockford : When you first saw that company growth curve take a sharp northeasterly direction, what steps did you take to keep the company on course?
Goodmanson : I looked for more fuel for the engines, kind of like rocket boosters. We doubled down on marketing and invested in a larger sales organization, but we’ve maintained our small and nimble mindset.
Stockford : Keeping an eye on the horizon, as all good pilots do, what do you see ahead?
Goodmanson : I think for Calabrio, it’s important that we don’t forget where we came from and how we got here. We’ll continue to listen to our customers and put their needs at the front of the line, continue to treat our employees as important contributors to our success, and make sure our ecosystem is healthy.
As far as the contact center industry is concerned, we’re committed to the cloud and all that it entails. The team is constantly thinking about what might be important to the industry next; the Internet of Things for example. We’ll always maintain our flexibility and scalability so we can react quickly to industry trends and customer requirements.
Stockford : As we go to press with this interview, Calabrio was named the winner of the 2016 Saddletree Research Kachina Award™ for Innovation in Contact Center Cloud Solutions. Congratulations.
Goodmanson : Thanks. I think the awards and recognition Calabrio has received over the past few years validates that we’ve got this ship on the right course, and that’s where we plan on keeping it.