Audra Baker's blog

Does Your Data Center Vendor Have You Handcuffed?

The data center industry is not an industry traditionally known for good service. Maybe this is because customers used to have limited options, or maybe it’s because most data center service providers know that once you move into their facility, it is incredibly painful to move out. Regardless, the fact remains that most data center providers do not place a focus on service. At RagingWire Data Centers, we identified this reality as a strategic opportunity, a key differentiator for our business. And it’s paying off.

Over the past two years, we have been refining our formal customer experience practice. This practice is comprised of several key components.

  1. NPS Customer Loyalty Measurement. Customer loyalty industry leaders are growing twice as fast as their competitors. We put a measurement system in place utilizing the same Net Promoter Score (NPS) framework used by many global brands known for service. Think of your weight scale at home though, and the work needed to change the numbers. For this reason, we did not stop by simply measuring loyalty.
  2. Voice of the Customer. This allows customers to provide ongoing feedback and suggestions without having to wait until they receive the next NPS survey. Feedback and suggestions are analyzed and converted into actions with assigned owners and due dates.
  3. Customer Journey Mapping. This is a comprehensive end to end review of all customer interactions with us, from discovery to contract negotiation, implementation, invoicing and operational support. Our goal is to not only provide useful services, but also be easy and enjoyable to do business with.

Our customer experience practice is governed by a steering committee that meets regularly to review scores, trends, customer feedback and action item status. This committee also establishes strategic Customer Experience Practice at RagingWire Data Centersobjectives to continue moving the program forward. We were proud to have been verified as having the highest Net Promoter Score in the data center industry last year, and further validated this year by being named a finalist in Forrester Research’s ‘Outside In’ Customer Experience Awards.

Our customer comments tell us we are on the right path:

"I love working with RagingWire. You guys are beyond professional and make it easy for me to move customers in and out. I don't feel handcuffed at your location like I do at other data centers I work in. You really make my job easier by your flexibility and how helpful your employees are. I recommend your facility to every customer we have that’s thinking about relocating into a data center."

And our business results prove we are on the right path:

  • 30% annual growth rate
  • 60+% organic growth rate driven by loyal customer base
  • Accelerated expansions at all data center locations across the country to meet increased customer demand

Are you looking for a data center partner? RagingWire provides flexible collocation solutions to top enterprise, Internet, and government organizations. Contact us today at to learn more.

What Sharknado Taught Me About Leadership

As part of a recent birthday celebration, I was treated to a viewing of Sharknado, the made-for-television disaster film about a hurricane that lifts man-eating sharks out of the ocean and deposits them into the flooded streets of Los Angeles. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it is a cinematic masterpiece, and one of the best birthday presents a girl could ask for.

As you have undoubtedly guessed, Sharknado has a complex plot. One man – a surfer and bar owner cleverly named Fin – sets out to save his family from the terror swimming through the streets. He is up against some very tough odds, with a small team of people. Some don’t like each other, and some have even been estranged for years. And yet? Through all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, including being swallowed by a shark, Fin succeeds in his mission.

Sharknado and Leadership

And that’s when it hit me. Just when I thought I couldn’t love Sharknado any more, it had to go and teach me something. Below are the top five things Sharknado taught me about leadership. Leaders:

1. Evolve – Leaders are constantly looking at ways to evolve, they are never satisfied with the status quo. My “aha” leadership moment as a young manager came when a colleague told our executive an improvement hadn’t been done due to lack of information from another team. The executive was less than pleased, saying leaders don’t make excuses, they drive improvement. The executive was harsh, and he was right.

This trait is especially important for data center employees. We tend to have small teams – so our employees are encouraged to drive continuous improvement and their own increased knowledge and responsibility in the organization.

Fin didn’t wait for information or action from others, he drove his small team to victory even with the odds stacked against him. And given the sharks’ growling in the film, they must have done some evolving of their own.

2. Trust – As basketball Hall of Famer John Wooden said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything… a doer makes mistakes.” Great leaders trust their employees. This trust fosters an environment where people are encouraged to take risks and innovate.

While the best data center facilities and IT staff have stringent operational procedures, their ability to innovate is not lost, it just has to be part of a controlled process involving a development environment. Mistakes – a natural outcome of taking risks – made along the way are used as learning opportunities. This all equates to a very healthy business environment, the kind proven to foster exceptional results.

Fin trusted his team with the risky move to throw bombs into the sharks’ mouths to stop the threat of more sharknados. While some mistakes were made along the way (like when someone fell into a shark’s mouth), I am sure they developed into a better team from their mistakes.

3. Prepare – Effective leaders are prepared, they anticipate future needs and plan accordingly. For data center operators, this area is especially important. We anticipate potential disasters such as severe weather – like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – and put plans in place ahead of time that cover as many eventualities as possible. Then we test those plans to the letter. Without last minute crises to take care of (because of good planning), there is time to evaluate plan effectiveness and make improvements as necessary. That’s not possible if you’re running around trying to find blankets and cots at the last minute for your operations teams and customers.

Fin anticipated being swallowed by a shark, so he came prepared with his chainsaw. I shudder to think of how Sharknado would have ended had Fin not been prepared, it’s just too upsetting to think about.

4. Are Authentic – Leadership is all about building strong relationships. And you simply cannot do this without being authentic and genuine in dealing with your friends, peers, and customers. Let’s throw integrity and sincerity into the mix here too. To have any level of employee and customer engagement – critical for any organization – people need to be able to relate to you. If they don’t trust you, you will never have the influence required to lead a team to victory. Or through the shark-infested streets of Los Angeles.

5. Execute – Thomas Edison said, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” I love this quote for its simplicity and its truth. Wall Street winners and losers are punished or rewarded based on their earnings – not their vision – because at the end of the day it’s about results. As a data center operator, results mean delivering 100% availability for our customers.

Sharknado 2 is only possible because Fin was able to execute his vision.

Why is leadership important? Because the leadership of your organization dictates its culture. Culture dictates the level of talent you are able to recruit and retain. And talent dictates your success or failure.

There are sharks everywhere in business looking to take your greatest assets: your customers and your employees. Defeat these sharks by arming your organization with strong leadership qualities like the ones mentioned above. And… perhaps a chainsaw or two just in case.

RagingWire a Finalist in the Forrester Outside In Customer Experience Awards

Last week RagingWire attended Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East in New York City. The event was outstanding – it was educational, inspiring, and a great networking opportunity with over 1,400 attendees.

It was also a proud moment for RagingWire. The prestigious Outside In Awards for customer experience were presented at the event and RagingWire was named a finalist in the Governance category! We were thrilled to be recognized along with the other finalists: Ally Bank, American Cancer Society, Blue Cross Blue Shield, DBS Bank, Lego, Pitney Bowes, PWC Australia, Rogers Communication, Safelite AutoGlass, and VMware.

RagingWire Data Center - finalist of Forrester Outside In awards for customer experience.

After reflecting on the many excellent presentations at the Customer Experience Forum, several common themes emerged. Here are my top five take-aways from the event:

GET STARTED. Don’t wait until everything is perfect (let’s be honest, this would be a very long wait). Progress today is better than perfect tomorrow. Your competitors are constantly looking for ways to innovate, and you should too.

LOOK WITHIN. Your employees are your brand, and they are key to executing your customer experience strategy. Start by empowering and engaging your employees, and build this thing together!

LOOK WITHIN AGAIN. Rethink business silos traditionally focused on internal needs, and replace them with an overall organization uniquely designed to delight customers.

PUT YOUR CUSTOMER HAT ON. A critical component is developing your customer journey map, a visual illustration of all the steps a customer goes through while engaging with your company. This tool will allow you to walk in your customers’ shoes to ensure you’re not only meeting their needs, but that you’re also easy and enjoyable to do business with.

PATIENCE AND PERSISTENCE. Customer experience is a journey – there really is no ending point. Success comes from ongoing practice that takes time to implement and mature. Be consistent and the hard work will pay off.

And just as is true in executing any strategy, the foundation is leadership. The customer experience leaders in your organization must be passionate and committed in order to engage every single employee. As Jeri Ward of Audi America stated in her wonderful presentation, “You can’t delegate passion. It must be inspired.”

Thank you Forrester for being a passionate and committed voice for customer experience and for the honor of being named a finalist in the Outside In Awards. Congratulations to all the finalists!

3 Keys to Successful Customer Experience Transformation

RagingWire Data Centers has the highest customer loyalty Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the industry. We recently completed our submission for Forrester’s 2013 Outside In Customer Experience Awards taking place in June. While we are likely up against some very tough competition for this award, it was a great exercise to look back and reflect on lessons learned from transforming our organization to focus strategically on customer experience. That is, not just doing the bare minimum to satisfy our customers, but proactively anticipating their needs and offering solutions to those needs.

Below are three keys to our success (after, of course, gaining full buy-in and support from senior leadership):

Employee Experience. A key element of your customer experience strategy should be employee experience, as the two are very closely aligned. And both have ideas that will improve your business, so foster a culture of soliciting, embracing, and acting upon feedback. Take immediate action to squash any sign of defensiveness, as it will undermine your entire customer experience program.

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Reporting. Ensure baseline metrics are established, so performance results can be tracked and then trended over time. This should include not only customer experience related metrics such as customer loyalty Net Promoter Score (NPS), but also business results such as revenue growth, earnings, and customer retention. While it feels good to do the right thing, remember that loyalty leaders are growing 2.6 times faster than their competitors. A successful program is about achieving improved business results.

Communication. Communicate results to all levels of the organization and to customers too. Letting employees and customers know how their feedback translated into positive changes in the business will reinforce continued participation and collaboration. And don’t forget to celebrate the wins too – share positive feedback right along with the not-so-positive. Communicate, educate, recognize. Rinse and repeat.

Of course there is much more involved with implementing and managing a successful customer experience program, but the three elements above were foundational keys to our success. Traditionally, the data center industry is notorious for poor service. RagingWire Data Centers ushers the data center industry into a new era: we add world class service and customer-centric colocation facilities to our patented 2N+2 infrastructure and 100% availability SLA. The result is achieving the highest customer loyalty Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the industry, validated by NPS co-founder Satmetrix

For more information about RagingWire Data Centers, click here https://www.ragingwire.com/

Would Your Employees Recommend You?

I have had the pleasure of leading customer-facing support organizations for the past 15 years, and during that time I have managed hundreds of employees. Over time I noticed a common thread: the happier the employees were, the happier the customers were. This is because the same set of values drives both employee experience and customer experience (job seekers: if a company has a reputation for bad service, run the other way!). 

RagingWire has the highest customer loyalty Net Promoter Score (NPS) in the data center industry. And in achieving this we have found that you simply cannot delight your customers without first delighting your employees. Here are ten ways to improve employee experience: 

  1. Focus – put your customer at the core of your business. Use customer experience to drive your culture. Use it as the driving force behind everything you do. Why? Because without customers, your business will fail. 
  1. Purpose – you must have a strategic plan. Communicate what the big picture is and how each employee fits into that picture. Better yet, develop the strategic plan with employee input. We all want to be part of a company that is growing, and having a well-defined strategic plan is the foundation for that growth.
  1. Communication – communicate with employees, both the good and the bad. Share the big picture with them, tell them where the organization is doing well and where there are challenges. Be transparent, approachable, sincere and humble. And don’t forget to have fun!
  1. Recognition – lack of recognition ranks as the number one reason behind job dissatisfaction, even ahead of money. We spend a third of our lives at work, and we want to be appreciated when we do a good job. By our peers, by our manager, by other managers, by the mailman, everyone!
  1. Growth – just as we want our business to grow, our employees want to grow too. And development doesn’t have to happen in an expensive classroom. It can happen by reading books, attending webinars, writing blogs, being assigned a challenging project, facilitating a lunch and learn, mentoring, job shadowing, the list goes on.
  1. Opportunity – I have yet to meet an employee not interested in career advancement. Makes #5 on the list all the more important, doesn’t it?  A key role of being an effective manager means developing your employees. This will allow more promoting from within, which makes for happier employees but also more expertise – those who move to different positions and departments gain greater company perspective. And they are more helpful too. It’s the “I’ve been in her shoes” effect, and it’s powerful.
  1. Flexibility – focus on results, not hours. People have lives outside of work – families, charities, spirituality needs, healthcare, etc and if you allow them flexibility in managing those things, you will earn their loyalty. 
  1. Listen – trust me, at this exact moment your employees have ideas that could improve your business. Put measures in place to solicit those ideas! And don’t be defensive if you hear something you don’t like; focusing on continuous improvement isn’t being negative, it’s being strategic.
  1. Trust – hire a talented team, set the direction for that team, give the team tools to do their job, and then get out of their way. Valuable employees don’t want to be micromanaged. Focus on results, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  1. Give Back – if you want employees to take ownership, give them ownership. Employees want the ability to share financially in the company’s success, so incentives like performance-based bonus plans can be great motivators. 

There. Ten things you can start doing today to improve employee experience. And customer experience. And profitability!

(Attention employees: you’re not off the hook here. Have a service attitude at all times. Be open to change, and be positive. Share knowledge. Be a team player. Be patient. Show initiative. Execute.)

Apply at RagingWire Data Centers today at https://www.ragingwire.com/company-profile/career

Your Customers Don’t Need You

Don’t get me wrong: I love technology. I love innovative products that change the way we work, the way we play. But it’s not technology that I follow on social media. It’s not technology that I research, that I invest in. It’s the companies behind the technology. And the industry leaders performing 2-3 times better than their competitors just so happen to be the companies that put the customer at the center of their business. You see, this is due to one simple fact: Customers don’t need these companies. These companies need customers.

Back when RagingWire Data Centers installed its first cage in 2001, we were focused on customer satisfaction. We utilized an exhaustive interview process to find service-minded people. We designed our support processes to make it easy to do business with us, anticipating customer need and proactively delivering solutions to those needs. We designed our tools and products with customer delight in mind. We had the right people, the right processes, and the right technology. We even put internal controls in place to measure our customer satisfaction performance, solicit feedback, and then use that feedback to drive improvements. And it worked great, as indicated by our 96% customer satisfaction rating.

But just as our data center technology advanced (to a patented 2N+2 design enabling us to deliver 100% availability), so too did our customer satisfaction practice. We knew that expanding into a national player brought along operational complexities, all of which impacted the customer directly or indirectly. And to maintain our high service levels through these complexities required a greater commitment to our customers. It would take a commitment at the highest level of the company.  

Highest customer satisfaction rate in the data center industry.So we created a chief customer officer role at the executive level. We replaced our customer satisfaction practice with a customer experience practice. We chose industry leader Satmetrix to administer our customer loyalty program. We updated our corporate scorecard reporting to include customer loyalty metrics right along with financial and operational metrics. And we developed quarterly strategic objectives focused on cross-functional business processes and employee recognition and education. All of which is routinely presented to the board of directors.

Today, RagingWire has hundreds of customers across 650,000 square feet of data center space in California and Virginia. We have the top customer loyalty score in the data center industry. We continue to use customer experience as our operating strategy. Does your data center provider use customer experience as an operating strategy? Are they effective in executing that strategy? If your provider doesn’t treat you like they need you, maybe it’s time for a change.

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