Transforming the customer experience through software, services and insights
Sean McDade is the founder and CEO of PeopleMetrics. With headquarters in Philadelphia, PeopleMetrics turns customer feedback into actionable insights that enables companies to improve the customer experience. PeopleMetrics customer experience management software is used by thousands every day to increase customer retention, multiply sales, and deepen satisfaction. The company encourages its team members to embody the values of entrepreneurialism and collaboration, engendering a workplace culture unlike most typical businesses in the industry. A recognized authority on startups and customer experience management, Sean has published eight articles in academic journals and has spent time in front of classrooms as a marketing professor. In 2006, he received a Philadelphia Business Journal 40 Under 40 award. Sean and PeopleMetrics were also the subject of an Inc. Magazine feature about the company’s unique comeback strategy.
You launched PeopleMetrics in 2000 after four years as Managing Research Director at Gallup. Can you tell us about your background and the launch of PeopleMetrics?
SEAN MCDADE: Coming from an academic background, when I went to Gallup I was shell-shocked when I had to produce something real for clients. I’ll never forget them throwing a bunch of cross-tabs on my desk. Cross tabs are just every question cut by demographic variables, like male/female, age, and things. They said, “write up a story based on that.” I had never even looked at a cross-tab. In graduate school we were doing these advanced models and nothing really applied. And then, moving to my own company, it was even more incredibly applied versus theory. The big challenge I had was, “How could I figure out how to get an IT team together to help build our first version of our product and make it semi-workable?” So, I took a big risk. I hired an Indian development team and during the day I spec’d out what they would program. At night they would program it, and when I woke up in the morning I’d review their product and I would make corrections to it. I had no background in UI/UX. I had no background in software development. But I did know what a survey and feedback software program should be. It was definitely a huge challenge to get from theory to massive, massive application that had to work in the market, but I loved it.
You’ve taught several classes. How did your experience in the classroom influence how you think about PeopleMetrics?
I haven’t taught a college class for a long time, but I think my job is teaching. I’ve taught about 30-35 classes in my lifetime at a college level and they’ve helped me so much—just helping figure out how to explain concepts both to employees and customers in a way that people can understand it. I think that’s really what we’re trying to do as a company at PeopleMetrics. We can present findings in a really complicated way; we can have regression coefficients and other squareds, and all of the fanciness that goes into analysis; or we can do something that I’ve been challenging the company to do and encouraging them to do, which is give the customer one thing that they can concentrate on today. They can improve the customer experience tomorrow.
What were some of the lessons you learned early on about being an entrpreneur?
I learned from my mother not to give up and work hard. When you’re an entrepreneur, giving up, it seems like you’d be crazy to continue. And there’s been several points where I thought, “Well, why am I even doing this?” Being able to put your head down, commit to something, and work super hard—my mom gave me that work ethic. My dad is really creative and bold, so I learned from him that if you keep thinking of something—and don’t be afraid to be somebody who thinks of something out of the box—and even if the idea is wild, it might work. And that’s probably the idea that’s going to get you farthest. That’s what I learned from him.
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