As you might guess, throughout 2018 all of us at Visual Lease have been beyond busy helping hundreds of public companies achieve compliance with the new lease accounting standards by the end of 2018. Yet we have not allowed the frenzy of work to distract us from our focus on continuous improvement. We remain committed to providing a customer experience that exceeds expectations, and acting as a partner to help customers achieve their goals.
Keep reading to find out how we plan to do so in the coming year.
Enhancing customer experience and enabling their success
When we talk about “customer experience” we mean making it easy to work with us and providing the best possible experience for everyone we serve, including:
- Prospects trying to understand the complex lease accounting compliance requirements and making extensive changes to their accounting and financial reporting
- New customers undertaking the challenge of collecting data and implementing lease accounting changes for the first time
- Existing customers implementing new policies, processes and organizational changes related to ongoing lease management
Here are just a few of the plans we have already set in motion so we can act as a strategic partner to ensure our customers’ success and align our entire organization around this common goal.
Creating a virtual customer community
Customers are always asking us what our other customers are doing to overcome obstacles and solve specific problems. While we have been ramping up our company’s training and support services to address these questions, we realized we could do even more by enabling our customers to support one another.
That’s why we are in the process of creating a forum for our customers to talk to each other: to ask questions, give advice, brainstorm ideas, promote best practices and share lessons learned.
Managing all the necessary changes is one of the most difficult aspects of the lease accounting compliance exercise. Our virtual community will be a destination where people can help one another through the new and complex process of lease accounting compliance. It will also help them reap the true benefits of achieving compliance: optimizing ongoing lease management to lower costs, make processes more efficient, and make better lease decisions.
Another plus: the forum will also help our accounting advisory partners (who provide implementation support to our customers) to understand the issues companies are facing and to develop effective strategies.
Using data to invert the adoption curve for everyone
In the process of helping so many large public companies through the compliance process, our team has learned a great deal about how to tackle the many complex issues that arise in corporate lease accounting. We’ve also amassed a great deal of data that we can use to solve customer problems faster and even prevent them from happening in the first place.
Here’s an example. By mining our customer support data, we might uncover that many customers come to us with the same question at two weeks post-implementation. Once we know that, it’s a simple matter to provide the answer proactively instead of waiting for the problem to arise.
Toward that end, we’re hiring customer success specialists and technical writers who can bridge the gap that often exists between technology and business. These people will use data to determine what information people need most and provide information that helps customers move through the adoption process faster.
We also realize that people have a variety of different learning styles. That’s why we are expanding our training and support formats to include classroom-style training, virtual learning, video, and easy-to-consume written content.
Giving customers a voice in product development
One of the significant benefits of a SaaS solution is the ability to fast-track product improvements and roll them out to our entire customer base. We intend to make our customers part of our development process so we make sure we’re providing what they want, when they want it.
In 2019 we will be gathering feedback from customers in the form of advisory boards, beta testing programs, and offering “sneak peeks” at new product features.
Ramping up to meet 5x market demand
With the first round of lease accounting compliance projects (public companies and non-profit organizations) just about complete, we have already begun to take on the next round: private companies. By all accounts, this market will bring 4 to 5 times more new customers our way in 2019.
Here’s how Visual Lease is preparing to handle the demand.
Growing our staff
Visual Lease grew from 30 to 100 employees in 2018, and we plan to add at least another 50 to our staff in the coming year. To take on so many new customers while ramping up our customer experience initiatives, we’ll be hiring customer success specialists, engineers, and sales professionals.
Investing in employee experience
Visual Lease recognizes that investing in a great employee experience is essential for providing a great customer experience. Over the past year, we have been investing in benefits and infrastructure so we can attract and retain the best talent in the industry. Here are some of the benefits we are providing to employees:
- Health benefit plans with lower costs and more choices
- Matched 401k plans
- Financial planning services
- Generous family leave policies
- Remote working policies
- Increased and more flexible paid time off
- Beautiful and spacious new office setting
As our company grows, we realize that we need to actively create the type of company culture our employees want. That’s why we created an employee engagement team tasked with providing opportunities to gather and get to know one another, such as our recent holiday party. It also means ramping up our social responsibility activities that allow us to give back to the community in ways that are meaningful to our employees.
Investing in technology
Taking on the customer and employee experience goals I mentioned also requires an investment in technology. For example:
- Knowledge management technology to capture everything we know and learn and help us use that information to drive customer success
- Virtual community software to create a destination for customers to connect and share experiences
- Human resources platform where employees can manage all their benefits
Product and service enhancements
All of the improvements and initiatives we’re working on have the same ultimate goal: to provide the best possible products and services to our customers.
We make it a point to learn from everything we do. Working toward lease accounting compliance with some of the world’s largest public companies 2018 was a tremendous learning opportunity for us. And we’re using that experience to streamline our processes and make implementing and using our software even easier for the next wave of customers coming to us in 2019.
Reflecting on a year of explosive growth: how we got here and what it means for our customers
It’s true that an unprecedented market condition (the new FASB and IASB lease accounting standards) gave Visual Lease the opportunity for explosive growth. However, our company has also faced fierce competition from hundreds of other lease accounting products and services that sprang up in the last couple of years.
So how are we different from others that have not been so successful?
Decades of experience and intimate knowledge about leases. Visual Lease began in 1996 as an outgrowth of KBA Lease services, a lease auditing service that works on behalf of commercial tenants to recover rent overcharges and reduce occupancy costs. Our extensive experience means we know how leases work, how lease deals are put together, what’s important to everyone involved with leases, and how all those things are represented in complex lease contracts. This knowledge shapes the way we build and enhance our software, and the way we provide support to our customers.
An understanding of unique industry requirements. Because we’ve been at this so long, we’ve worked with organizations in every industry you could imagine. Each time we’ve drilled into a particular specialty, we’ve uncovered nuances that impact the way leases need to be tracked, managed, and accounted for.
Realizing this need, we have designed our software and our services to be flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of specialized scenarios. So when new customers come to us asking about industry-specific (and also region-specific) data and reporting requirements, it’s comforting to know that we’re not reinventing the wheel for them, but implementing a proven process that works for others in their industry. And, we do it without expensive and time-consuming software customizations.
The combination of our deep expertise plus having smart, forward-thinking product development and customer success teams is what has fueled our success.
One thing I can say for sure: no one at Visual Lease will ever forget 2018! Our company has grown steadily since our founding, but this past year has brought us unprecedented growth and change. I think everyone will agree that it’s been challenging but extremely rewarding.
We look forward to serving you in 2019.