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Mark MacDonald of BIA: “Competition is always a race for better, faster and cheaper”

When a “wow” moment happens, it is very much up to us to leverage that moment and try to turn it into a follow-up “wow.” We thank each client for the opportunity to create the “wow.” When they’re happy, they might be willing to do something for you if you ask them. Anytime there’s a […]

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When a “wow” moment happens, it is very much up to us to leverage that moment and try to turn it into a follow-up “wow.” We thank each client for the opportunity to create the “wow.” When they’re happy, they might be willing to do something for you if you ask them. Anytime there’s a “wow” moment, you should be leveraging that to create some other kind of success. Don’t be afraid to ask your client to help leverage that moment — for instance, asking them to introduce you to somebody who might be able to help your company. You have to know when to ask for it. In order to leverage it, you have to ask for it very quickly, in the moment. Even the next day, the client won’t be as excited as they were in the moment when everything went right, when the successful project went out the door.


As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark MacDonald.

Mark MacDonald is senior vice president of business development at BIA. He is a certified eDiscovery specialist (CEDS) with years of senior management experience and a passion for the industry and BIA’s clientele. He oversees BIA’s business development, developing partnerships with clients to provide a proactive, defensible, technology-driven approach to managing electronically stored information (ESI) that contemplates the entire lifecycle of digital evidence. Mark has managed thousands of matters and been closely involved with several notable national cases and government inquiries spanning various industries, including construction, life sciences, packaged goods, telecom, manufacturing, oil & gas, banking, technology and more.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I moved to NYC in the late ’90s and began working as a recruiter in the banking and finance markets. That was also around that time Monster.com began threatening the recruiting industry, so seeing the writing on the wall, I put some feelers out — which meant walking across the hall to the non-financial recruiters and handing them my resume. I soon found myself working at a small downtown company that supplied a service I never knew existed — Legal Reprographics. The entire business was mind-blowing. We made copies for law firms. Lots of copies. Our facility was huge, reeked of toner and was packed full of humming copiers that operated 24/7. There were teams of people around tables Bates numbering documents by hand with lightning speed while others QC’d copies, boxed, strapped, delivered, pulled tabs and assembled trial binders.

Not so long after I started getting a handle of my new career selling photocopy and scanning services, legal folk started to hand me hard drives and say, “Print whatever’s on here to paper for us to review.” Yahtzee! For sure, the mountain of boxes we printed from that HDD would need to be copied, labeled and copied again … and don’t forget a pristine set! It seemed like we were practically printing money. It was wonderful for the bank account and terrible for the environment. Fast-forward a few years and I found myself working at a large legal process outsourcing company (think copy/mail/fax centers) managing sales for our off-site overflow repro center. A vendor within a vendor. By this point we were doing high-speed scanning on multi-functional devices, using iPro and LAW to deliver scanned images into Summation and Concordance. But the HDDs kept coming and people were looking for a better way to review all that data without the inconvenience and cost of printing it. It was the turn of the millennium and the dawn of eDiscovery.

That company didn’t see urgency or even the need to invest in the people and equipment to perform eDiscovery at the level our ‘shop’ needed, so I sought out a partner we could rely on. Luckily, I found a company downtown that was doing really cool things with processing data. They’d built their own engine and were ripping through data faster than I’d ever seen — using racks of little worker machines (nodes) all networked together (a distributed grid) that parsed big .pst files and didn’t get hung up or bottlenecked like the single desktop workers we used in our shop. Soon my new secret weapon vendor and I were doing presentations for prestigious firms — and getting big projects. That partner company was BIA and I just passed my 13th anniversary here.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?

That’s a really interesting question. I don’t know if I have a funniest story. All the ones that are funny are completely inappropriate!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would say Dave Mattera of Superior Group and Glacier Systems, the guy who first hired me in this industry. He was very colorful in his management tactics, but he was a motivator and a really great guy. He gave me my first shot in an industry that I didn’t know existed, as a salesperson for a company making photocopies for law firms. I was 26, and he taught me a rudimentary sales tactic called spin selling. We had an ocean of copy machines, humming three shifts a day, printing reams and reams of paper, delivering pallets and pallets of paper. The photocopy sales guys like me were slightly more dignified versions of used car salesmen.

Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

I think that as a buyer, you look for value and you look for quality. Sometimes those are interchangeable. Sometimes people sacrifice quality for a good value, and sometimes they sacrifice service as well. In my life, there is that expectation of excellent quality all the time, even when we’re having to do it at discount rates. I think service and quality are never negotiable, as far as the vendor side goes. As a buyer, I always want the best quality.

If you’re committed to a great customer service experience, your customers tend to stay by you. They appreciate you more, and they may even pay you more, if they know they’ll always get the best possible work product and have the best possible experience. In our world of eDiscovery, a medium- or large-sized eDiscovery project can cost between 100,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, or millions if it goes on for several years. That’s no small number. Sometimes those relationships start with a very small encounter — somebody who’s read our articles, heard our podcasts or seen our webinars. They’ve got a case coming up and need to collect data from a custodian, so they decide to try us out. We want people to get to know us and like us. If we do a small project and it goes well, and if we treat that project with the same attention to detail and service as if it’s a million-dollar project, that’s what creates a “wow” experience for our clients.

I think it’s always best for everybody if you have your eyes in the game, eyes on the prize, good communication and good expectations. These are all parts of good customer service. Keep your eyes wide open to make sure you’re doing everything to help your company and your customers.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

That’s a very interesting question. As salespeople, we want to please our customers all the time, and we work really hard to get that phone call from a customer. When the call comes, no one wants to say no. That’s where people can fall short, by overpromising and underdelivering. You can’t make promises that you’re not confident you can deliver on. Things can only move through a pipe so quickly. Setting expectations is a big part of good quality service, and I would say it’s one place where companies are missing the boat.

Companies also don’t price their services correctly. It makes it hard to be profitable and to maintain good people and good levels of service. I work in an industry with very smart, very educated people — Harvard, Cornell MBAs and law school grads. You can’t snowball them. You have to be brutally honest sometimes. You have to be a therapist, a consultant, an accountant and a negotiator. You have to really master the many facets of what it takes to make sure your clients have good experiences.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Competition is always a race for better, faster and cheaper. Lack of competition leaves a monopoly where you do what you want. Competition drives innovation and services. In our industry, we have lots of social media. People share their opinions on social media, and bad news always travels faster than good news does. If you’re known for making mistakes, missing deadlines or blowing your budget, the word will get out about that in a short amount of time.

Sometimes, it will quickly motivate you to do better, because your business will dry up if you don’t.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

As the legal landscape continues to evolve, we see boutique law firms pop up who have amazing expertise, but not a lot of resources. It’ll be a 10-person law firm of superstar rainmakers who don’t have associates around them to help. On a lot of occasions, we’ve teamed up with a small law firm that has gotten a very big case, and we work with them to identify and preserve their data, to walk data through the entire lifecycle of eDiscovery. BIA has this unique ability because we use a class-A infrastructure to support how we handle large sets of data. We can move through data faster than any company I’ve experienced or known about. When people see the full force of BIA doing what it does best, we can really knock their socks off. Moving from left to right, we have very acute eyes for detail, but we can plow through a job better, faster and cheaper than most companies, and that’s what I would call a “wow” factor. So many people at BIA have been here for so long, there’s significant expertise here, as well as an internal synergy that comes along with that.

The short answer is that it happens a lot when we have small teams with big cases, because that’s how we can really wow them. You might be a small law firm with limited resources, but we can be your sword in the way we attack the problem, and your shield in the way we do everything possible to make your case ironclad and bulletproof in court. Our specific expertise and our technology — that combo is a “wow” factor for our customers because we deliver excellent results.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

Repeat clients are the best clients. We want the customers we wow to come back to us — call it the “power of the referral.” We regularly get more referral business than direct sales business. If you start getting referrals from your clients, that’s how you know you’re providing great service.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

The first is a happy staff, because if you don’t have a happy staff, that will be evident to your clients. We have a “WOW” program at BIA, funnily enough, where we encourage employees to nominate their peers for going above and beyond and living by our guiding principles. Another point is to provide excellent customer service, as we’ve discussed above. You also need to keep people trained in best-in-breed technologies and solutions, and you need to be aware of the market — know what your competitors are doing. In order to be successful, you must also be inquisitive, asking questions all the time, learning what problems people are trying to solve. Finally, and most importantly, you need to enjoy what you do.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

When a “wow” moment happens, it is very much up to us to leverage that moment and try to turn it into a follow-up “wow.” We thank each client for the opportunity to create the “wow.” When they’re happy, they might be willing to do something for you if you ask them. Anytime there’s a “wow” moment, you should be leveraging that to create some other kind of success. Don’t be afraid to ask your client to help leverage that moment — for instance, asking them to introduce you to somebody who might be able to help your company. You have to know when to ask for it. In order to leverage it, you have to ask for it very quickly, in the moment. Even the next day, the client won’t be as excited as they were in the moment when everything went right, when the successful project went out the door.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Education. Whether it’s education about our industry or educating the world’s impoverished, learning is the one key thing that elevates us all as human beings. My ‘movement’ would look something like this: https://www.humanium.org/en/right-to-education/ — an amazing organization dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/markmacdonaldbia/
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