Customer Service Is Job #1 For New Authoria CEO

When Jim McDevitt took over as CEO of Authoria last month, the announcement of his ascendancy was all about growing the business.

Bad luck for him that among his first official acts was to lay off workers and cancel the annual user’s conference.

“The economic times are threatening,” McDevitt observed during an interview the other day that was surprisingly optimistic. “I think the (HR) market is going to be OK,” he says. “We are pretty bullish about next year.”

The layoffs and other cost-cutting measures are a consequence of the U.S. recession and a prudent response to conditions, not a sign of problems at Authoria, McDevitt says as we discussed the layoffs and cutbacks other companies have gone through in the past few months. He wouldn’t give us any numbers, characterizing the Authoria reduction as “minimal” and affecting mostly project-based workers who had completed their tasks.

Authoria may be better positioned than some of its competitors, considering the infusion of $8 million it got in September when it was acquired by Bedford Funding, a private equity fund. The money is being used to expand the company’s sales force and especially to enhance its customer service.

McDevitt says that customer service is his priority, not only as a place to spend some of that capital, but for his legacy as CEO. Six months from now, he wants his imprint to be in two areas, “Industry leading products and service.” And that service will be “the highest quality industry service,” he adds.

While that’s the kind of comment expected of HR technology vendors, McDevitt’s background is in operations running a $360 million division of CDC Corp., where the company slogan is “The Customer Driven Company.” CDC Software is not only a global provider of enterprise software including ERP and HR resources and payroll, but it provides support in a variety of languages for its own and other integrated products.

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Saying he’s “following in behind a real visionary,” referring to Authoria founder Tod Loofbourrow, McDevitt said his focus will be in growing the company and meeting customer expectations. He’ll be spending time out of the office meeting with customers one-on-one.

Asserting that Authoria already has “great relations with our customers,” McDevitt is clearly mindful of the demands of customers for talent management products that really do integrate with systems already in place. Throughout our conversation he returned time and again to the customer service theme, even as talked about growing the company.

The cancelled user conference will be replaced by other events, he pledged. There will be more regional roundtables for customers to share best practices. And the new release schedule will continue unimpeded, incorporating client suggestions and wants.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” McDevitt said of his new job. “We are well positioned for growth.”

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.

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