Solving problems - from a design perspective
Before starting Preact, I consulted for a large web company on a project where I built wireframes and created concept visual designs for a new product they were going to be releasing. One of my favorite parts about that job was the fact that I wasn’t limited by specs and requirements, and that I had the freedom to let my imagination run wild. I could ask myself the question, “What kind of information would I find useful to complete X if I were on this page?” I remember putting the development teams through their paces as they scrambled to find out if they were technically able to pull some of the associated data that I wanted to use and display.
The thing that really drove me back then was the ability to take a simple concept and bring a new perspective to it - one that wasn’t limited by constraints or technical limitations. Instead, I had the opportunity to ask, “Wouldn’t it be cool/useful/awesome if we could ______?”, and then explore that possibility.
Ever since starting Preact, this has been one of the main focuses of my job. And it’s really what our customers are looking for when deciding on a customer success platform. The underlying question is, “Can I use this customer success platform to make a difference in my bottom line and in how I communicate with and understand my customers?”
Anyone can collect customer data and regurgitate it to you; that part is easy. The thing we focus on at Preact is answering the question, “What does this mean, how can we present this information that makes sense, and how can we make it actionable to the type of person looking at this data?” We have the unique challenge of creating actionable insights for C-levels, account manager, sales teams, support and success representatives, and product teams - all in the same product. As a result, the challenge is much larger. But that’s what makes it exciting.
As an example, I thought I’d show some of the work that led up to our most recent version of Preact Sidebar, our portal to presenting customer activity.
In a very early version, we focused very heavily on visual events. And of course, customer activity timelines look great when they’re full of pictures, but you have to make it work when it’s full of other types of data.
Another iteration showed summaries of types of events. Maybe interesting. But useful? Not really.
Or what if we tried to come to conclusions about users that would help our customers make more informed decisions? The mockup below, for example, pointed out why this user was important and highlight trends that made them differ from the average user. This information can come in handy when communicating with them. (Are they a novice or a computer wiz?)
We condensed into more of a sidebar timeline and came up with something like this, trying to only highlight events that are relevant to you as a user.
If you were an account manager, you might see this screen that included some high-level stats.
Or we could throw a bunch of unique charts and graphs on the page.
Or what if we broke things down into sessions and highlighted important events in sessions?
Or maybe we can find a happy medium between charts, insights, and stats.
None of these are what we have in production today, and are miles behind what we are working on now. But I hope this gives a little insight into how we build product. And when you’re creating something no one has ever built before, the challenge is that much greater. There are no competitors to copy, and no ideas to steal.
Preact has the very unique opportunity to make sense of loads of customer data. If we simply regurgitate collected data onto a page, there’s nothing exciting about what we do. But when we start asking questions like, "What does this data mean?", "How does their activity correlate with other events?", and "What kinds of patterns can we discover that make a significant impact in the long-term value of this customer?", then we can start to find and present relevant insights that our customers have come to rely on us for today. And we’re just getting started.
The Teacher / Student Relationship - Customer Success Tips
There are many moving pieces in a successful Customer Success organization. Customer Success falls into every department of the company.
If Customer Success falls in every department then what are Customer Success Manager’s responsible for? Onboarding, Training, and Consulting are all responsibilities of the CSM team and are all extremely important. It is similar to a Teacher - Student relationship. The CSM is the Teacher of product and the customer is the student. It is the CSM’s job to make sure their customers learn the best practices about the product and industry (if necessary).
Below are common questions and challenges that CSM’s face
1) Does my customer know best practices for our industry that allow for a better experience with our product? For example, if you sell an email automation tool, does the customer have basic knowledge of email marketing?
2) How do I make sure that my point of contact is working towards a full integration with my product, and not just half way? If they only implement / learn ⅓ or ½ then they are not getting the full value. Or even worse, not using key features that make the product great.
3) If they can’t remember where their at in the integration phase or what they have or have not done, how am I suppose to provide the right guidance?
4) How do I get them excited and motivated to finish integration and learning about our product?
One small change you can make is to have a Getting Started Introduction Meeting. This is a video call where you walk them through the product more in depth, set up the integrations (eg. salesforce - using a screen share to guide them), assign tasks for them to do before your next video chat, and get an idea of their knowledge base. Essentially you are setting up a series of training sessions that is specialized for each customer.
It is also a good idea to track their Onboarding. What are 4-8 key actions you want your customers to take right when they log into / start using your product? At Preact, we use our Onboard Tracking Feature which is presented in the form of a checklist in the Preact Sidebar. These are key steps within our product that we feel are crucial for the customer to do at the beginning. For example, we want to make sure they have 1) taken a tour of the product 2) downloaded the chrome extension 3) viewed a report ect…. The Preact Onboarding Tab helps our CSM team get a better idea on how to specifically help their customers on a individual level at the right time and check their progress.
These two things together help our CSM’s know the RIGHT way to help their customers and continue to be a good teacher. Every customer is different and has different needs. Setting up a specialized training program attaches the customer not just to the product but the amazing support provided by the company. This coupled with Onboard Tracking helps to better customers as they go through the learning and integration phase. Going back to the Teacher / Student analogy, in order to graduate to the next level, you have to teach them the fundamentals of your industry, product, and grade them along the way. You want your student to get a 100% right?
Re-Defining Customer Success in 2014
It’s day 2 of 2014. Most of us spent yesterday looking back on 2013, making resolutions for 2014 and fighting a massive hangover. What were you thankful for? What changes are you going to make? And what do you predict for 2014?
At Preact, we can look back at 2013 and see all the progress we’ve made with the product, sales, and team. Our resolutions are to raise the bar, work even harder than we have this past year and continue to create an amazing product for our customers. We predict that Preact will dominate and transform an emerging market. This market being Customer Success.
Yes, there are other companies in this space. (if anything, they are validating the market along with Preact, which is never bad!) However, in 2014 Preact will re-define what Customer Success currently looks like, more specifically, the way SaaS companies calculate and predict churn. It’s our secret sauce, it’s our team of data scientist, it’s the way we use cyclical metrics and adaptive models for account health, it’s our quick on-boarding process, it’s our supporters, our hard work, and great customers that are constantly improving Preact.
We are beyond thankful for 2013 but even more excited for 2014!