Questions from San Diego

In my last post about the TSW conference (see post 1 and post 2), I tackle five questions, from prosaic to the strategic.

  • Why has support attrition doubled in the past 18 months? The panel’s interpretation was that support engineers feel that they are not adding value. I think the answer is simpler: the job market is hot and support engineers are acting on their desires to seek greener pastures. Be especially kind to your engineers.
  • Do we want support engineers to sell? The consensus was that support engineers are not good at selling and they don’t like it. Better to encourage them to collect leads (especially on services) that can be worked by someone else. One panelist quoted that his services-generated leads cost $7 while standards leads cost $75-150. What a deal!
  • What is the value of partners in an age of customer portal and usage-driven metrics? This seemed to be an existential question, with no clear answer and certainly no happy one. Imho, partners cannot survive in a dis-intermediated world if they are nothing more than sales conduits. But I can see the benefits of working with a partner with a strong implementation practice, or other value-add wrapper.
  • What is the place of educational services in a time of free adoption? This is a larger issue. I believe that there is an essential conflict between traditional, walled P&L functions and the idea that services and support need to converge to better serve customers. My take would be to conserve the idea of P&L (so we don’t have to fight quite so hard for funding) but de-emphasize individual P&L within support and services. This suggests a strong, unified support and services organization.
  • Do we trust services to own the largest piece of the company’s revenue? This was posed as a agony-creating dilemma, which puzzled me, as I clearly recall “owning” over half the company’s revenue when I managed my first support team — and no one seemed so concerned about it, least of all me. But it does confirm the current view that renewals are sales and need to be handled by sales professionals, which was not always the case in the old days.

What are your big questions? Add one in the comments.



From San Diego, customer success ideas

Continuing on what I learned at TSW (post 1 here), here are some customer success-specific ideas:

  • Customer success is not about happy customers. It’s about customers perceiving value. Amen! and it’s not about “delighted” customers either…Only 25% of members use analytics to predict churn. We need to do better, no?
  • 50% of members monetize (i.e. charge for) customer success. This was a stunner for me. Isn’t the whole point of customer success to make it available to all customers? Perhaps this is only a reflection that, for complex products, training and consulting are fee-based, which is eminently reasonable.
  • 20% of customer success organizations report into Sales; 30% report to services; others report to a C-level executive. I think this means, essentially, nothing. Customer success is a new field and is still finding its legs and rules.

Coming up in the next post: questions (and attempted answers).

Have thoughts about customer success? Share them in the comments.

From San Diego, something old, something new

As I often do this time of the year, I gathered up some thoughts, ideas, and commentaries gleaned at the TSW conference last week in San Diego. Thank you to all the presenters and attendees that sparked them. I recorded attribution for only some so decided to go without. Anything that is not labeled as my thoughts comes from someone else. Thank you!

The theme of the conference was convergence of all services (and customer success) into one. I’ll call that a very old idea, in new clothing.

  • For customer portals, the first convergence was to gather *all* support functionality in the portal, and implement a global search across all support repositories. The second portal convergence is to gather all services, including Customer Success scorecards (I am a fan of sharing those with customers), various sales offers, training, etc.
  • To better serve customers in a convergent model, we need strong soft skills for individual contributors so they can move more easily between functions. (We can help with soft skills training!)
  • 95% of members do not compensate support engineers based on customer adoption. That was presented as a bad thing. I’m not so sure: of course support engineers can help (and certainly hinder!) adoption, but compensating them based on adoption seems as dangerous to me as compensating them based on NPS scores.
  • Newer vendors are carrying forward traditional support and service habits (including strong silos between services teams) because the support executives continue the habits they learned during their formative years. My take: ask a millennial!
  • Members spend less than 1% of support revenue on marketing. Shame! Especially when so many of us need to pull all services into a coherent marketing framework

In the next post, I will cover customer success-specific ideas.

Please add a comment to reflect your experience.


Are you in San Diego?

Would love to see you! Come by the FT Works booth or make an appointment. And come listen to one, two, or all three presentations I’m signed up for:

You can register for the conference here.