No more spreadsheets

Every support organization I’ve worked with seems to maintain a secret spreadsheet – or several. It can be the list of top bugs (to run the weekly review with Engineering), the list of escalated customers (to create the report to the executive team), or the list of individual MBOs/OKRs. The spreadsheet exists because the data is not captured in the CRM system, or can’t be easily pulled out in a neat report — sometimes both.

There’s nothing wrong with spreadsheets. If you need to quickly analyze a set of data, a spreadsheet is the best tool: it’s quick, it’s flexible, it can be done without outside help. But spreadsheets are also:

  • Manual. They need to be created by hand, every time.
  • Static. They are not automatically refreshed with the most recent data.
  • Hard to share. Typically only the creator can see them, or at best only selected individuals, invited by the creator
  • Error prone. Because the spreadsheets are manual, errors can creep into the data itself as well as the computations. And because of the limited sharing capabilities, too few eyes can see the spreadsheets, so too few individuals can spot errors.
  • Stale. Since it’s not easy to pour data from the CRM to the spreadsheet, we look at last week’s or last month’s data and not current data.
  • Limited. Since getting the data and keeping it fresh is a chore, spreadsheet users are tempted to keep them narrowly focused, missing analytical insights.

If you need a spreadsheet to analyze a particular trend, by all means, create one. But if you are  routinely tracking information in a spreadsheet, or repeatedly using the same format to analyze data, you should look at automation. Most CRM systems can easily automate tracking and analyzing data. To go back to the examples I used at the start of the post:

  • You can create a list of top bugs by using bug count and case severities to weigh the bugs (and you can do that either strictly in the case-tracking system, or by combining data from the bug-tracking system and the case-tracking system).
  • You can maintain the list of escalated customers by creating escalation cases and reporting on them. (Sadly, CRM systems lack the concept of an escalation, as a distinct entity different than an escalated case.)
  • You can track individual MBOs/OKRs in many SaaS HR systems. And you can also create automatic metrics that track progress against case-, knowledge-, and community oriented actions right from the CRM tool.

If you use Salesforce Service Cloud, we can show you how to track and report all your data within it.

What spreadsheets are you still clinging to?

6 More Things I learned at TSW

Last week, I reviewed 7 customer success-related learnings from TSW. This week, it’s on to tools, knowledge management, and renewals.

About tools:

  • While CRM and knowledge management tools continue to enjoy the highest adoption levels, the fastest adoption increases between last year and this year are: consumption analytics, contract and entitlement management, learning-management systems (LMS), mobility and video, recurring revenue management, and support scheduling. Not surprisingly, most of the increases are related to the growth of customer success programs.
  • The  level of planned expenditures for tools is way up this year, with chat, knowledge and content management, communities and collaboration, and retiring and analytics at the top.
  • Salesforce penetration has increased further from last year, to 36%. (Hint, if you are planning to implement Service Cloud and community Cloud, we can help.)

John Summers from FireEye used wording I loved to talk about knowledge management: “you can over-improve your knowledge base just like you can over-improve your house.” Balance the time it gets to take the information to the user vs. quality. Several attendees were boasting of posting new information in the knowledge base within hours of discovery.

And finally, two ideas about renewals:

  • For all of you moving from on-premise to cloud: try compensating the renewals reps on incremental annual revenue when customers switch to cloud.
  • Identify risk factors for renewals and staff accordingly. For instance: first renewal, no support cases in several months, or conversely lots of cases, recent severity 1 cases, using older releases, etc. I liked the idea that the list could be validated and improved over time.


7 Things I learned at TSW

A big thank you to all who came by the booth at TSW last week!

It seems that the conference was all about customer success (music to my ears!) While the field is still maturing, it’s great to see best practices emerging. Here are 7:

  • Segmentation is key. The top accounts get an assigned CSM and personalized updates, with ratios that vary between 1:5 and 1:20. Others receive ad-hoc updates, driven by data, with much wider ratios of CSMs to customers, 1:100 to 1:200.
  • Relationship mapping is critical: the CSMs should capture not just the org chart, but the map of influence at the customer site.
  • Onboarding needs to be structured with tangible gates from one step to the other. This both shows progress to the customer and helps scale the process. [My take: I like to share the onboarding sequence with customers, in a visual way to allows them to measure their progress.]
  • Find out what the value is for the customer. This can come from the sales team but should be revisited and confirmed during adoption. [I find that segmentation also occurs here, by use case. Onboarding could also be different by use case!]
  • Analytics are your friend. move from measuring basic usage data (e.g., how many people logged into the product) to data that shadows effectiveness (e.g. amount of memory used). Per the TSIA survey, vendors that measure consumption are much more profitable than others. [Challenge: find a way to measure consumption even for on-premise solutions.]
  • CSMs need 4 kinds of skills: technical, soft/relationship, process/best practices, and vertical/industry. It’s awfully difficult to find all four in a single individuals, so in more complex environments we see more and more a split between relationship managers and “value engineers”, responsible for the technical side. [We use a similar framework during our Customer Success training programs.]
  • CSMs are almost always expected to generate leads for sales, but vendors ask the sales team to close the sales, both because it allows for CSMs to keep their “trusted advisers” status with customers — and not to overload the requirements for CSMs to possess yet one more set of skills. CSM compensation is bonus-based, with lead volume alongside NPS and renewals as the top goals.

More on non-customer-success topics in the next post…

A TSW Update

For those of you planning to attend the TSW conference next week, the presentation I’m co-hosting with Barry Duplantis of Hortonworks is scheduled for Tuesday May 5th at 9:45 am rather than the afternoon time slot I had previously shared. Our topic is Predicting Renewals – Automatically! — Building predictive analytics to anticipate and prevent churn.

We will be in Grand F (F for FT Works, easy to remember!)

Hope to see you there, and at the booth.