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“Customer Success” is the new buzz word on the block and everyone is using it. But, few businesses have managed to infect their entire organization – from the upper echelons of management all the way down to the newest interns – with this passion.

Many are still using customer success as a marketing gimmick. Instead of taking this shortcut, you – as a business – should make the choice to do it right and let the customer success mentality take root in your organization. This will help you reinforce customer loyalty, build brand advocates, and increase revenue. It’s a win-win situation, if you are willing to take the first step.

Based on a study conducted by the Global Customer Experience Peer Research Panel Online Survey, Forrester Research created the following graphs to showcase how well companies are adhering to the following Customer Success Management (CSM) and (CEM) practices.

Use these questions from Forrester as a baseline to help you see where you stand against competitors, determine what you may be doing wrong, and create a solid strategy on how to improve.

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Introducing omni-channel Customer Insights and real-time customer value reporting – leading indicators of improved Customer Effort and Net Promoter Scores

San Diego, July 2, 2014 – MindTouch, the company that is transforming how all businesses drive customer success, today announced new product features and a licensing model focused on value delivery that is set to become the Software-as-a-Service standard in coming years.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), or cloud software, has been a revolutionary innovation that has transformed how businesses interact with customers from development, to procurement, and through deployment. This industry shift towards buying Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) rather than the traditional license plus maintenance model has created a different buyer/seller dynamic. The SaaS provider now has to continually earn the right to be paid or risk unacceptable levels of churn.

Customer churn has forced businesses to reevaluate the necessity of delivering value to their customers. This has led to a proliferation of software and strategies in the Customer Success space. MindTouch, a customer success software vendor, has taken SaaS licensing to a new level: value-based licensing, which includes real-time reporting of HelpRequests. A HelpRequest is a unique unit of value served to a MindTouch buyer segmented by the channel received. The HelpRequest is an empirical measurement of value, but also removes any guess work about the customers’ preferred channels. By being able to identify where a customer is deriving the most value from a product, businesses can improve their customer engagement strategies and increase their Net Promoter Score (NPS).

“The most successful businesses are focused on building valuable customer relationships. MindTouch understands both the importance of the subscription economy and how customer relationships evolve over time,” said Tien Tzuo, Founder and CEO of Zuora and the visionary responsible for defining the Subscription Economy. “As a MindTouch customer, we know that we have a partner that is fanatical about our success with their products. This new licensing model literally puts their money–license revenue–where their mouth is.”

In addition to HelpRequests, MindTouch will be introducing yet another new category of reporting to their product: Customer Insights. Now, MindTouch users can gain more insight into unique customer behavior by analyzing data that’s captured when customers interact with the product and access customer success content across all channels of customer engagement. Over the last year of beta testing Customer Insights, users were able to improve customer support and reduce churn by reducing Customer Effort and improving their Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

HelpRequests_by_Channel“This kind of transparent value-based software licensing will become the norm for SaaS vendors,” said Aaron Fulkerson, Founder & CEO of MindTouch. “Moreover, customer success is going mainstream and MindTouch is offering the most complete stack by being the only vendor using the authoring, serving and consumption of product knowledge to capture customer behaviors and drive Customer Insights from all engagement channels.”

Effective immediately, all MindTouch 4 customers have access to these new reporting tools.

About MindTouch

MindTouch, Inc is a provider of cloud based customer success software. MindTouch is transforming how all businesses drive customer success by empowering them to author, capture and serve knowledge to their customers in new ways and by creating insight from customers’ behavior.  MindTouch creates shorter sales cycles, increases organic site traffic, and turns new users into experts and brand advocates.

MindTouch is used by millions of people every day. Industry leaders like Intuit, Remington, Salesforce, Verizon, SAP, Zuora, MakerBot and RSA Security rely on MindTouch to support their customers’ success. Read more about MindTouch here: http://mindtouch.com

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1. MindTouch: Can you tell us a bit about Code42? What industry are you in and what does your company do?

Code42: Code42, a Minneapolis-based software company, is the industry leader in endpoint data protection and management. It controls the largest private cloud in the world to securely back up millions of consumer devices. The company’s award-winning products are also the gold standard for the enterprise, trusted by the most recognized brands in business and education including the world’s largest technology companies and most prestigious universities.

2. MindTouch: How long has Code42 been been a MindTouch customer?

Code42: We’ve been a customer since June of 2013. Our MindTouch-supported site launched on October 1, 2013, coinciding with the launch of SharePlan, an enterprise file sync and share solution that complements our CrashPlan offering.

3. MindTouch: How important is customer success to your organization? Can you share what some of your customers have been saying about you?

Code42: Our customers trust Code42 to protect and manage the valuable information on their laptops, desktops and mobile devices. End users want an experience that is easy, elegant and everywhere—like other apps they know and love. And system administrators and corporate technology leaders want a data management solution that enables oversight and data management of thousands of devices—without adding enormous cost or headcount. If we lose their trust anywhere along the way we risk losing their business.

The way we interact with our customers is critically important to maintaining their trust and growing our brand. A lot of companies say that, but it is something we truly believe and demonstrate via customer support. Code42_home_imageWhat our customers say about us makes evident our customer first philosophy; we are also recognized in the industry as a leader in customer service. Our Customer Champions support customers via email, chat and phone and they do it with zest, compassion and commitment until the customer is not only satisfied, but “evangelized.” Every new employee at Code42 shadows three Customer Champions before landing in his or her department to help them model the “customer first” principle in their own work.

4. MindTouch: What challenges did your organization face before MindTouch?

Code42: We originally segmented product-support content by market—consumer, business and enterprise—and published respective content on three discrete wiki-based sites.

Our sites were tied to version control systems, which offered some benefits, but meant that content producers had to understand the version control system before they could publish articles or content changes. Inevitably, this created a bottleneck.

Additionally, presenting content by market precluded the most tech savvy consumer from taking advantage of detailed technical information geared toward the enterprise IT admin, and the enterprise IT admin from taking advantage of the friendly, end-user focused content about the CrashPlan client application.

5. MindTouch: What business objectives did you achieve with a customer success solution like MindTouch?

Code42: The overarching goal was to provide our customers with a single, authoritative source of product information.

a) Improve the Customer Experience by creating consistent, quality documentation that’s easy to find  

All of our software products leverage a common technology platform for securing, moving, and storing data. We wanted one place to provide robust documentation where our customers could learn about the products and platform—or simply find answers to questions.code42_organize

Navigation and user search are critical. Especially in the world of software, both consumers and IT admins expect information to be easily searchable and at their fingertips. If it takes more than a few clicks to find the right answer, they experience frustration and worse—lose faith in our brand.

Because our documentation might be a person’s first experience with Code42, we wanted the ability to create a consistent brand experience in look, feel and nomenclature. MindTouch provided a fair amount of design flexibility to incorporate the Code42 brand.

We also needed to serve a small but vocal group of customers who prefer to view product information in a book-like, offline format. Often, these people prefer to print or save a product manual PDF to read while offline, for example on a plane, in a data center, or other places where Internet access may not be available.

b) Reduce documentation overhead and scale for the future

Reduce the level of skill required to update and release content.

In terms of content management, we wanted to reduce the level of skill required to update and release content. Speed-to-publication is important, particularly following product releases.  MindTouch supports faster updates and content releases because content providers don’t need to “code.” We can release or fine tune content instantly, without having to wait for a specific window of opportunity to push changes live.

We’ve dabbled in crowd sourcing content internally in the past, so we looked for a solution that kept crowd sourcing options open to us. The simple authoring interface and access controls in MindTouch enable contributors from other teams to contribute throughout the workflow.

While we haven’t yet done a lot of internal crowd sourcing since moving to MindTouch, we have been able to onboard four new writers, an intern, and a Customer Champion (who is doing a full-time stint as a writer) extremely quickly. With MindTouch in place, most of our training time is spent in teaching style guidelines and Code42 processes, rather than on how to use the publishing tool.  As a result, our Customer Champion and intern were able to write and release content with MindTouch within a day or two of joining our team; overall, our team is able to focus on continually creating and releasing great content for our customers.

c) Reduce reliance on IT, cloud and web development teams in managing the underlying infrastructure supporting our documentation

Our previous self-hosted wiki solution required too much support from the web development, IT and cloud teams to manage and maintain. There were code42_image_doc.significant opportunity costs and task-switching costs each time we involved these teams.

MindTouch is a cloud-based solution, so MindTouch takes care of almost all of the platform maintenance. The only thing our cloud team has had to do since initial configuration was replace our SSL certificate in response to the Heartbleed OpenSSL bug. IT is out of the picture now and can focus on supporting our internal users. And while our web team is continually making small improvements to the site design, they’re able to do so much more quickly and easily than they could in the past.

d) Ability to extend and integrate the documentation platform without compromising functionality or scalability

Even though we do our best to anticipate future needs and trends, there is always going to be some level of uncertainty. We wanted a solution for the long haul that offered some degree of flexibility and integration options. MindTouch utilizes open standards as much as possible, which means that our web developers don’t need specialized skills to work with the solution. They’re already fluent in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and RESTful APIs and can leverage those fluencies to extend and customize the platform, as needed.

e) Metrics


Code42 is keen on making data-driven decisions, which goes hand-in-hand with our “Best idea wins” philosophy. With our old solution, we had no ability to measure behavior or utility of our content. Google Analytics had been configured, but we ran into a technical issue that we never took the time to fully resolve; after that, we had no reporting. We researched what it would take to augment the old system with a user-rating feature, but determined that it wasn’t worth the effort to build or maintain. This was one of many reasons we decided to abandon the old wiki system.

Out of the box, MindTouch provides simple Google Analytics integration, and reporting on article rating, content aging, and search. We use the data from Google Analytics and the built-in reports to improve keyword search of articles and prioritize improvements to existing content.

6. MindTouch: Why pick MindTouch? Out of all the vendors that you looked at, what made you ultimately decide to use MindTouch? (Key differentiators)

Code42: Ease of use both for authoring and online publishing was one of the primary reasons we selected MindTouch. We wanted a tool that allowed us to keep the focus on attracting great technical communicators, without requiring a strong background in tech comm-specific tools. We wanted the team to focus on writing clear, audience-appropriate content that solves real-world problems, and then get that content out to our customers quickly.

Many of the technical writing tools available today aren’t built to accommodate the way people who grew up with the Internet consume information. The tools continue to focus on book-like output backed by XML-based authoring (e.g. DITA or DocBook). While there are benefits to authoring in XML, and there will always be an audience for book-like content, authoring in XML includes a steep learning curve. We didn’t want to incur the significant overhead required to write, publish and update content in XML.Editor.Basic

Using MindTouch’s simple interface, we can identify a content need and publish within seconds. Additionally, because MindTouch does not require specialized knowledge, we are able to utilize content contributors outside of the Documentation team. There are a number of easy to use authoring tools available, but many are designed for internal collaboration. MindTouch is focused on collaborative authoring for software documentation and provided the right set of tech comm-specific tools for our use case. And if authoring in XML does make sense for us some day, we can still use MindTouch as our documentation front-end and add XML authoring tools to our process.

From a web development perspective, MindTouch fully leverages standard web technologies, including a full, RESTful API. We were able to design and implement our custom branding in about 4 weeks, with a single senior web developer.

During our vendor evaluation, we focused on cloud-based solutions with the goal of significantly minimizing the maintenance burden on our Cloud and IT teams. All of our help information has always been available to the public, so there was no reason we had to keep our documentation hosted in-house. We didn’t find any other cloud-based solutions that provided the ease of use and flexibility of MindTouch, while also focusing 100% on our exact use case – documenting software products.

Another reason we chose MindTouch was its flexibility in authentication options. We’re currently using the built-in authentication; however, when the time comes for us to move to some form of single sign-on, we are confident that MindTouch will be able to integrate with our chosen system.

7. MindTouch: Describe the Code42 customer service experience compared to that provided by other companies in the industry.

Code42: A lot of companies view customer support as a resource drain or cost center. In that scenario, documentation is perceived as a way to reduce support costs by deflecting help desk tickets. We’re doing a few things differently at Code42. The first is that we think of customer support as a powerful form of marketing. Treating people right, taking the time to listen to their issues and helping them find resolution, quickly, goes a long way toward creating product evangelists. We are proud to host most of our Customer Champion team right here in Minneapolis; as we expand to Australia and the UK, we’re building out teams to support customers in those regions with local talent.

As of about early 2013, we have decided as a company to make significant investments in our documentation, which has always been 100% publicly accessible. Our goal as a company is to lead, not just with our technology, and not just with our customer support, but with our documentation, as well. While documentation can contribute to significant support cost savings, having great documentation, much like having a great product or great customer support, is an opportunity to create an exceptional experience for customers. It starts with building and releasing high-quality products that solve real problems for real people, but the trifecta is when you also provide accessible and easy to understand self-service answers, and back it up with compassionate and technically savvy people who help when self-service isn’t sufficient. That’s how you create evangelists.

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I’ve seen a lot of posts recently proclaiming the death of (or, at minimum, severe decline in) the importance of Call/Ticket/Issue Deflection as a meaningful metric. I would submit that the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth.

At the end of the day, every investment – whether in people, process, or technology – requires justification. This also holds true for investment in KCS, Knowledge Management, Social Media Channel Support, and many other types of improvements all require justification.

Simply stated, justification can be increased revenue or decreased cost. Given the difficulty with directly aligning cause and effect on the revenue side, cost is most often much easier to attribute to specific actions or investments. Hence, the implementation of many  improvements in customer support are most easily tied to Issue Deflection. Further, depending on the industry, the cost per call or issue can range from $10 per call in the telecommunications industry (40% of queries are related to billing) to $500-$2000 per issue for the enterprise software sector. The opportunity to justify investments is surely there. At the same time, programs and processes that continually measure Voice of the Customer (VoC) or partner must be in place to maintain a balanced scorecard.

Here’s an example of how to apply Issue Deflection Rate to Return on Investment for a improvement project. Just to keep the math simple, let’s assume there are 100,000 issues per year for a given company and it costs $50,000,000 per year to handle those issues. The average cost per resolved issue is $500. Let’s further assume that the current Issue Deflection Rate (IDR) – defined as issues that do not require handling by the company’s support personnel – is 10%. For every 1% (or basis point) increase in IDR, the company saves $500,000. The company is evaluating the purchase and deployment of a self-service solution consisting of a knowledge base and social forum, wherein customers can research and resolve issues on their own. If the system costs $750,000 to fully deploy, and the IDR increases by JUST 1% – the project would pay for itself in less than two years (including a nominal discount rate of 10% for discounting the future savings). As you can see, even small increases in IDR can produce very real savings for businesses and positive ROI.  

Net-net, given a balanced scorecard approach is often the best approach, Issue Deflection Rate is still a very relevant metric and, most often, the easiest to use to justify investments.

Bio: Joseph J. Ferraro has 25 years of experience both leading Customer Service organizations as well as CS Consulting experience. He has held leadership positions with AT&T, Accenture, Qwest Communications, SkyTel and others. He has worked in and with large corporations and technology start-ups alike. He is the Founder & Managjng Director of The Zeroto Group (WWW.THEZEROTOGROUP.COM) a management consulting firm that specializes in designing and implementing customer support strategies including how to maximize the benefits of social media channels.

Socializing Help (flicker.com/jdhancock)

Ever wish you could catch your mistakes before they go live? MindTouch has recently launched a new CSS preview tool that makes it easy for designers to validate and preview their work before making it live.

Though there are many preview tools on the market, a good majority are clunky, poorly designed, and only capable of providing limited preview functionalities. Designers, who use such antiquated CSS preview tools, often have to preview their designs in pieces instead of as a cohesive whole which makes it harder to do quality assurance testing and deliver high-quality designs.

MindTouch changes this.

As an omni-channel customer success solution, we make it a priority to help our customers succeed. The new MindTouch CSS preview feature lets MindTouch customers review their work more effectively so that they can create a high-quality, branded site, in a shorter time-frame. The MindTouch CSS Preview feature is extremely powerful because:

  • It is not static. You can interact with it.
  • You can preview all the CSS changes made to your entire site, rather than to an immediate page.
  • You can preview all the CSS changes made to your site from different permission levels.

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The most awesome part of our workflow is how intuitive it is. All you have to do is: click preview, copy and paste a generated link, and voila – you’re on the “preview” page of your MindTouch powered site which will show the CSS changes that you’ve made. To learn more about CSS Preview Best Practices, please check out this documentation.

By being able to step into your customers’ shoes and see what they see, designers can create a more cohesively branded site. The MindTouch CSS Preview makes it easy for designers to catch mistakes, streamline design, and improve the overall user experience before making the site live.

For more information, please head over to the MindTouch Customer Success Center.

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It is time to adopt a new outlook on how to validate success. With the rise of the subscription economy, businesses need to accept that traditional metrics are not enough.

It is no longer a question about how to get customers in the door, but rather a question of how to retain them. So how should you measure success internally in an organization? How do you measure if your customer-facing interactions are delivering value?

The most important metric any SaaS company should have on hand is their churn rate. This metric gives businesses a general idea of whether their customers are getting any value from their product. When a customer “churns” at the end of their subscription, it means they jump ship. In other words, these customers are not happy – whether it’s because they failed to gain enough expertise to understand the true value of the product or they were not able to accomplish their initial goals.

Either way, the business is the one at fault.

SaaS Churn Rate = (# of Customers Canceling during a Time Period) / [(Time Period) * (# of Customers)]

Example: Of 100 customers, 10 cancel in 6 months

SaaS Churn Rate = (10) / [6*100] = 1.67% churn per month

The ideal churn rate is below 10%. If your churn rate is higher, there is probably something wrong with your organization’s customer-facing workflow and structure. If you want to retain more customers, it is important to identify, target, and fix these issues. By investing the time and energy to make your customers succeed, they will reward you by staying.

To learn more about other SaaS metrics, please check out this article.

There is no better place to ruminate about an idea than on LinkedIn. Earlier this week, I stumbled across a great discussion in the Customer Success Forum (question posed by Jamie McDonnell) regarding questions you should ask when creating a new Customer Success Strategy for a SaaS startup. I figured – with the number of thought leaders who contributed to this particular discussion – that it would be more useful to share the content in its raw form.

How To Support Your Customers?

  • What are the key pain points to success for customers?
  • What are the activities of the Customer Success Strategy that will address those?
  • Should we tier our customers by size and if so, when and how?
  • What is the value of the services to the customer and how do we measure their success?
  • What do our customers say about our Customer Success Service? What do they need and want from us?
  • What are the feedback processes for the Customer Success team to impact the product roadmap?

How to Empower Your Customer Success Team?

  • What are the most important internal metrics that the Customer Success team will be measured on for effectiveness?
  • Should the customer success team be responsible for up-sells or renewals? If not, how should CSMs coordinate/collaborate with the teams that do?
  • What should the engagement model be? Do we deliver everything to customers as self-service as possible or is a more 1:1 or consultative approach warranted?
  • What tools or systems will the Customer Success team use?

What Data Matters?

  • What are our competitors doing?
  • What customer data do we have?
  • Where is it stored and organized today?
  • What data is in context or relevant for the Customer Success team to have access to?

What Should Management / Executives Be Considering?  

  • Do I have executive sponsorship for a customer success initiative? And how will that be demonstrated?
  • Is the leadership team prepared for the Customer Success team to have an equal seat at the table with Sales at the product roadmap prioritization meetings?
  • Will customer success be priced into the product/service or monetized explicitly. If monetized explicitly, what Customer Success services/offerings should be included as part of the “base” vs. “add-ons” that can be up-charged?
  • What is the cost benchmark for Customer Success?
  • Does my organization have the expertise, resources, and/or technology to design and execute a customer success program that will gather that feedback in a systematic and disciplined way?

These basic, simple questions will help you start thinking about how to build a customer success strategy that is customized for your organization.

Robots vs Zombies, vs Ninjas vs Pirates

Customer retention and loyalty is heavily dependent upon a company’s ability to empower their customers. Products are becoming more complex with each release cycle and, even with strong usability designs, customers require more information to become experts.

The challenge for businesses is figuring out how to capitalize on this need, lower the barriers to entry, and provide quality support services so that their customers can educate themselves in the shortest amount of time possible. Companies that focus on customer success enjoy a high ROI for a simple reason: your product is only as good as your customers’ ability to use it.

That being said, customers want to learn, but aren’t willing to exert a lot of effort to get from point A to point B. Therefore, it’s up to your business to figure out how to quickly ferry customers from one level of expertise to the next.

It’s not an easy task, but businesses can make their customers successful by employing the following tactics:

Streamline Internally to Deliver Customer Success

Before optimizing customer-facing interactions, businesses need to make sure that they are equipped to support customers throughout their entire lifecycle. By focusing on internal processes first, businesses can ensure that they have their priorities straight and won’t create a model that allows customers to be abandoned after a sale.

Understand Your Customer 

Focus on what is important to your customers. Listen to them during the sale cycle. Make sure to blueprint their needs. Pass this blueprint along to the customer support team so that, post-sale, customers can be confident that we, the business, are invested in helping them become product experts. Make sure that this blueprint is available to all customer-facing departments and is kept up to date as goals may evolve.

Deliver Knowledge To Customers The Way They Want: Self-Service

Talking to a support agent takes a lot of effort which is why most customers prefer to self-help when they encounter a problem. By making it easy to find the information that they need to complete a task, customers can gain expertise, both in navigating the help center and using a product, more effectively.

To learn more about the business value of Customer Success, please read this post by our CEO.

MindTouch has scouted far and wide for the most inspirational quotes in the Customer Success space. With a growing number of businesses shifting to a SaaS model, there is no better time than now to discuss the value that customer success has upon an organization. Below are twelve bite-sized quotes by influencers and early adopters in this space:

“Customer success is about more than delivering service or support.” – Lincoln Murphy, Sixteen Ventures

“Give one person responsibility for listening to your customers and authority to act on what they hear.” – Guy Letts, Co-founder at CustomerSure

“Make everyone think about things from the customer’s perspective. One of the easiest ways is to design how things work jointly with your customers.” – Mike Grafham, Yammer Customer Success, Microsoft

“You ‘the business owner’ are not the hero. Your product or service did not make the customer successful. Your customer makes their own success. By accepting that, you put the customer first.” – Brian Gladstein, CEO & Co-founder at Explorics

“Companies need to prove their worth – day after day, month after month, year after year – if they wish to win their customer’s loyalty, grow the relationship, and continue to earn their business.” – Kaiser Mulla-Feroze, CMO at Totango

“Focus less on being on top of every social media channel and more on building easy ways for customers to contact you.” – Richard White, CEO & Founder at UserVoice

“Until you know what it takes to achieve success from your customers’ perspective you will just waste valuable time doing things that will have little long-term impact.” – Jason Whitehead, CEO at Tri Tuns

“The biggest barrier to customer success is CEOs not making it an important part of the culture. It is just as important as new business.” – Nick Mehta, CEO at Gainsight

“Just one phenomenal customer experience can make a world of difference when it comes to word-of-mouth promotion.”  - Karl Wirth, Co-founder & CEO at Evergage.

“Smart companies have realized that customer loyalty is the most powerful sales and marketing tool that they have.” – Bill Price, CEO at Driva Solutions

“With the shift to a SaaS model, the connection between your customer’s success and YOUR success is much more direct and felt much more quickly.” – Ken Lownie, Ken Lownie Consulting Partners.

“Make sure that every single employee in your company, from the front line to corner office, knows precisely what value your customers are seeking and how he and she can impact it.” – Tom Krackeler, Co-founder & CEO at Front leaf

Source

Bug Fixes for Site Administrators

  • Due to an issue with our user search indexing service, recently created users would sometimes be incorrectly filtered out of the User Management user search view in the Control Panel.

Bug Fixes for Authors and Content Managers

  • When selecting a long block of text that wraps from line to line in a table cell, the text would unwrap and snap to a single line, overlapping the table.
  • It was possible, via the MindTouch API only, to move a “Special” page from its intended location. Special pages are used for reports, utilities, and other interactions. Moving a Special page can cause a site to break functionality (for example, moving Special:UserLogin somewhere else can prevent site visitors from logging in). We have removed the ability to move these pages so that Content Managers do not accidentally break site functionality.

Bug Fixes for Site Visitors

  • The PDF generation popup dialog would not close when navigating away from a page.

New MindTouch Documentation