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Odds are, if you’re not already using a CRM system, you’re looking into one. Businesses are looking to find solutions that will help them adapt to the quickly changing consumer landscape. In “The Gartner CRM Vendor Guide, 2015,” you will find an exhaustive analysis of the “digital CRM technologies that drive growth and elevate the customer experience.” CRM systems and the accompanying software that allows businesses to meet their needs are continuing to grow at a healthy rate, due in large part to the extensive ecosystem of products and services that bolster them.

The report highlights many elements of the CRM landscape, including knowledge management. It devotes a sizeable amount of space to discussing the role and value of Knowledge Management for businesses using CRM solutions. the Gartner report note that “[Knowledge management] emphasizes an integrated approach to managing an enterprise’s knowledge assets, which are made up of the information available to an enterprise about its best practices, critical business processes and operating environment.”

Gartner has included MindTouch as one of the top solutions for knowledge management. As the study notes of KM solutions, MindTouch brings together the people and processes that comprise a business, helping solve one of the main challenges CRM solutions seek to remedy: getting the right information to the right people. MindTouch can help businesses meet the challenge of delivering content to all engagement channels and to all devices. Technologies like MindTouch are crucial to any business’s CRM initiative, because it helps companies leverage the content they already produce throughout every channel to meet the demands of customers from marketing and sales, to support, and beyond.

At MindTouch, we believe that making people successful is the key to a business, whether its the employee or the customer. That’s why we continue to craft a product that helps deliver the right content at the right time, because this content is the cornerstone of successful customer relationship management. If there isn’t the content to make someone successful, then there won’t be much of a meaningful relationship, especially for a SaaS-based company. If you’d like to learn more about how MindTouch can elevate your CRM initiative, check out our on-demand webinar about bringing Customer Success to your organization.

You can learn more about the CRM landscape, along with best practices and useful recommendations by accessing Gartner’s report, “The Gartner CRM Vendor Guide, 2015.”

Damien

Today’s post is part one of an in-depth interview with Damien Howley, the VP of Customer Success at MindTouch. 

Damien is a seasoned customer success leader who has a proven record of building and running customer success teams. Damien has served as the MindTouch VP of Customer Success since February 2013 and has a background in professional services management and solution architecture. 

In today’s portion, Damien and I discuss the benefits and challenges of transitioning from customer support to customer success, with special attention to the cultural effects the shift had.

Matthew Berger: What has been the most beneficial part of transitioning from Customer Support to Customer Success?

Damien Howley: The most beneficial part of transitioning from support to customer success, in my opinion, has been the relationships that we’ve been able to establish with our customers. When we embodied the support mentality, we valued reducing cases; we valued closing cases; we valued closing things fast, and not all of these were in the spirit of what was best for the customer. When we changed things around, we said, “How do we make our customers adopt?” and “How do we make our customers more successful?” We started thinking differently about how we interacted with our customers.

We realized that the more frequently you talk to your customer, the better your relationship is with them. You know them on more of a personal level, what is troubling them, and you’re able to relate much better to a customer. One of the biggest benefits in converting to a customer success organization has been the relationships, the knowledge, and the insight we have about our customers. It’s nice to have the ability to really know what our customers are doing, and not guessing.

MB: What were some of the challenges?

DH: At first, some of the challenges were around encouraging a culture here at MindTouch that embraced customer success. Whether we wanted to admit it or not—and I was part of this—we looked at things from the support perspective. I started making reports about how many tickets we were closing and how fast are we closing cases. I know some of these things lead to customer satisfaction, but not in the way that is healthy and results in customer success.

So I started looking at all of our reports, typically support-centric reports, and I began to get myself out of that mentality and getting myself to think how we really drive adoption. It began with how we could procedurally change the culture. It sounds counter-intuitive. How do you take something as subjective as culture and change it procedurally?

For instance, one of the changes I made about three or four months in is no matter how a customer contacts us—email, phone, chat, it doesn’t matter—we are going to call them back. I had a belief that the phone would yield us stronger relationships, more insight into what we were doing. It would allow us to not just troubleshoot one issue, but also future issues. It would allow us to learn more about the customer.

Whereas previous to that, as a support organization, we actually had one phone in our support office and nobody ever used it. Everything was through email. It wasn’t personable; it was misaligned, and sometimes incomprehensible. I had to say, “Guys, this isn’t good for our customers,” even though the support industry at large says “Phones are so damned expensive, don’t send your agents down to do phone support.”  I don’t have a lot of experience running large-scale support organizations. But with the size of our customer base and our support staff, I can tell you it was very beneficial for us to change the way that we thought.

Back to the origin of your question. The challenge was getting people to welcome that culture and take away years of being judged a certain way to be comfortable being judged another way. It meant agents were changing from being someone who was task-oriented, somebody who just day-in and day-out said “I did it, I did it,” and changing them to somebody who really cared about the customer, who thought about the problems the customer might have in the future. That was challenging and something we overcame through a combination of hiring new people, procedural changes, and confidence building.

MB: Do you have any advice for companies who are in the process of implementing a customer success program?

DH: My primary advice is to get somebody to run the initiative who cares about the customer’s well being. I know it’s a business and we have to renew, we have to upsell. But if you put those goals first and not the customer first, you’ll be led down a path that ultimately leads to not achieving those goals. If you put the customer first, and very mathematically say, “They’re receiving x amount of value today, and if we teach them this, and train them here, and we add that, then we’ll increase the value,” then the end result will be the things you want: the upsells, the renewals, the growth. You’ve just got to put the horse before the cart. You’ve got to go about it in a way where you’re providing the customer value and they’re paying you back, not asking for the money with the promise of value in the future.

My further advice is to put somebody in charge of your customer success initiative that has experience with your customer base, a degree of experience with your product, and can comprehend what it means to adopt or not adopt. You need someone who can comprehend the more operational use of your software so they can relate to your customers and the people who are calling in. Not that that’s the entire body of your customer base, but you can relate to the people who are regularly on the phone and you’ll have the right sense of what helps and hurts adoption.

MB: Compared to support, it’s seems to be a more holistic approach to your customers and servicing them, would you agree?

DH: Yeah. A support organization is going to generally be focused only on support. They’re not going to be a profit center, they’re not going to be responsible for renewals. Maybe if they’re a bit more advanced they might be looking for Net Promoter Scores or Customer Effort Scores, especially in the software industry. They might be looking for mean-time-to-resolution, cases closed on first contact, and time-to initial contact. These are speed-oriented, efficiency-oriented metrics that, if you tune them, you might save some money.

But at what cost? You’re not really driving after the spirit of the customer. And of course you’re not accountable for renewals or any of the other financial metrics, so it doesn’t really have a high impact to that team if the customer isn’t successful. Customer success, on the other hand, at least the way we structure it here, houses new customer onboarding, support, and account renewals. So as soon as one team screws something up, well then the other teams are going to start suffering the consequences.

If my onboarding team doesn’t do what they need to do, maybe we don’t upsell or renew. They’re all connected and now I oversee all of them. So I have to balance out where we invest. I know that my renewals team isn’t going to get to talk to the customer about their license renewal for 365 days, but I know that my onboarding team can talk to them on day one. And my support can talk to them throughout the year. All of these other interactions are going to lead up to one interaction about renewal, so we try to take care of those customers for the 365 days and stack the odds in our favor, to make sure that they’re really doing some awesome stuff with our software.

MB: On a related note: what makes a good customer success agent?

DH: Let me just start by saying we have excellent agents. Our agents receive gifts quite regularly because of those close relationships they build. I think the common ground between all of them is caring.

Let’s go back to this theme of support vs. customer success. What is in some cases rewarded in a support organization is cost-reduction. So with this mentality, customers end up calling you less frequently and they spend less time on the phone with you, whether they’re having fewer problems or not. Sure, organizations spend less money on support costs.

What suffers there though is the relationship. The agent doesn’t have the time to really connect with the customer, to really empathize with them, to understand the problem they’re having or relate to the person they have to deal with on their side. Now, we have a much smaller customer base compared to a lot of companies, so we can talk to our customers regularly. As a result, our success agents are forced to spend enough time on the phone with our customers that they have no choice but to be totally connected to the problems that the customers are having.

Not only that, they know the product. We do a minimum of one month of product training. They have experienced different scenarios where customers might find themselves confused and they know how to overcome and explain them. So when I listen to our guys on the phone it’s not monotone, there’s no feeling of boredom. It’s a very empathetic, very respectful way of actually giving a shit about what the customer is going through. It’s not fake. And maybe just having people on the phone and talking regularly is what has made it that way.

Click Here for Part 2 of my interview with Damien.  

Connect with Damien on LinkedIn

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There is a lot of discussion around the role of the web content management system in customer experience management (CXM). Some say it’s the core, others say it’s an element, but not a driver. I say they are both right.

Let`s be very specific here, because it is important. If we were just talking purely about the online customer experience, then I would agree that the web content management system (WCM) is the core to designing and support CXM strategies. Pretty much every supporting CXM technology: marketing automation, social media monitoring, customer relationship management, analytics, personalization, social software, etc…needs to integrate with the WCM. Why? Because it stores all the content you need to manage the experience. We use to call this WebEngagement (orExperience) Management.

But customer experience management is about more than the online channels. And not all WCM platforms provide support to the offline experience. Support channels, print-based marketing, internal knowledge work activities — these things are typically done using other tools. And the content used to support these activities is, typically, stored in these other tools.

What I think brings both these views together is not the WCM itself, but the WCM repository. Or to be more generic, the content repository. I think to be successful managing the customer experience, you need to be able to quickly access and relate all elements of a customer interaction with all the internal knowledge your employees have about not only the customer, but the processes used to work with a customer. You can do that if you have a single content repository to work with.

Many content management systems today are designed to store content not as html pages, but as individual components of content that can be easily reused across different web pages, mobile sites and apps, social networks and more. Managing a single version of that content is important to ensure you are always saying the same thing to your customers. These repositories can also be leveraged by other systems to provide content as well. For example, this content repository could be used by your call center support team to help customers with issues.

Now it’s important to point out that I don’t believe you can only have one single content repository where all information needs to permanently live. I believe that content integration is the key to a well-managed content repository. So you can keep your content in the other systems you work with, but find a way to integrate your content repository with those others systems.

By doing that, you can have a single location to mine for information about your customer and their interactions with you, and to use to design and build new applications or online/offline experiences. A central content repository also allows you to develop support applications that have access to customer information easily, including any information from CRM systems, traffic information, etc…

Today’s content is not only the material you use to develop your CXM strategies, it’s also the interactions customers and prospective customers have with you. Having it all accessible in a centralized content repository will help you identify, design and refine your CXM strategies quickly. If you are required to move from system to system to gather all the intelligence and information you need, you are going to spend far more time hunting and gathering, than actually doing something.

Barb Mosher is a guest columnist for MindTouch and Managing Editor for CMSWire.com. You can follow Barb on Twitter @bmosherzinck

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Sugar CRM, the well known customer relationship management (CRM) platform which is “designed to help your business communicate with prospects, share sales information, close deals and keep customers happy” now uses MindTouch to power their comprehensive support center.

 

Sugar CRM brands itself as the “CRM Made Simple” and their new support site subscribes to this value.

Sugar has done an excellent job organizing support features into easy to navigate categories right on the home page.

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Customers looking for forums, how-to steps, embedded media tutorials or documentation can quickly and easily navigate to the correct page and find more specific information within Sugar’s effectively organized hierarchies.  Now that’s simple.

Check out Sugar CRM’s new support center for yourself at: http://support.sugarcrm.com/

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Providing top-notch customer service doesn’t have to involve lengthy back-and-forth calls with your users.  It can be much easier. In fact, bad product documentation could be hurting your customer retention. Indeed your help and product documentation is a valuable customer relationship management (CRM) tool that you might be overlooking.  Your documentation increases customer retention and turns your users into product experts whom would never dream of leaving your products. So, it’s more important than ever to seriously consider whether your product documentation is actually proving useful.
Read more…

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Among the most critical concerns facing product and support leaders at subscriber based service providers—such as Email Service Providers (ESP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Marketing Automation companies—is the cost of churn. The subscriber based service market is competitive,  to say the least, and taking proactive steps to defend against subscriber churn is essential to your company’s growth, long-term stability, and competitiveness.

Here are 3 steps you can take now to combat subscriber churn:

1) Enable your users to succeed right away

User_DevelopmentThe fact is a large number of people unsubscribe from your service because no clear pathway has been established for their immediate success using  your application. You can create that pathway very easily by adding Contextual Help to your product. It allows your developers to easily add a fully integrated help system to your application. This modern F1-style help system creates a rich social help experience for your users by giving them contextually relevant help information right inside your product. Customers don’t have to exit the application to search for the answers they need because they are only one click away.
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Leading open source collaboration platform and leading commercial open source CRM provider combine to enable collaborative CRM for organizations of all sizes.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. APRIL 14, 2010 — MindTouch, the industry’s leading open source alternative to Microsoft SharePoint, , today announced that it has integrated with SugarCRM, the world’s leading provider of commercial open source customer relationship management (CRM) software. By bringing these two powerful software platforms together, organizations of all sizes can create dynamic and innovative collaborations across their businesses, specific to improved customer and service relationships. MindTouch made the announcement today at SugarCon, SugarCRM’s annual user and partner conference. MindTouch also announced its partnership with Levementum, the leading SugarCRM reseller.

“The power of MindTouch and SugarCRM increases in strength when the two are seamlessly working together through this new integration,” said Aaron Fulkerson, CEO, MindTouch. “Our work in forming a relationship with Levementum furthers our effectiveness in distributing this extremely powerful technology for collaborating around and building upon customer relationships.”

The MindTouch and SugarCRM joint solution enables sales teams to collaborate on the sales process by creating team sites for sales and/or services engagements. Given that the average five or six-figure sales transaction can encompass hundreds of emails, phone calls and notes, all with very specific information, the advantages of having an actionable base of interconnected information gives these teams more clout toward sealing the deal, identifying opportunities for upselling, and adding value in many additional ways. Services account teams, managing multiple revisions of service agreements and statements of work, are further assisted by this powerful integration as it helps them identify opportunities, track customer conversations and build upon account relationships to add additional streams of revenue.

“The combination of MindTouch and Sugar allows us to cater to the most demanding collaborative sales, marketing and support organizations,” said Clint Oram, co-founder and vice president of products at SugarCRM. “These two platforms enable organizations to quickly and easily share all the critical data, documents and internal expertise needed to operate at peak levels.”

Download your copy of MindTouch Enterprise today.

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About SugarCRM

SugarCRM is the world’s leading provider of open source customer relationship management (CRM) software. Over 6,000 customers and more than half a million users rely on SugarCRM to execute marketing programs, grow sales, retain customers and create custom business applications. Leading publications such as CRM Magazine, InfoWorld and eWeek praise SugarCRM for its ease-of-use, flexibility and open design. SugarCRM runs on the leading cloud computing platforms, including Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Sugar On-Demand and Private Clouds, offering customers unparalleled choice and control of their data and deployments.

For more information, call (408) 454-6900 or 1 87 SUGARCRM toll-free in the US, email [email protected], or visit http://www.sugarcrm.com.