Information Maven: Greg Meyer

Customer Strategy, Customer Success

How to Build a Great Customer Success Team

image courtesy of Gainsight
image courtesy of Gainsight

When you are building a great business (particularly a Saas business), you need to devote extra time to taking care of your customers so that they not only are satisfied at the sale, but also on an ongoing basis. A customer may join you because of clever marketing, a consultative selling process, excellent product, or empathetic service – or a combination of all of these factors. They may also want to leave for many reasons that are (at least temporarily) out of your control. Keeping the customer, understanding their needs, and communicating those ideas to the product and engineering team is the job of the Customer Success team.

So what is Customer Success, really? I believe Customer Success is a hybrid of traditional ideas for support, account management, customer on-boarding, and sales. The best Success teams work hand-in-hand with dedicated Sales, Support, and Marketing teams to guide the customer from initial awareness through consideration to trial, buying decision, on-boarding and implementation, and ongoing success.

Why call it “Customer Success” instead of Account Management, Support, or Customer Service?

These department names and functions are well-known and often misunderstood. Customer Success implies the support and service offered by traditional Customer Service teams and the speed and flexibility of Account Management and Sales. “Success” in this model does not mean that the Customer is successful all of the time – it means that we are successful in finding an amicable (and hopefully awesome) solution whenever someone needs help. It’s not just the transactional “help” of “how do I find this feature that I’m looking for” but also the consultative relationship you forge with a great salesperson and account rep who can always seem to get you what you need.

How do you build a great Customer Success Team?

It starts with a lead who has done this sort of work before. It’s often possible for a Sales Leader to move into this role if she’s had past experience supporting clients, or a Customer Service Leader to add account management to his skill set. But the best head of a Success Team is someone who has been on the front lines bridging the gap between sales and service for a while, in a variety of industries, for a variety of account sizes.

The team that Customer Success Leader builds should have Account Management and Customer Service functions – that doesn’t always mean that the person will need dedicated teams for those functions. Jason Lemkin suggests that “most SaaS companies use a rough metric of 1 Client Success Manager for every $2m in ARR.” For a smaller average deal size you might need a few more people to keep things going and it’s a good metric to use to measure team performance.

What team do you need?

Think about Lemkin’s model of client success and consider using it to plan a “Team effort” for each $1m in ARR. For your first $1m in ARR, you will probably need only two people: one who focuses on Customer Service and content for new customers, and one person who manages the on boarding and engagement of new and existing customers. As your customer base grows, use the metric of about 50-100 interactions/daily for Customer Service and 100-500 Accounts for account management to size your team.

Equip your team with tools

You’re going to need a combination of management and nurturing tools to deliver service and account management. As your service volume goes up, you’ll want either a lower-end tool like Zendesk or Desk.com or a higher-end solution like Salesforce to manage your service interactions. For automatic and real-time engagement, I love Intercom – it’s a great hybrid of programmatic marketing tools and the quick touch transactional tools found in service desks.

Your goal should be “no customer left behind”

When thinking about how you manage that Customer Success team and make them a great team, consider how it feels when you get great service and know exactly who to call: it feels great. Whatever approach you use to engage customers and whatever policies you have to govern your customer interactions, the customer should be at the core of that experience. If you need to measure results (and you do), keep your eye on Net Churn. The results of keeping more people even while the top line customer growth increases really helps the team accelerate.

What results should you expect? Great customer teams are accretive to a great sales and marketing team. By keeping more customers and by helping the sales team with the critical task of expansion revenue and retention, great Customer Success teams deliver results.

Customer Success, Marketing Strategy, Product Strategy

Should you invest in Product, Sales, or Marketing?

photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/billybrown00/4982722491
photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/billybrown00/4982722491

Imagine the sales call…

When someone calls you to discuss a product you just signed up for, how do you feel? Depending upon where you are in your buyer’s journey, you might welcome the call, feel ambivalent, or be annoyed that the company called you at all (especially if you haven’t yet given them your phone number). What often happens is a mismatch between the relationship strength — the relationship between you and the company necessary for you to have a good experience with their product — and your goals. Likewise, the transaction cost — the effort required for you to experience the product enough to know whether you’re ready to buy — may also be fundamentally misplaced.

A great (first time or otherwise) product experience matches the relationship strength needed by the typical customer. How much help will the customer need from you to get what they need from your product? This product experience also matches the transaction cost that customer expects. Is it too much work for the customer to do the work they need to do, with or without your help? Answering these two questions helps you scope your investment in your product to focus on sales, marketing, or product efforts. Is the relationship effort and cost needed small — like when you try a free product that might not bring you immediate benefit — or is it quite high? You might be auditioning to solve a pivotal problem for a large business while working on a deadline. Continue reading

Customer Experience

Infinite scroll must go



A great design for endless browsing

There’s a signature design that I am sure you’ve seen more than once today. It’s a river of information; it’s endless serotonin; it’s sort of pleasing to the eye; and then it never ends.

“Infinite scroll” as a user experience style expects that you will be spending hours in the app or web site. More importantly even if you have (almost) endless time, the UX doesn’t give you many visual clues to know “you’re done … you can start a different mode of browsing now … perhaps even blink a few times.”  

It feels awesome the first time you use Infinite Scroll. And then you start wondering: when will the page ever end? Am I missing something important at the bottom of the page? What was I doing when I started browsing? 

What might work better?



There’s another pattern you should consider using, popularized originally by Twitter. Pull-to-Refresh prompts you to “pull” the screen down to trigger a data refresh and limits the amount of information returned in any one action. “Pull-to-refresh” is a much better design pattern than infinite scroll because it does many of the same things that Infinite Scroll does well:

  • Shows you a lot of content in each “page” of views
  • Gives you access to rich cards of data 
  • Is almost-instant given a good network connection

And Pull-to-refresh as a UI pattern does a few things better, particularly:

  1. It fails gracefully with low network: it shows you that it is trying to pull your request with a visible spinner at the top of the user interface
  2. It lets you rest: no more FOMO (fear of missing out) when you’re not sure that you’ve reached the bottom of the available page
  3. Friendlier to new customers: older consumers in particular may find the concept of an unending river of information disorienting

So what? An interface is an interface.

Design is integral to the choices we make every day. The more work we do to limit cognitive load and decision making, the easier it will be to use information-rich panels in more areas of our lives.

If you disagree, go read this post on choice closure to understand the psychological importance of finishing a unit of work. Done > Perfect, even when it comes to scrolling a page.

Customer Development, Customer Strategy, Life Hacks, Marketing Strategy, Startup

How to Make Your Own Explainer Videos (for under $149)

Creating an Effective Explainer Video

A prospective customer may have only 30 to 60 seconds to understand your Unique Selling Proposition. When you’re not right there with the customer, one of the best ways to share the benefit of your product is a brief and effective “Explainer Video”. You’ve seen them – they are the 2-4 minute video clips that accompany almost any product these days. Depending upon your budget, the time available, and your level of effort, it’s easy to spend lots of money building an explainer video and not end up with much in return. The goal is to create a “good-enough” explainer video for a minimum amount of money that won’t embarrass you or your company and will give you a good template for future action.

Creating an effective piece of content requires some time and effort, but it’s not that hard to start. I created an explainer video for creating explainer videos (how meta) to demonstrate the process and have eight tips to get you ready for “lights, camera, ACTION!”

Tip 1: Write a Script.

It’s easy to come up with words on the fly, and they sound even better when you took a few minutes to write them down. To get the right level of detail, think of your script either as talking points or as a word-for-word reading that you can record and re-record until you get it right. The basics that you’ll want to follow are as follows:

  • What will happen in the videowhat’s the big idea that you’re trying to convey? Usually this is a bite-sized concept that someone can understand in two to five minutes.
  • What you will say – what idea are you trying to convey right now? Demonstrating a portion of the screen or an easy-to-use idea makes more sense if you don’t just read your script or your slide.
  • What you will demonstrateshow, don’t tell to get the maximum impact.You may need to show something more than once to get the viewer’s attention and to communicate what you mean. As a teacher friend of mine says, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, Tell them, and then Tell them what you told them.” It’s a good model for planning your teaching approach.

Practice each of these until you have a relatively smooth delivery. Some explainer sections may come together in a single take, while others require a bit of editing to get right.

Tip 2: Create a Motion Graphic Intro or Exit.

Video walkthroughs always look more professional when they have a snappy introduction and exit. Perhaps this is because we are all conditioned on 15- and 30-second commercials, and it remains that the intro is a worthwhile investment of your time. You can use iMovie or ScreenFlow (as I did in the overview above) or you can use a service like GetMoovd to build a 5-10 second introduction. The key here is to end up with something that looks and sounds professional – that look and feel lends credibility.

Note: if you’re not good at this part, this is an excellent item to outsource. Whether you use oDesk, 99Designs, or some other source, getting a freelancer to create an intro clip is much cheaper than hiring a designer to build the entire explainer video for you.

Tip 3: Buy a Decent Microphone.

bluesnowballThe first thing that many people recognize about a video (paradoxically, it seems) is how it sounds. The better a piece sounds, the higher the quality bar to the listener. You may not be a professional sound engineer, and there are a few things to do and make an immediate impact on the results.

First, use a real microphone, not just your iPhone earbuds. I recommend the Blue Snowball – it’s a USB mic and works well to eliminate a lot of the typical background noise you might here (clicks, etc). I also found that investing in a $5 microphone shield made it easier for me to avoid some of the vocal “pops” I’ve heard before when I try to record.

The Snowball has a standard microphone mount so it will also fit on a stand if you’d like to go “professional”. If you don’t want to spend $50 on a microphone, you can probably get away with a $25 headset that has a noise canceling boom microphone.

The Blue Snowball is a great choice for getting started however, and also makes you feel just a little bit like a newscaster or a Rock Star while you’re laying down your lines.

 

 

Tip 4: Spend $99 on Screen Capture Software

screenflowImageOnce your audio sounds good, you’ll also need to make some improvements on the video side. Creating videos with solid, consistent transitions and unobtrusive titles is also a great investment toward the goal of winning customer trust and time.

ScreenFlow is the best screen recorder you will find for the Mac. I’ve used Camtasia, Premiere, iMovie, and Flash. This one makes it really easy to record the screen (even allowing you to record the ScreenFlow software itself or record output on an iPad or iPhone.

Adding transitions, editing sound, and fitting things together is really easy. When you’re ready to publish, ScreenFlow also connects directly to popular video hosting sites like YouTube or Wistia. In short, this is money well spent and the investment (a small one, really) is worth your time and money.

 

Tip 5: Take the time to Smooth the Vocals

backgroundNoise

Now that you’ve invested in a microphone and the screen recording software, make sure you invest a little time in making the audio sound better as well. You can use software like Audacity or GarageBand if you want to do some serious processing, and I’d recommend just using the tools in ScreenFlow. Simply lower the background audio, smooth the volume levels, add a small amount of vocal effect, and remove background hiss and the vocals will sound much better.

A note of caution – it sounds like a great idea to filter the vocals with a fancy filter. It never comes out sounding like you want, so just a touch of filter is probably a better idea.

Your goal is to bring the vocals out of the background and make sure that they sound consistent – not to have the listener be surprised by an overloaded vocal.

 

Tip 6: Add Callouts to your Video

Professional explainer videos help you to know where to look in each segment of the video. This might take the form of a low-key “lower-third” caption on the screen, an animated callout to accompany a multi-step procedure, or other styles of getting the customer’s attention.

speechBubble

Good callouts are:

  1. Not necessarily a repetition of an audio track
  2. Limited in the number of words – they are not a book – and help to bridge gaps in audio or video
  3. Linked to the “Big Idea”

Bad callouts have these characteristics:

  1. Take too long to read
  2. Distract the viewer
  3. Leave more questions than answers

Building callouts is easier said than done. One good method of determining whether you have the right level of instruction is to show the video to testers when it’s partway finished and ask them for feedback. If they ask for callouts, it’s a good sign that the script needs to be refined or that callouts are needed.

Tip 7: Create Standard Transitions

In addition to callouts, you’ll need standard transitions between sections to help the viewer know what’s happening next. These provide a visual and mental break for the viewer. You might think of using a “Lower Third” technique, e.g.

lowerThird

A simple treatment catches your eye. Use Bold to set off parts of your text or italic to emphasize a point. And try not to do too much. Transitions should show up gracefully, add meaningful value, and then disappear. If they become the focal point, you said too much with the graphic.

Tip 8: Add some background music

Last and certainly not least, the tone of the background music sets the mood for the video. Consider adding a backing track to your video at a very low volume level, in addition to whatever main music you will be adding. Whether you create a simple loop that adds a sound texture or do something more elaborate, building sound layers will make your explainer video sound more professional and interesting.

While these tips give you the fundamentals for creating a great explainer video, they are hardly the last tips out there. If you’d like to read more about the topic, check out The Greatest Explainer Videos or read the book The Art of Explanation.

Want to do this yourself?

Find these resources at
http://bit.ly/ExplainerVideoContent – a Dropbox link to the raw files I used to create this video
http://bit.ly/MakeExplainerVideo – the script you can use to create your own Explainer Video.
Customer Development, Customer Strategy, Customer Success

Your customer wants to be entertained

Meghan Trainor at the Neptune Theater, Feb 14, 2015, Seattle, WA
Meghan Trainor at the Neptune Theater, Feb 14, 2015, Seattle, WA

We are all very busy. When someone asks for our attention, we want a show. Not just a “dog and pony” show, but a real experience with a tight structure, strong production values, and a Big Finish that we can record for posterity. Pop Stars have it down – they know that a customer’s experience with a single song has to translate into a customer experience that reinforces the brand. The key insight is that we don’t want to have our time wasted and we want the time we invest in an experience or a product to have value that extends beyond that experience itself.

What’s the first experience customers have with your product?

Think about the encounter with your product as a show. At Disney Parks, management refers to the customers as guests and the employees as on stage talent to help everyone know that the experience is a magical (and also fragile) construct where the guests want to be entertained and the employees do their part to make sure everything seems right. This is the exchange customers make for their time: show me something of value and I will commit my time, energy, and effort into seeking and finding that value.

The first time a customer uses your product, they need an easy task that demonstrates immediate value so that they will want to come back. A common way to accomplish this is to use the customer’s own information (connect your Twitter handle, enter the name of your web domain, or even the most basic tell me the preferred name you wish to be called) because it’s more likely you will get that information right. Get the first customer interaction right, and the customer will come back. Give them garbage, and you lost the chance to be considered in the future.

How do you set the stage?

In a rock show, there are roadies and advance personnel that ensure that the stage is set “just so” and that the experience in-theater (or stadium or venue) is similar to the way the talent practiced. There are rituals (the opening act, the lights, the backing music) that help prime the audience for an experience. And there are built-in mechanisms for checking audience participation (the welcome “HELLO CLEVELAND” to indicate a special experience in your town, the encore for making sure that you know the singer appreciates you). All of these actions set the stage for a great customer experience.

Setting the stage for a product involves setting the stage, suggesting a clear and immediate benefit, and then showing the way with the minimum of gates to take customer through the sign-up funnel.

The best sign up pages have a Sell (“try my product”), a Benefit (“When you try my product you’ll get this immediate benefit”) and an Action (“Get the benefit by signing up Now”). Here’s an example of a few pages from the Pinterest mobile UI that do this well.

example onboarding, courtesy of UXArchive.com
example onboarding, courtesy of UXArchive.com

Not everyone has as clear of a benefit as offering beautiful pictures in a free product (and therefore has quite a low barrier to entry) but the principles for any business should be crystal clear. Show (don’t tell) the customer the benefit; Demonstrate the easy steps to get started; and Ask the customer to participate.

Add an Easy Button if You Don’t Have One

 

photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/firechickenta99/3480408342
An Easy Button.

Customers – as we’ve said before – are really busy. That means your product needs to be dead simple to start, even if the insights you deliver and the value you aspire to is less than dead simple. Start by listing the reasons the customer should try your product today, and keep them simple. One, two, or three benefits are probably as many as people can handle in one go (model your pitching on the idea of short-term memory – we can hold only 5-7 items in that memory and a few of them are probably already busy right now).

What’s next?

Make the first win easy, and then start sharing all of the insight and benefit your product gives in an easy to use format. For many people this is still email. Email wins because it is asynchronous, can be opened in many clients, and is reasonably easy to produce. Email loses because people have too much of it and they just don’t like to read.

Remember, customers are busy. Their time matters. Provide more value in less time and create a great experience that inspires them to share and they’ll come back to see more.

Marketing Strategy, Product Thoughts, Social Networking, Sports

Who won Super Bowl 49 on Social Media?

Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/parksjd/16393969066
Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/parksjd/16393969066

Who won Super Bowl 49 on Social Media?

We all know it now — in Super Bowl 49, The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots left their bodies on the field as they battled for the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy. While all of metro Seattle is still smarting from the loss, and New England continues to celebrate, I thought it would get my mind off of the game to take a look at the results from the Super Advertising that took place during the Super Game.

$4.4 million was the going rate for this year’s Big Game, so clearly the biggest winner was NBC — the owner of all of that valuable advertising time. And many of the brands that advertised during the game generated a lot of engagement on social media — so I thought it would be interesting to compare the Battle for Super Bowl Attention across a number of different channels for all of the Super Bowl 49 advertisers.

Continue reading

Customer Experience, Customer Service

Noreply@ Emails Are Dumb

photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jordoncooper/14272455652
photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/jordoncooper/14272455652

Imagine if you had a store and on the front door you placed a sign stating, “We’re not open for business.” You wouldn’t expect many people to come to your door, much less people to come back and see you again. Yet that’s exactly what your company does when you place a “noreply@” email address in an email that you send to customers. You’re missing an opportunity to communicate with people who could tell you valuable things about your business.

“Noreply@YourCompany.com” tells me that you don’t really care about customers. That email address tells me that you don’t read your email. And it tells me that replies to that email are going into silent oblivion. Yes, you say – it’s hard to answer all of those pesky emails – I agree. It’s a lot of potential responses. But most people never think to let you know what they are feeling when you put up a virtual Do Not Enter sign.

Here’s another thought. Why not start by having a “PleaseTalkToUs@” email alias tied to your emails that you send? Or “WeLoveToHearFromYou@” or “YourThoughtsMatter@”? It’s just an alias – you can keep the “noreply@” hidden somewhere if there is someone grumpy at your company who just doesn’t want to read email.

But consider the value of having the first time someone hears from your company be a personal touch, like “love@” or “WeLoveCustomers@” and see how the emails change from “Get Me Off Of This List” to “I’d love to tell you something important about your product, and I just need someone to listen.” It all starts with being mindful about the face you show to customers. Start with a smile and see what happens.

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