NOTE: Enterprise technology and Microsoft 365 (M365) customers are predominantly the context for this post but hopefully it is still useful more broadly. In this context, I define onboarding as the set of activities related to the initial provisioning and orientation of a technology for users. It should ensure that users have seamless access and knowledge of what to do when first logging in and orienting themselves with the product. Just some of the basic things to consider:Continue reading Beyond onboarding – growth hacking adoption of your product with customers
In several foundational pieces I have written about Microsoft Teams as a Platform (disclosure). This post gets to some of the detail and focuses on a simple way to get started with use of App templates in Teams. This is a big focus of my work with customers at the moment and I give an overview of the App template library and then dive into two popular Apps.Continue reading Considering Microsoft Teams as a Platform – get started with App templates
There is an explosion of automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning with many fearing job losses. In the attention economy we have proliferation of social media, questionable content, digital addiction, etc. Freedom of expression knows no bounds yet sensitivities are tested like never before. There are many benefits to adopting these tools and approaches and there are those that countervail – some stand out, either as out of touch dinosaurs or innovators. In all this there are many reasons to be joyful.Continue reading In an age of machines human organisations matter – an ode to joy
I’m seeing more and more signals driving this trend which has only been around a short while. Gartner describes citizen development thus.
Its precursor was the consumerisation of IT. One of the key aspects of this trend was that decision making on the use of software in organisations was increasingly being taken by business users, not IT.Continue reading For citizen development to work address innovation culture first
Adoption hacks are little tips and tricks you can use to stimulate adoption of technology. Actions that can include any number of activities, all designed to get users learning about, understanding and using features of a technology to get new value from it.
Activities can be anything from communication, learning components, social proof (showing how others are getting value) all the way to mandating something. All is fair when it comes to adoption hacks :)
I’ll start documenting what I am doing and what I learn about from others in the way of adoption hacks in posts like these.
At the moment, at Microsoft, I am focusing heavily on Microsoft Teams adoption. Teams is is seen as a platform play because it is the front end to a lot of other tools in the Office 365 technology stack as well as those outside through various integrations.
Teams is extensible and customisable so that you can reach users in their chats, channels, notifications and personal workspaces. A single app can provide one or more capabilities.
They enable users to make decisions and take action faster. They reduce context switching on important tasks. They create opportunities for collaboration around external content. They make for the perfect adoption hacking tools in other words 😁
Teams apps come from different publishers. 1st party apps are developed by Microsoft for Office 365 or Office workloads as mentioned and enable better together scenarios. 2nd party apps are those not built by Microsoft and are popular work applications enabled in a central location (the store you can access in Teams). Custom apps are built by your organisation to meet specif business needs. Just some examples below:
- Bots help users get tasks done in conversations. I’m using https://zoom.ai/ a lot at the moment in Team channels and in direct conversation with the Bot and its great for things like setting reminders to follow up on actions that stem from conversations.
- Tabs surface rich content within Teams. For example, O365 activity usage reports from PowerBI that can be discussed and actioned right from within Teams
- Connectors allow you to post rich updates from activity in other applications into your Team feeds.
- Actionable messaging adds rich interaction to your connector cards so you can act on new information you receive from ☝
- Compose extensions allow you to query and share rich cards in conversations.
Conversational AI and the new dynamics of computer assisted collaboration and automation to aid adoption
One key learning we’ve had at Microsoft is that Bots, custom line of business applications that integrate business processes, and ‘ready to use’ applications integrated into Teams = stickiness and relevance that keeps users coming back every day and drive company-wide adoption.
One very specific example of this I am making use of with my customers to support end users is combining Teams and the Microsoft Bot framework to create Q&A Bots. Users can query the Bot and get answers to questions on Teams as well as other applications. In my case I am focusing on other O365 related applications but it could be used for any.
Here is documentation on some Bot service templates which can be used to get started building Bots and includes one on to build a Q&A Bot.
Dentsu Aegis Network have done a great job with this and you can read this article to find out more: Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) builds Teams chatbot to drive internal adoption of new technologies.
This is such a great example of using new technology to support adoption of technology which I am hugely motivated by. I’ll be sharing more as I learn in this super interesting space.
It’s a pretty provocative statement, I know. To be clear, I’m not suggesting humans won’t be involved any longer or that there won’t be a need for them.
If anything, humans will be liberated to carry out the high-touch, heavy lifting work we are uniquely qualified to do and should be focusing on instead, like complex and creative problem solving, relationship building, strategy setting, and more.
The work that is repetitive can be automated and managed by AI, bots, etc. Things like onboarding new users, growth hacking (tracking use and suggesting amplifying or mitigating actions) and general product optimization, will be able to be programmed and managed by these advances.
This is particularly relevant when faced with the increasing burden that a growing rate of bureaucracy places on individuals in organizations, especially those like CSMs, who are most directly involved in creating customer value.
Based on this HBR study (see chart), you can see that customer-facing roles have the highest rates of increase in bureaucracy. Mitigating the increase in bureaucracy for these roles by implementing tools with automation and AI capabilities could be an ideal solution.
To provide some context, this research will be a part of my new eBook – I’m exploring this angle in a chapter (see point 8).
My heading is not so alarmist when you consider the claims that robots and AI are going to be the drivers of productivity in just about anything in the near future. Lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, and programmers are all going to be affected. In my opinion, Customer Success as an infant profession is not going to be immune either and it’s the way it should be.
To reiterate, I’m not saying humans won’t have a role. I’m saying they can and will, but it will be a smaller one and much more focused. I’m not sure to what degree – maybe the 80 / 20 rule will apply? If that is the case, there is still the potential that humans can play a disproportionately large role in daily CS operations.
The human’s role notwithstanding, in this post and indeed, in the chapter, I want to explore how AI and automation are already starting to play a role and how that will be enlarged over time. Another factor to keep in mind is the function of the product itself.
The product’s role in customer success
To explain my last point briefly, I am referring to the role an excellent product plays, one with superb usability, that delivers critical business benefits, etc. No amount of AI or automation is going to solve the issues that emerge when a product is convoluted to use, and creates mountains of arduous and unnecessary work for users. Metaphorically, it’s like pushing a proverbial boulder up a hill and this is made worse when there is no clear business benefit.
To take it one-step further, people have even anticipated “anti-active usage” products. From this excellent article, The Next Generation of SaaS Won’t Optimize for User Engagement:
“With anti-active usage products, you don’t necessarily need to use the product to get something done because the product (1) understands the problem, (2) works out a solution and (3) outputs a result. Anti-active usage products don’t need human interactions at any level of their value-chain.”
I mentor startups, and several of the ones I have worked with are already moving into this space. TIQ probably best illustrates this premise – their software facilitates time tracking by connecting to the tools you use to get your work done. TIQ automatically creates an overview of the time you have spent on separate documents, emails, meetings, and other activities, and all you do is confirm (tick off) what gets logged. The objective is to spend less time on the function AND using the tool, reducing the need for manual inputs entirely.
Current state of activities
My interest in this whole area was piqued when I listened to Derek Roberts, the Director of Services, Strategy, and Operations at HubSpot, speak at Pulse 2017 (the annual Customer Success conference) earlier this year. I documented my learnings from the event, including a summary of his talk, here: State of Customer Success – Learnings from Pulse 2017. (Here are his slides and audio, if you’d like to see more details).
I then, coincidentally, bumped into the folks at Strikedeck, who are in the Customer Success space as well, and are doing an excellent job in this area. I arranged for a few conversations, and a demo of their tool, so I could find out more.
There are two things Strikedeck focuses on, amongst many others, that I wanted to explore in detail, that are relevant to this whole area.
Integrations, Data, and Dashboards
Strikedeck seamlessly integrates with at least 50 connectors already, and is architected to easily be able to build out more, as long as the other systems have open APIs, web hooks, etc.
They integrate with marketing automation, CRM, event trackers, call centers, billing systems, and many other data applications so you can reach out to customers at just the right moment and see all their information in one place. Connecting to Salesforce, Marketo, Zendesk, Google Analytics and more is entirely self-service, and done in a few clicks. Each integration can be completed in less than 20 minutes.
This is fundamental to be able to start some of the necessary automation work, and because you need access to the data on product usage to be able to act on it.
It is all presented in easy to view and modify dashboards – screenshot below:
In my mind, the three steps I outlined in the sub header are the critical setup to follow sequentially and have available as features to carry out the necessary work.
In the demo, I also noticed that customer experience can be tracked in terms of progress across predetermined paths. It can be taken from other systems (renewal data from CRM), but can also be included manually from input into the tool upfront.
This last area above fits nicely into the role I see Customer Success Managers playing in determining the optimal customer experience that I cover in my eBook. After all, to properly affect optimal customer experiences, you need to be able to map them and track progress on the path.
Detailed segmentation is also possible in Strikedeck, with relevant slicing and dicing of views. This then leads naturally into the next important area in which automations are activated and set up.
Workflow, Tasks, and Playbooks
An automation workflow allows you to activate email campaigns, survey series, slack & text messages, schedule meetings and calls, activate in-app notifications for your customers, create tasks for your Customer Success teams, update customer data objects in any of the target sources (CRM, Help Desk etc.) based on the trigger criteria set (support ticket, product usage, stakeholder role change, billing information, and more). This functionality can be customized to display the triggers that are critical in your business use cases. Some screenshots below:
Playbooks are another area that support CSMs in how they automate their activities. Playbooks are essentially an execution script of tasks, notifications, and escalations with relative dates and dependencies. Playbooks ensure consistency and standardization of best practices across the organization.
The best way to think of a playbook is to see it as a set of automated workflow actions that are launched as soon as the first trigger is activated. You can specify if the workflow is a task or action, set priorities, determine dependencies, and create timelines for completion.
Playbooks can be used in situations like:
- Dissatisfied Customer – Triggered by a low NPS or support ticket
- Product Usage Drop
- Account Renewal
- New Customer Onboarding
AI, Bots, and Beyond
I asked Strikedeck about these areas of functionality in their product, and they have some really exciting features coming up:
Coach: A Bot that lives inside the product and is a coach to the users of the product, helping them get more ROI from the product. Based on how a user is utilizing the product, the Strikedeck ‘Coach’ will automatically suggest what the user can do to improve usage. This can be activated through a ‘Coach Me’ button inside the product. The ‘Coach’ is rule-based initially, and over time learns to give better suggestions.
Zen: A Bot (initially on Slack and Gmail) that provides information on a customer. Anyone in the organization can ask a question, like – what’s the revenue for Customer A? or When’s the renewal due for Customer B? or Which customer could be a good reference advocate for telecom industry? – and the bot will search the database for the correct answer so CSMs don’t have to do the research themselves.
I can see a combination of trends coming together to facilitate how a user will get value from a product and how this will allow Customer Success Managers to expedite help for the user.
What do you think – future or fantasy?