Summer eBook Blog Series Part 4: Investing in Your Future With Customer Success

Great companies know that providing a first-class experience to all customers is achieved by investing both time and money into customer success strategies. The pay-offs from this investment are substantial and growing.  

A recent study shows that by 2020, customer experience will officially surpass both price and product as the primary differentiator among businesses. Despite this, it is estimated that only 37 percent of business leaders have a dedicated budget for improving customer success. The time to get ahead of the curve is now. 

In other words, value-based customer success will be the game-changer for businesses moving forward. Here are three ways to infuse value-based customer success into your organization and your business relationships:

Modeling from the Top Down

Let’s use the example of a first-class flight experience. Everyone from the gate agents to the flight attendants are wholly dedicated to the quality of your first-class experience. Your company leadership should similarly be modeling their customer success values and holding themselves and everyone else accountable for reaching customer success goals. The best way to instill customer success as a value cohesively throughout your business is to ensure that executives are both practicing and preaching its importance. 


Providing Bottom-Up Support

Achieving and maintaining customer success requires an ongoing investment in the right tools, systems, teams, and training. More specifically, it is crucial that your business is allocating enough resources to support team members who are interacting with customers on a daily basis. A great way to do this is to provide teams with playbooks that clearly outline their priorities, the company’s values, and how customer success is at the heart of it all. Priorities should center around fostering those client relationships and improving customer experiences. In turn, they should feel empowered to think two steps ahead, proactively identify risks, and help their customers get to value faster and more effectively.


Implementing Strategic Financial Incentives

In order to successfully improve customer experience initiatives and deliver a luxe experience, it is important to reward good relationships by creating a financial incentive. Focus on two key audiences to structure incentives around: Customer Success teams (including sales and customer onboarding) and customers. 

Internally, you can create incentives that unlock when a customer reaches their stated outcomes at various points in their journey. Do so by structuring internal variable compensation for your team members around key stages in the customer journey. Your team will associate these incentives more closely with customer achievements–when one wins, they both do. 

Externally, the most beneficial incentives for a customer come from giving them even more stake in their own success with your business. Encourage them to hit the ground running through their process by providing incentives such as money back (percentage off or lump sum) or in the form of a free service or training. They’ll be satisfied with the returns, and you’ll have moved them through their processes much more efficiently.

At TaskRay, we know how crucial it is to deliver first-class onboarding and handoff experiences to your customers. Our software makes it easy to enjoy insightful visibility into your processes and gain a step-by-step view of each customer’s journey to maximize their success.

 Interested in learning more? Download our free eBook at taskray.com/handoffs.

Talk with TaskRay: A Q&A With Director of Customer Success, Sunny Harmon

Q&A with TaskRay’s Director of Customer Success, Sunny Harmon

Here at TaskRay, we believe in practicing what we preach. Our robust customer success team is at the heart of ensuring our own customers feel supported and find value throughout every stage of their journey with us. In a multi-part blog series, we’re highlighting a few of the very important people behind TaskRay’s customer success strategy. First on our list is Director of Customer Success, Sunny Harmon. 

How did you build a career in customer success?

Growing up, I had a variety of different customer service and customer experience jobs. I managed the front-end of a Home Depot, then I interned at Disney and worked on how to provide people visiting the parks and resorts different kinds of experiences. At Digital Globe, which does all the imaging for Google Earth, I really solidified my interest in customer success. It was very fulfilling to help customers reach their goals and be successful. 

However, it wasn’t until I started working for a SaaS startup that customer success was really even defined. It was interesting seeing that shift because we had an influx of customers and all of a sudden we wanted to start paying close attention to ensuring each and every customer was getting value from our product right away. I started the onboarding program at this company, which eventually led me to another startup where I also started an onboarding program. At that company, we actually used TaskRay to manage our customer journeys and operational efficiencies, and shortly thereafter I joined the TaskRay team.  

What are the biggest trends in customer success currently?

One of the biggest trends in the last two years has been a major expansion of customer success software. Even before I began working for TaskRay, there were a lot of players in the mix, but you can pretty easily weed out the ones that are industry-specific or don’t actually offer all that they say they do. For example, TaskRay is really the only onboarding software that is native to Salesforce. A lot of others offer integrations, but you can run into a lot of compatibility issues with those. 

What do people get wrong about customer success vs. customer service?

Having worked in both customer service and customer success, I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions about these two. People often think that customer success is just adding a layer of adoption support to customer service. In this cyclical process, you get a contract, you deliver, then you seek renewal. But adding adoption support, like a dedicated onboarding process and team, does not automatically equate to an adequate customer success strategy. 

Customer success is more proactive; it’s about making sure that you have mutually beneficial goals and are facilitating alignment between the client and the organization. It’s ensuring that the customer is continually receiving value from your product, and this is based on what they desire to get out of the product, not necessarily what you think they should get out of it. There’s a saying that customer success is trying to give value, customer service is trying to make them smile. We’re definitely in the value business, but that usually leads to happy customers as well. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received in your industry?

Listen. Listen to what customers are saying. Ask them questions, and genuinely listen to what they have to say. Onboarding is especially a critical time for this, because a lot of times, the customer will be trying to communicate something that is a requirement for them, but if it’s not a marker or a requirement for you, you risk just brushing past it. It’s so important to listen and know when to hone in on something a customer is saying to make sure you don’t implement the wrong thing.


Summer eBook Blog Series Part 3: Setting Up Your Process For Success

A Temkin Group study found that companies bringing in an annual revenue of $1 billion can expect to increase their revenue by an average of $700 million within just 3 years by investing in customer experience. 

With that type of ROI, businesses of all sizes stand to gain a lot by investing in customer experience through revamping onboarding and customer success processes. Optimizing processes for success will minimize issues and maximize return. We’ve broken down three key steps for perfecting systems that will make this overhaul seem more achievable. 

Step 1: Create Comprehensive Customer Journey Maps

In order to fix a problem, you first have to be able to see the problem. This step is all about transparency in processes and shining a light on the current state of the customer journey. 

Start by mapping out the current process for each stage of the customer journey. Whether it’s done on Post-It notes or across a whiteboard, writing down each step of the journey—no matter how trivial—forces teams to give a truly comprehensive picture. It is important to note not just each step in the process, but how customers actually move between steps. What type of communication is provided to notify them of the next stage? Will their primary point of contact change? And if so, how is this handoff managed? 

Step 2: Send in the SWOT Team

With your customer journey map in hand, the next step to a full process makeover is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. It is important to first review these charts internally and try to glean any feedback or insights you can from your team. 

Next, shift your focus directly to your customers by conducting qualitative and quantitative surveys, calls, and other outreach. Focus on targeting customer satisfaction metrics, reviewing online feedback, and any other qualitative sources you can access. Asking for honest feedback when talking to your customers is critical because it is a fundamental driver of change and improvements (and you wont know what they like or don’t like, if you don’t ask!). 

Finally, you’ll review the data you’ve collected: CSAT scores; review sites; churn, renewal, and expansion rates; and product adoption and usage rates for insights.

From this step, you are primed with the right information to innovate and refine your processes and, if need be, overhaul each stage of your customers’ journey. 

Step 3: Refine and Innovate

The final stage in the process is to reconvene the team, involve leadership, and delve into what is slowing or impeding a successful process. After hearing from customers, their feedback should be top of mind. This, coupled with your fresh ideas and customer journey maps, will enable your team to have an in-depth discussion about what your new process should look like, how long they should take, and how they can be individually adjusted for each client. Rework the steps you took in creating your initial map, but now these changes and new ideas should be informed by your client data in order to create the most robust, frictionless customer experience possible. Like a good spring cleaning, revamping your processes will make your handoffs feel fresh, maneuverable, and smooth. 

At TaskRay, we know how crucial it is to offer seamless onboarding and handoff experiences to your customers. Our software makes it easy to enjoy insightful visibility into your processes and gain a step-by-step view of each customer’s journey to maximize their success. 

Interested in learning more? Download our free eBook at taskray.com/handoffs and stay tuned for Part 4 of this series on ‘Investing in Your Future With Customer Success.’


How to Improve your Onboarding Program though TaskRay’s Template Performance

By Sunny Harmon, TaskRay Director of Customer Success

Are you considering using the new Template Performance feature in the June 2019 release?

Reviewing performance is one of the most important aspects of a successful onboarding program. How do you drive customers to value quickly without understanding where in the process customers are successful, where they get blocked or delayed?  

While you can get this information through a combination of Salesforce reports and your TaskRay implementation, it has gotten much easier with the new Template Performance View released this June. This new view is a quick and easy way to understand performance right within TaskRay—without the need for multiple Salesforce reports. 

The TaskRay Onboarding team will be incorporating the new Template Performance feature into our internal process and we wanted to share a behind the scenes look at how we’ll do this.  

Step 1: Our “why” — we want better insights on template performance

Let’s start with the “why?”. Why should the TaskRay Onboarding Team move to Template Performance View to analyze our process? What do we hope to accomplish by using this feature? 

Internally, we offer several onboarding programs and need to understand performance across all onboarding templates and task groups in use. We also want to make informed decisions based on real data to improve these programs. And finally, we want to understand commonly overdue tasks, blocked tasks, and tasks completed ahead of schedule (in order to achieve the above goals). 

Step 2: Defining requirements and designing our own solution 

In order to justify a change in our process, we wanted a solution that tracked performance across all templates and time. It also needed include new, existing, and completed/archived projects, and as such, show performance for in-flight and completed projects. It was also important to us that we could select timeframes for reviewing performance, like specific date ranges. 

There were several solutions that could have been used to meet our requirements. Below are our definitions of what we needed, a high-level summary and the solutions we implemented. 

We first needed to define what it means for a project to be “Complete”. This definition is important because it determines when a project is set to “Complete” in TaskRay and each project must have the recently-added “Completed” checkbox to be reflected in Template Performance View. We determined that our definition of “Complete” is when a project reaches 100% Progress in TaskRay. 

Once we defined what “Complete” meant to us, we had to determine how we would mark projects as “Complete” moving forward. We had three options to choose from: 

  1. Manually check the “Complete” box on a project upon its completion (Note: the“Complete” field must be added to the TaskRay Project Layout pages for this box to appear). This is the easiest option.

  2. Import the Customer Onboarding Completion Flow - bonus you can implement the Onboarding Score to increase the reporting capabilities (We chose this one). 

  3. Create an automation based on our own definition of “Complete”. This is a more complex option. 

And finally, we had to decide how we would update all the existing projects that are completed. Similar to how we defined what “Complete” meant to our team, this step also requires deciding whether you want to see metrics for previously completed projects and if so, how you will access that information. Again, we had three options to choose from: 

  1. Do nothing and exclude all previous projects from Template Performance View. This did not meet our requirements, but is the easiest option

  2. Use the TaskRay utility which updates all projects with 100% progress with: (We chose this one). The utility marks the “Completed” checkbox as “True”  and sets the “Actual Completed Date” to the “Estimated End Date” (this was originally known as the Project End Date). 

  3. Use a data loading tool to update the above fields based on your definition of “Completed”. This is the most complex option.

Step 3: Train the team 

Even though the update to our process involves just a few minor adjustments so that projects are marked complete, training is always recommended to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Once we’ve completed training on the appropriate aspects, the final step is creating a plan to review the metrics and determine how we’ll use them. This will be done in two ways: 

  1. Monthly reviews of all in-flight projects will help us uncover where customers might be blocked or delayed or where they are advancing quickly. Having these tactical discussions with the onboarding team will help us move customers forward and remove blockers. 

  2. Quarterly reviews of all completed projects to discuss how we can holistically improve our onboarding program. This will help us find quick wins like template modifications to account for more accurate ordering of tasks or identify areas ripe for additional training resources. 

Additionally, we can use this information to work on strategic initiatives and determine where we might create additional offerings in order to better support specific products or customer types, and review performance data. 

There are many options when implementing new June release features into your existing TaskRay workflows and I hope it was helpful to hear how we internally transitioned to use the new feature.  If you have questions on using a new feature, our support team is a great resource.

Behind the Scenes of the June 2019 Executive Insights Release

180322_087_Jamie_Moir_Screen.jpg

A conversation with TaskRay VP of Product and Marketing, Jamie Cole

With TaskRay’s June 2019 release came new groundbreaking capabilities for executives and leaders. The ideas behind this release have been in the works for the last year, and one of the people at the helm has been our VP of Marketing & Product Jamie Cole. In today’s blog, Jamie gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the ideation and product innovation processes behind this release. 

How did the idea behind the June 2019 Executive Insights release come to be?

Last summer, we began surveying our client base in an effort to help us better understand what our customers valued in our product, and what we could expand upon. One of our big “a-ha” moments in talking to our customers was a story that we heard over and over again.

Our customers had been able to go along with a sort-of cobbled together system, whether it was spreadsheets or Google Sheets or some off-platform, low-cost system for their onboarding and customer journey mapping. But the first time something went wrong and they needed to present information to an executive or a leader about what was going on, the pain of not having a true system with analytics built-in made them realize they needed to switch to something else. So we knew we wanted to introduce even more ways to give our customers access to the insights that they need. 

What is the product innovation process like at TaskRay, and specifically with this release?

It’s a mix of us really knowing the market and being a leader, but it’s also mixed with what our customers are saying. We are constantly working toward the goal of getting everyone to be able to do onboarding well. We are always listening. We get a lot of ideas from our ideas forum and customer feedback. This release, in particular, is very innovative and comes from us knowing where to step up and set a precedent of how it should be, but it’s still based on practical feedback and what our customers need.

Additionally, one of the interesting things about building TaskRay is that we also use TaskRay to onboard our own customers. We’re always actively using our own product. Whenever we do a release, one of the first things we do is get user feedback both internally in our own office and externally from our customers. And for this particular release, we actually interviewed our CEO and our VP of Sales and Customer Success about what metrics they couldn’t currently get access to and what pain points currently existed. We thought that if we could build something to solve their issues, it could solve other executives’ pain points as well.

What were the primary drivers of this release and how will it affect your customers?

This is the most strategic release that we’ve ever done. We are really building a tool that allows everyone at the organization to drive first-class onboarding, and each user persona now derives value from TaskRay. We had a lot of very important data that wasn’t readily available to the executives and leaders who need those insights to make business decisions about where to invest, when to hire and what areas they need to focus on if there's a problem.

The handoff functionality in this release was designed to generate the data that would feed the reports that allowed these types of people to get a 10,000 foot view of all their projects. It helps people detect the health of a business process and then drill down into where problems are and come up with solutions quickly.

There’s really this highly innovative duality at work in this release because the handoff functionality adds more built-in structure to people using TaskRay as an onboarding tool, while at the same time generating rich information and insights for executives.  



Three Reasons Why Customer Onboarding Needs Executive Level Insights

Onboarding is unequivocally the most decisive stage in a customer’s journey. It’s no secret that churn rates are the highest when onboarding is insufficient, nor is it that churn is bad for business. In fact, research shows that “for every 1 percentage point increase in revenue retention, a SaaS company’s value increases by 12% after five years” (SaaS Capital). 

So why is it that the same business rigor that is applied to other divisions, such as marketing and sales, isn’t also applied to understanding your customer onboarding? Just as marketing automation provides insights, reporting, and analysis for marketers, accessing an aggregate view of customer onboarding data provides crucial and otherwise untapped opportunities to a pivotal aspect of your business. 

Customer onboarding is more important than ever to a company’s health, but applying the same level of business discipline and technical capabilities to this process has too long been overlooked. Here are three reasons to stop overlooking the importance of aggregate customer onboarding data and start utilizing executive-level insights for your company’s gain.

Reason 1: Assess the Health of Your Company

Customer onboarding is, in many ways, the beating heart of your company. Your business’ success is presumably contingent on your customer’s success, and customer success is dependent upon the success of the onboarding process. The significant ROI from focusing on onboarding has been proven time and time again. 

63% of companies that prioritized customer onboarding were able to better anticipate higher-level customer needs. ~Harvard business review

A Harvard Business Review study found that 63 percent of companies that prioritized customer onboarding were able to better anticipate higher-level customer needs, compared to 30 percent of companies that didn’t prioritize an understanding of onboarding. Without visibility into data around customer onboarding and implementations, there is no way of pinpointing your company’s performance at any given time, including important performance metrics such as drop-off points in the onboarding process. This vital data provides improvement opportunities as well as feedback on successful initiatives. 

Reason 2: Expose Hidden Issues and Inefficiencies

Mitigate risks by tracking the effectiveness of your onboarding process in real-time.

Mitigate risks by tracking the effectiveness of your onboarding process in real-time.

In customer onboarding, the currency is time. And if your business is like most others, you have no idea if your current onboardings are performing to standards or have much advance notice of potential issues ballooning into major problems. Many teams are operating blind, only receiving feedback through customer churn.

With executive-level insights, business users can monitor processes on a summary level, exposing issues before they become larger problems. Head off potential lost business by analyzing churn rates at each step of the onboarding process and addressing those weak points. Mitigate the risks of customer onboarding by tracking the effectiveness of your onboarding process in real-time through a comprehensive view of this data. 


Reason 3: Gain Unprecedented Insight into Your Company’s Growth Track

Proactively drive growth through a focus on successfully onboarding customers.

Proactively drive growth through a focus on successfully onboarding customers.

The easiest way to proactively drive your company’s growth is to focus on onboarding. Increasing the visibility of your customer onboarding data, and using it strategically, can be transformative for your company’s trajectory. Access to high-level insights into your existing onboarding program helps teams to uncover both strengths and inadequacies—both of which are essential to sustainable growth. 

B2B and B2C relationships can be complex–which is exactly why, in order to strengthen ties and propel growth, it is crucial to start with a positive first impression during the onboarding process. Build a solid foundation for your customers and use the insights you get along the way to create a complete picture of your successes, failures, and what both are telling you. 










Summer eBook Blog Series Part 2: Delivering Customer Success Through Optimized Communication

In business, both internal communication within your company and external communication with your customers are central to customer success. When communication is clear, concise and direct, everyone wins. But in crucial handoff times, when communication is the most important, businesses often miss the mark.

Research shows that 85% of consumers churn because of poor service. However, great communication, especially during the first few steps of the onboarding process, is at the heart of prevention: 67% of customer churn could be avoided if the business resolved the customer’s issue during their first interaction.

The Illusion of Communication

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

For any business, the illusion that effective communication has occurred can be both toxic and tragic, leading to high churn rates and lost opportunities. If you’re confident that this could never be your company, you may want to think again.


A Bain & Company survey revealed that while 80 percent of companies believe they are delivering “superior experiences” to their customers, only 8 percent of customers agree with this sentiment. This staggering chasm between company and customer perceptions exposes a harsh but true reality that the experience for the customer might not be as good as companies imagine and often times this can be the result of ineffective communication.

How to Address the Communication Illusion

First, review your external communications, from the first touchpoint your customers have with your product and brand to their annual renewal emails. Ensuring a consistent message at each stage of the process is critical to providing those promised “superior experiences” for your customers.

Next, look inward. Internal communication often degrades during the handoffs from sales to customer onboarding and customer success (think of it like a bad game of telephone or one of those interminable forwarded email chains). Mapping out these processes and identifying breakdown scenarios will help support more consistent customer communication and potentially give insight into where new systems are needed.

Optimize Your Communication Systems

At TaskRay, we’re deeply invested in key customer success principles. When all eyes are on you to successfully onboard a customer, communication is crucial. One of the primary questions we receive about how to nail the handoffs is, “How do you do that at TaskRay?”. And the simple answer is, we drink our own Koolaid. We regularly review our own communications and how we’re nailing (or missing) the handoffs.

Interested in learning more? Download our free eBook at taskray.com/handoffs and stay tuned for Part 3 of this series on ‘Setting Your Processes Up For Success.’





Summer eBook Blog Series Part 1: Be Our Guest - Secrets in Customer Success from the Hospitality Industry  

hotel.png

Imagine you decide to stay at a gorgeous, new hotel, in a city you’ve never been to for a long weekend vacation. Your enjoyment of the trip is largely dependent on your experience in that city and your hotel plays a major role in that. Sadly, many of us had bad experiences at hotels where from the moment we’ve checked in, the hotel ‘checks out,’ overcharging our rate, giving us poor directions to our room, even sending us to a room that’s not ready or in bad shape.

These disappointing first impressions immediately color our perception, not only of the hotel, but of the overall city we’re visiting in a negative light. But this poor ‘handoff’ experience is not unique to the hospitality industry, it is echoed in the B2B and B2C customer experience as well—and something we see regularly in our work with customer onboarding at TaskRay.  

The hospitality industry, hotels especially, (typically) understand that their brand and their product is the lived experience of a stay, a meal, or a perfectly curated moment. So it’s not surprising that the best guest stays are the result of a great customer experience from the moment you book to the end of your stay.

Let’s take a look at the tenets of a great guest experience and how that can translate directly into how your customers experience your SaaS product.

Anticipate Needs By Understanding Your Customers

One of the best things hotels do to allow for customer success is anticipating guest needs, then meeting or surpassing them flawlessly. For example, your hotel concierge may have asked you a bit about yourself and your travel plans when you arrived, then offered personalized guidance and recommendations for relevant attractions around the city. Or, say you are running late for your 7:00 pm dinner reservation that you mentioned to your concierge–you come downstairs only to realize that the valet has already pulled your car around. This proactive anticipation of customers’ needs or even pain points has an incredible power to ensure and drive customer success, as you’re creating successful experiences ahead of time.

While SaaS customer onboarding and success teams are typically more removed from their customers than hotels from their guests, there is still room for creating a better understanding of who your customers are so you can better anticipate and meet their needs. But similar to the hospitality industry, getting to know your customers begins the moment the deal goes closed/won (ideally before). Capturing information about your customers’ industry, use case, team structure, and what successful implementation and use of your product will look like is critical to anticipating what they will need from you along the way.

Actively Participate In Your Customers’ Success  

The very heart of your hotel experience is often how the staff made you feel valued. Every hotel guest wants to feel special, as if their stay is personalized just for them, and great hospitality staff go out of their way to make their guests feel important.

Making your customers feel valued may look different when it comes to technology, but the basics are the same: keep track of your customers’ information, know where they are in their customer journey, and don’t make them repeat themselves.

Following these three basic rules can make any B2B or B2C customer experience feel as smooth as a stay at the Four Seasons.

Listen To What Your Customers Aren’t Saying

listening 21.png

Great hotels know that it’s essential to listen not only to guests’ initial requests but also to what they don’t say out loud. If you’ve been lucky enough to stay somewhere that your drink never seems to empty or your room is somehow always made up and the flowers in the lobby are never droopy, you’ll recognize this silent hospitality magic. There is a very well-rehearsed formula to this type of service that can be similarly applied in other industries: listen to what your customers aren’t saying.

With customer success, especially in SaaS, your customers may not be able to articulate what they “need” from your product or what they wish it could do for them, but it’s critical for you to read between the lines. How? Review your customer's usage data—are they even using the product? Do they have new users who haven’t been onboarded properly? Are they aware of new features and functionality that fits their needs? What are their growth goals for the next 3,6, 12 months? How can your product help them reach those in ways they hadn’t anticipated?

When broken down, the five-star hotel guest experience is comprised of the same basic elements any customer experience should include:

  • First impressions matter.

  • Anticipate customer needs.

  • Actively demonstrate interest in the customer experience.

  • Listen to what your customers aren’t saying (and of course, what they are saying!).

Handoffs eBook screenshot .png

For more details on how we’re applying these customer success fundamentals at TaskRay, download our free eBook — taskray.com/handoffs 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on ‘Delivering Customer Success Through Optimized Communication.’  




















Class of 2019 — Our learnings from the Salesforce Accelerate Program

In March, we excitedly announced our participation in the Salesforce Accelerate program. And in May, we filled you in our progress at the program’s midpoint. We’re thrilled to share that we’ve completed the Accelerate program and are now Salesforce Accelerate graduates!

The Salesforce Accelerate experience was nothing short of extraordinary. The learnings we came away with will help us drive forward faster and with greater impact than ever before. We also made great connections with other Salesforce ISVs and partners and gained valuable insight into our industry and core market position.

Oh, and we had a great time doing it!

“The Salesforce Accelerate program was akin to getting an MBA in SaaS growth in 11 weeks. Over 37 sessions, we learned invaluable lessons on go-to-market strategies, product excellence, and customer success.” -Blakely Graham, TaskRay CEO and Co-founder

Our top highlights included:

  • Creating a focused blueprint for our customer journey is a challenging but essential step in articulating how we can build a whole product solution that meets our customers’ needs within and outside of our offering.

  • Salesforce has always been a leader in embodying and activating their values, and the Accelerate program further cemented the need to further thread our own vision and values into departmental and personal objectives.

  • Acknowledging the value of and need for different roles and resources in different stages of company growth can be empowering and help you recognize exactly where to focus your efforts. Aka - there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.

  • Transparency is not only powerful for internal organizational alignment, but also in connecting with customers and partners.

“We’ve always believed in our product and team, but Accelerate has allowed us to step into a bigger and bolder role as leaders in the Customer Success ecosystem.” - Jamie Cole, TaskRay VP of Product and Marketing


TaskRay's Top 4 Takeaways From Pulse 2019

Last week, six members of the TaskRay team headed (even further) west to San Francisco for the seventh Pulse conference, hosted by Gainsight.

Pulse 2019 was the largest of the Pulse conference series to date, with over 5500 registrants taking over the U.S. tech industry’s favorite venue—Moscone.

Our team spent four days connecting with customer success professionals, taking in sessions, and enjoying the awesomeness that was Pulse! Did we mention there were puppies!? Yes, there were puppies.

Other highlights included a CS rockstar-packed opening keynote with Cisco EVP and Chief Customer Experience Officer, Maria Martinez, and 1920’s themed Gatsby-style gala, and a strong meme game.

We compiled our top four takeaways about what’s happening now and what’s the next big thing in the customer success and customer onboarding space.

Takeaway 1

Conversations at Pulse are focused and powerful. We spent a lot of hours at our booth talking with CS professionals from all over the world and they shared one trait—they love what they do and they are laser focused on improving their skills.

From TaskRay Account Executive, Jon Barlow:

Because the customer success industry is still relatively new, there is so much to learn. CS professionals are excited about where the industry is headed and its exciting to see the level of sophistication at which they're already operating.

Takeaway 2

Customer success and product are the new power couple. Once existing as two siloed areas of an organization, Pulse 2019 made it clear that product and CS will be spending a whole lot more time together, and we think that’s a good thing.

This year, Pulse offered a product-specific learning track focused on user-centric product development.

TaskRay CEO and co-founder, Blakely Graham:

Your best product feedback comes from your customers and it is essential to pipe this to your product team. Pulse is helping to shape the future of how Product and CS work together.

Takeaway 3

Another theme our team noted was the idea of “human first leadership” and how it can be a differentiator throughout the customer lifecycle. Specifically, combining intelligent processes with the human touch of customer success can help teams scale onboarding and success programs without dramatically increasing headcount or budget.

TaskRay VP of Sales and Customer Success, Mike Davis:

The ability to marry product signals with human-led intervention during the onboarding and customer success journey will be critical to long-term success and growth without needing to grow staff at the same rate.

Takeaway 4

Get outside your office walls, listen, and connect. It may be simple, but we stand behind it! Each time we’re able to attend a new conference, we learn so much from connecting with others in our industry and in new industries as well.

Our VP of Product and Marketing, Jamie Cole took the stage at Pulse for a session all about the handoffs from sales to customer onboarding to customer success and her takeaway sums it up:

The questions that arise during sessions at Pulse (and other conferences) are indicative of the wider themes emerging in CS — and we need to pay attention! These are the future leaders of the CS profession and we can learn a ton from them.


To sum it up, we’ll be back for Pulse 2020 and likely the year after. Why? Because CS is an emerging practice that aligns with a lot of what we’re doing at TaskRay. And plus, they love to have fun! That’s win-win in our book.


TaskRay June 2019 Release: It’s summertime and we’re making onboarding easy

We’re looking forward to summer weather in TaskRay Country and taking it easy in the Colorado sunshine. And our June 2019 Release includes new features and functionality that will help make onboarding easy, too.

So, sit back, drop an umbrella in your drink—here’s what you can expect in the June 2019 Release of TaskRay.

TaskRay Flow Templates

TaskRay’s new Flow Templates guide teams through the onboarding journey from closed/won to project creation to tracking critical customer information and beyond.

The Flow Templates include a Customer Onboarding Kickoff Flow that facilitates the creation of onboarding projects in TaskRay from Opportunity records. Users are guided through each step of project creation—from adding the right team members and tasks to noting desired outcomes for the customer—so every project starts on the right foot.

Handoff Screenshot.png



Using the same process, the Customer Onboarding Completion Flow helps gather valuable information about a customer’s desired outcomes, sentiment, and overall experience during the onboarding process. Along with a new configurable Customer Onboarding Score based on project satisfaction and on-time execution, the Flow helps enrich your organization’s understanding of customers in order to maximize their long-term success.

Onboarding Completion Flow Screenshot (1).png

Template Performance View

To the right of the My Work and All Work tabs, the Performance tab (formerly the Portfolio tab) now contains Portfolio View and a new view of TaskRay: Template Performance View.  

Screen Shot 2019-05-08 at 22.35.05.png

Template Performance View helps users and especially executives and project managers analyze the performance of TaskRay templates being used for onboarding and other processes through a set of pre-defined criteria, including:

  • Projects created from templates

  • Template project duration

  • Template trends (including blocked tasks, overdue tasks and tasks completed ahead of schedule)

TaskRay Timer
The TaskRay Timer provides an accurate method of tracking time at the task level in a stopwatch manner. The timer will allow users to start, stop and edit time on a task or checklist item. When the timer is running on a task, the timer icon will display in green for easy tracking on which tasks have an active timer.

timer resize .png


You can learn more about these new features in our Release Notes or by joining a webinar.


Release Schedule

Saturday, June 1 - Available on AppExchange
Saturday, June 1 - Automatic upgrade to Sandboxes
Saturday, June 22 - Automatic upgrade to Production

Webinars

Thursday, June 6 - 10am MST
Tuesday, June 25 - 2pm MST









Salesforce Accelerate Program: We're half way there!

(Woah woah, livin’ on a prayer!) We’re excited to be half way through our time in the Salesforce Accelerate program and we’re rocking out with some brand new knowledge!

Last week was the second of three onsite Accelerate sessions. Salesforce opened the doors to the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco and invited TaskRay and the other ISVs in for three days of informative, actionable content, speakers, and networking.

View from atop the Salesforce Tower in the Ohana Lounge.

View from atop the Salesforce Tower in the Ohana Lounge.

The focus of this session was: Go To Market Excellence. As such our two Go To Market leaders, Mike Davis (VP of Sales & Customer Success) and Jamie Cole (VP of Marketing & Product) traveled to learn about topics ranging from how to build sales and marketing materials that are customer-centric to how to think about pricing and packaging for Enterprise SaaS to how to leverage the new tech Salesforce has on its roadmap.

“The Accelerate Program is a master-class in SaaS marketing & sales from the creator of the SaaS category. We have already benefited tremendously from access to some of Salesforce’s best and brightest talent as well as the specific, actionable motions they’ve taught at both the strategic and tactical level.” - Jamie Cole, TaskRay VP of Product and Marketing

Each evening after the sessions, we were invited to listen, learn, and mingle with leaders both inside Salesforce and across the SaaS ecosystem. The culminating event being a discussion between Jason Lemkin of SaaSTR fame and Jackson Cummings of Salesforce Ventures about some of the biggest opportunities and challenges for start-ups in the SaaS space. It was a wide-ranging conversation that touched on talent acquisition challenges, where you should base your company, how to get friction out of your sales process, and how to be radically customer-centric.

And, because Salesforce invented the 1-1-1 model, no Salesforce event would be complete without a service component. We were able to spend an afternoon at the Marin County food bank helping process a shipment for the community. Our group was able to get 28k pounds of canned fruits and vegetables sorted before the next group was set to arrive.

Now we are back in TaskRay country. Putting our learnings to work so that we can continue to build the top customer onboarding tool for the Salesforce platform!

Three Tips on Scaling Your Customer Onboarding Program - Part 2

This is part 2 of a two-part guest blog post by by Elizabeth McAuley-Italiano of WnTD Partners. You can read the first post here.

So now that we’ve gone through the importance of onboarding and described approaches on how to scale it across your customer base, let’s review some best practices you can put in place and how you can leverage each engagement method to help improve your customer’s onboarding experience. This will ultimately help to increase their value to your business over time.

Onboarding Best Practice #1
Create a prescriptive setup and implementation process. When designing an onboarding program that will help your customer get started on the right path to be successful long-term, determine what the exact steps are that your customers need to take in order to ‘go live’ and realize time-to-value as quickly as possible with your product. Be prescriptive about what steps and actions need to be completed. Once you have those steps outlined, put them in a customer facing format and share with all of the appropriate stakeholders within your customer’s organization that are involved in the onboarding process.

High Touch – Create pre-defined onboarding calls and training sessions that are designed to get your customers set up and using the product properly. These sessions should all move the needle towards getting your client to the first time to value. Provide setup assistance and training sessions on your platform that includes best practice tips. Educating the customer on both product and industry best practices can set them up for long-term success and sets the tone for your CS organization to be seen as a true partner and not just a point of contact.

When creating your onboarding program ensure that your training is conducted in a way that empowers the customer to use the product themselves. Make sure they are hands on. You want to avoid scenarios where the CSM does all of the work for your clients as this is not scalable across all high touch clients. Empower your customers to take ownership.

Low Touch – This can be a combination of tech touches and 1:1 interaction. Educational material and tech touches can augment and bridge the gap between less frequency proactive 1:1 communication. For example, provide helpful onboarding collateral such as a ‘Getting Started’ kit that provides the customer with a comprehensive map of how to set up and use your product successfully. Provide content in easily digestible chunks that provide the right level of information for each stage of setup and learning. At the point of purchase, it’s also important to inform your customers of all available resources and provide clarity on what resources to use and when. For example, when and how to contact Support vs the Customer Success Management team.

I’ll add a caveat to this approach – how low touch you go depends on the complexity of your product and on your customer base. We highly recommend reviewing your customer segmentation and requirements before deploying this model. Consider the Required Customer Journey your customers need in order to be successful.

Tech Touch – Contextual guides and in-app tutorials are arguably the most effective approach. Contextual guides allow your customers to learn your platform, with the help of educational content, without having to leave your product. As the name contextual guide implies, it educates your customer based on the context of where they are in your platform and what actions they are taking. For example, if they are setting up their account information, then a contextual guide may direct them to add the correct user permissions for each account user so the customer group has the appropriate access and experience. Again, as with low touch, the complexity of your product may have an implication on how far contextual guides and in-app tutorials will take a user and of how prescriptive you can be in a tech touch. Ultimately, it’s best practice to have a user friendly design but if that is not the case and if it will take some time to become more user friendly then it’s important to consider how much tech touch is appropriate.

If you do not have the resources to implement contextual guides an alternative is an automated email journey. There are two popular approaches to this method. One, is triggering emails based on product usage (or lack there of) or secondly, triggering emails based on a time frame. In  approach number one create a series of emails that get triggered to customers based on what stage they are at in their product setup and onboarding journey. Alternatively, you can create them based on certain days within their onboarding journey if you are unable to tigger emails from product usage. For example, day one could be a welcome email with instructions on how to login and change their settings, day 3 could be how to import data, and so on. This approach does make some bold assumptions that each user will onboard at the same pace. In order to avoid frustration with this approach, include a full onboarding guide (such as the Getting Started Guide mentioned above) with your welcome email so users can go at their own pace if that is their preference.

Onboarding Best Practice #2
Establish milestones that you know the customer must achieve in order to be successful. The prescriptive steps mentioned above should lead customers to these milestones. For example, if you are setting up a CRM an important milestone in your onboarding journey would be adding customer data. Assuming part of the setup process is uploading data via a spreadsheet then one of the prescriptive steps could be: ‘Format the data in <this> specific format as it will allow for cleaner data once uploaded.’ This leads to the milestone of having all data imported and ready to use in the CRM.

Once you’ve established what your first time to value is you have to ensure your customer realizes that value. Your prescriptive steps should lead to milestones and your milestones should result in your customer achieving their first point of value.

High Touch – Have your CSM setup regular calls with the customer. During the onboarding stage we’d recommend weekly or bi-weekly calls, but as mentioned above, this depends on your coverage model and complexity of your product. But it’s not enough to simply set up calls. Create agendas centred around milestones that lead to first time to value. Work with your customers to establish measurable goals then create timelines and additional milestones as required. Clearly align outcomes from your solution with their goals. This is a very proactive approach that requires CSMs to act as an advisor to their customers.

Low Touch – The low touch approach is best done with some human interaction. Low touch doesn’t equate to no human touch. Calls in a low touch model can be done on a monthly or quarterly basis. However, with calls scheduled this far apart you need to supplement their onboarding journey by leveraging technology. One example is implementing product usage alerts that get sent to CSMs that inform the team of low usage or inactive users. This can be set up through your software or through a CSM platform. If the CSM receives an alert or notices product usage is low, this is their queue to jump in and intervene. This is more of a reactive approach when customers fall off track in their onboarding and are not following the prescribed steps and best practices as outlined in your quick start guide and educational content but can help get a customer back on track and prevent churn.

Other tactics are to create campaigns through email or messaging platforms that get sent out via automation in a 1:Many fashion. You can have these emails come from a CSM so it appears 1:1. And to be honest, there are some that would argue that this is too impersonal. However, when a customer responds to a 1:Many reach out it truly does become 1:1. It’s making the most out of your time when sending relevant information by leveraging technology rather than repeating a task over and over again. This leaves more time for meaningful conversations that will have a big impact and drive value. Think of it this way, the 1:Many communication can be to inform and guide customers. The 1:1 communication time is dedicated to conversations that put CSMs in the advisor seat where they are providing product and industry best practices, helping to establish goals and answering more complex questions.

These platforms and methods can also be leveraged to educate customers on recommended goals, milestones and how to track them. You can create webinars for customers to attend, provide YouTube training sessions or even create a user community and facilitate discussions amongst a group of customers. 1:1 interactions can then be used to dive into topics more deeply as the concepts and ideas have already been introduced.

Tech Touch – The low touch model described above already started to introduce some ideas for tech touch so let’s look at a few requirements for implementing tech touch. One requirement is that you must have the appropriate and relevant content to serve up to your customers. It has to provide some value to them and lead them down a prescriptive path to milestones. Your content should have three main objectives.

  1. Educate customers with prescriptive content on the exact steps and actions they should be taking. The content should be detailed enough for the customers to self serve but not so detailed that it becomes overwhelming and scares them off. The Getting Started Guide is one example of how to provide this, as it’s essentially a map from step one of ‘sign in’ to the final step of implementation and achieving value.

  2. Provides milestones and goals they should be looking to achieve. It helps clients to visualize their progress towards realizing value.

  3. Promote product adoption so the customer becomes ‘sticky’.

You also have to have the necessary tools in place for tech touches, such as a chat system, in-app messaging, a customer success platform, and/or email automation. Chat and automated in-app messages and tutorials provide flexibility in how you connect to customers. Customer Success platforms can provide the ability to trigger messages and alerts based on product usage, and an email automation platform allows you to send html marketing campaigns or 1:Many plain text campaigns from a specific CSM.

With the right tools and content in place your organization can create a very effective and helpful tech touch model.

If these approaches sound familiar, they should as they were discussed above. While you do want the engagement model to differ depending on customer segments and their Required Customer Journey, you want the outcome to remain the same, which is successful product adoption. I felt this was a point worth repeating to confirm it’s importance in each approach.

Onboarding Best Practice #3
Have a variety of training resources that both your customers and CSMs can leverage. In our experience, the way customers prefer to learn can vary greatly from person to person. Some people prefer hands on step-by-step training, where others like to learn on their own. For those that learn on their own their preferred method varies once again. Some select to learn by video, where others choose written step-by-step instructions. With this in mind, consider implementing the following as part of your customer education options:

  1. In-app tutorials

  2. Contextual Guides

  3. Live Training Sessions that both trialing prospects and customers can sign up to and attend together.

  4. Recorded Training sessions.

  5. A YouTube channel with training videos

  6. Quickstart Guides

  7. Knowledge Base Articles and ‘How To’ Guides

  8. Paid Professional Services Offering

  9. Onboarding email journey

  10. Customer community that is monitored by a Customer Success Manager or Support team member.

High Touch – For your high touch customers the training resources are often a supplement to your 1:1 communications. We recommend it as being part of your overall customer engagement framework.

Low Touch – When engaging with your low touch customers, your 1:1 interaction is often providing the most appropriate training resources for that customer. It’s about enabling them to be successful with your product by putting them on an easy to follow path with the resources that best suits their needs. These resource can in some cases allow a CSM to have a larger customer portfolio as customers are provided the necessary tools to self onboard. It also gives the CSM capacity to not only manage more complex customer questions but also to operate in a more proactive nature.

Eventually (and ideally) your content and onboarding process should be so fine tuned that you are answering common customer questions, before they even have them. This is when you proactively enable your customers at scale.

Tech Touch – The above customer education list is your tech touch strategy. Through 1:Many reach outs and the tools listed above, your organization can provide customers with all of the tools and content required for a successful setup and achievement of first time to value with your product.

In order to put these best practices in place you need to have a solid understanding of your customer base. Complete a customer firmographic analysis and you will be well positioned to create an onboarding process that incorporates high, low and tech touches.

Not sure where to start? Or questions on implementing this model? Comment below or contact us and let us help.



About the author

Copy of Untitled Design.png

Elizabeth Italiano is the Founder of WnTD and the creator of the Customer Success Master Class Series. Previous to starting WnTD she worked for organizations such as Xerox, Salesforce and Vend POS. Her career and passion for Customer Success began 10 years ago. Elizabeth’s expertise encompasses creating and implementing Customer Success strategies that start at the go-to-market strategy, through to renewal and expansion sales. She helps organizations increase revenue, reduce churn and decrease the cost to serve. The combination of her experience and passion for CS allows her to help create customer-centric cultures that scale across the entire business. She is a firm believer that Customer Success is a business imperative that’s quickly becoming one of the most important business disciplines to master, which is why she created the Customer Success Master Class and WnTD. 

Three Tips on Scaling Your Customer Onboarding Program - Part 1

A guest post by Elizabeth McAuley-Italiano of WnTD Partners.

Building your organization for scale is one of the most critical factors in the long-term success and overall health of a business, particularly for SaaS businesses. One area that we are most commonly asked about at WnTD is how to scale the customer onboarding process. Customers are often won over or lost in the first 90 days of their post-sale journey. It’s a crucial step to get right and it can have a massive impact on your customer’s success and your organization’s bottom line.

Particularly in today’s subscription economy customers can come and go with relative ease. When customers have a smooth onboarding period that results in realizing value from their purchase the following outcomes are likely for your organization:

  1. They are more likely to spend additional money with your company by adding users or upgrading their license. At the very least they are more likely to renew.

  2. They require less ongoing support over the long term. They start using your product correctly and effectively right out of the gate.

These two benefits will improve your revenue and your cost to serve.

I’d like to dive a little deeper into one of the points made above. I talked about customers ‘realizing value from their purchase’. CS professionals often call this, the first time to value. This is a critical component to think about in your onboarding journey. You want to have deliberate steps that will get your customers to not only use your product but use it to the point of achieving value. Your organization should be asking what is the Required Customer Journey that will get our customers to realize their first time to value?

This is the first step towards successful product adoption and creating a pattern of usage. CS professionals often talk about making customers ‘sticky’ in order to reduce the potential of churn. However, expecting customers to move towards becoming sticky without a solid onboarding process is kind of like expecting to steer a rowboat without paddles. You are at the mercy of external factors and that’s not a good place to be.

Ok, so we now know that onboarding and achieving first time to value is important … But you may be asking yourself ‘how do you scale this thing!?’.

Glad you asked! Let’s dive into how.

Our evaluation of the customer journey often has a heavy focus on the onboarding process because it lays the foundation for ongoing customer communication and the engagement framework. To have an effective engagement framework it’s important to evaluate the makeup of your customer base so you can determine the best way to engage with them. Scaling your onboarding process sometimes requires reviewing your customer segmentation. If your customer base is varied from small business owners with a single user to enterprise customers with hundreds of users you will likely need to tailor elements of your onboarding process for each customer segment. This will help to inform your customer engagement framework. We often break our engagement framework model into three segments and methods:

  1. High touch

  2. Low touch

  3. Tech touch.

Breaking out your engagement model into these distinct categories of engagement methods is one of the most effective ways to scale onboarding. Let’s start with describing each in more detail:

  • High Touch is a 1:1 engagement model and is generally aligned with your high-value target market customers that require frequent 1:1 proactive communication. These are the customers you want to establish a partner and advisor relationship with. An example, of when this is the Required Customer Journey is when you have a client with a large user base, integrations that make setup and onboarding more complex, and numerous use cases.

  • Low(er) touch is typically for customers that represent a large volume of your customer base, but with relatively lower contract amounts. Individually these clients are a small portion of revenue but cumulatively make up a material portion of your monthly or annual recurring revenue (MRR/ARR). Low touch is where the designing process for scale is most critical. It is a combination of proactive tech touches (often referred to as 1:Many reach outs) with less frequent 1:1 communication with a CSM.

  • Tech touch is leveraging technology to communicate to large groups of your customers with a 1:Many process. For example, this can be done through campaigns to inform of a new product feature, or by emails that are pre-written and triggered to send to customers based on product usage, or webinars put on by a CS team member for a group of customers. It is used in a combination of scenarios, which we get into in more detail in our best practices below, but for now suffice it to say it’s a 1:Many customer outreach model that helps you scale across a broad customer base. It is also particularly important for customers that are not within your ideal product-market fit. It allows you and your CSMs to focus time and attention on your customers that are within your target market fit that can be successful with your solution over the long term. You should be selling to the right customers anyway, but we’ll leave that topic for another day.

It’s important to note that low touch and 1:Many engagement models and methods are not for the purpose of avoiding speaking to customers. If time was not a finite resource we could offer the same level of 1:1 communication to all customers, however, that is not the reality. That’s why it’s so critical to evaluate each customer segments’ Required Customer Journey and provide an engagement framework that is a variety of high, low and tech touch methods that have the explicit purpose of helping customers achieve first time to value and product adoption.

Want to learn more about WnTD Partner’s recommended Onboarding Best Practices? Tune in next week for Part 2 of this blog series!


About the author

Copy of Untitled Design.png

Elizabeth Italiano is the Founder of WnTD and the creator of the Customer Success Master Class Series. Previous to starting WnTD she worked for organizations such as Xerox, Salesforce and Vend POS. Her career and passion for Customer Success began 10 years ago. Elizabeth’s expertise encompasses creating and implementing Customer Success strategies that start at the go-to-market strategy, through to renewal and expansion sales. She helps organizations increase revenue, reduce churn and decrease the cost to serve. The combination of her experience and passion for CS allows her to help create customer-centric cultures that scale across the entire business. She is a firm believer that Customer Success is a business imperative that’s quickly becoming one of the most important business disciplines to master, which is why she created the Customer Success Master Class and WnTD.