Email Tracker: New features, bug fixes, and updates

It has been 2 weeks since we launched our free Email Tracker Chrome Extension.  Thanks again for your support.  Without you, we wouldn't have made all the exciting updates!

What we fixed: No more multiple sidebars

If you previously experiencing multiple sidebars or slow-down in your Gmail, it was because there was a conflict between our extension and the others that you're using.  If you're in that camp, we're really sorry!  Great news is that we have fixed the issue and you can now enjoy the free forever Email Tracker along with 400+ other happy users!  Give us another spin and we'd love to win you back as a happy customer.

What's new: Conversation history brings you back in time

We added the ability to jump to your email by clicking on the timeline in our sidebar. No more searching for past communication!

What's new: Invite colleagues and friend directly from our sidebar

Of course you want to share the love and get your team to have super power abilities.  Easily share with your colleagues and friends.We're working on more new features that helps improve your daily productivity, whether you're sales for a small business.  Stay tuned and follow us on Twitter!

New Product Launch: Free Email Tracker for Gmail

Last week, we launched our free email tracking chrome extension. Why do you care? Because it's free, forever.  For those who live in your inbox, this tool will save you time and increase your contact engagement.I used to work in Sales, and my company has always paid for Email Tracking and Contact Profile tools. These email features are now an indispensable part of my daily workflow. Now that I started my own company, I wanted my whole team to have this superpower - not just sales, but all customer-facing teams. However, paying for everyone starts getting expensive. So we built one for ourselves instead and decided to let the world have it as well, for free.We've gotten some amazing responses on Product Hunt - clean, minimalistic, and nimble - and is working through new feature requests. Below are a few key features, and you can also learn more about our chrome extension here.

Tracking a recipient

We've kept things simple. When recipients opened a tracking email you will be notified in the tracking button. All of the tracked emails you sent in Gmail will be in the Opened or Unopened tab. We also included the option of pausing the tracking, should you decide to go back.

Get more information about your contacts

If knowledge is power, then knowing more about your contacts gives you powerful context about their job title and past communications.  A few "salesy" metrics include Number of Sent Messages, Open and Engagement Rates.

We built the extensions for...

  • Account managers, sales, customer relationship teams, and anyone with who deals with people outside of your org.
  • People who sends a lot of emails and wondering if the emails were read.

Our chrome extension is just scratching the surface about the context we offer while talking to your customers.  Check out our solution to get insights around your whole organization's engagement and communications with your customers.Try it now for free!

Customer Success vs Professional Services - And How to Structure the Two Teams

Software as a Service has dramatically changed the B2B landscape over the past few years.  With software moving into the cloud, deployment can also be done remotely with customers without on-site consultant.  Service directors, who used to be account managers in a traditional software company, are now doing the same job as Customer Success Managers in a SaaS world - upselling and renewals.  While the shift is significant, the basic business model remains largely the same - we're only successful if our customers are successful.In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between the two roles, and how to setup your customer-facing organization for success.

What's the Difference?

Two words: Implementation and Integration.  While Customer Success teams are great resources for customers to work through minor issues, larger enterprise customers typically expect the software to be customized and integrated to their existing systems and workflows.   This means having a team of experienced consultants is required in order to implement a solution tailored for each business.An article by Mark Suster nicely describes the benefits of professional services teams.  What the article boils down to is that in order to make a customer successful and decrease churn, professional services need to be involved to successfully roll-out the software and integrate with existing systems within the customer's organization.  Not only are you building a moat to prevent your competitors from penetrating the account, you're making money doing it.

Organizational Structure

The complexity of your product will help define the organizational structure of your services and customer success teams.  According to David Skok's article on Building Customer Success Organization, there are five models: Firefighter CSM, Sales-oriented CSM, Service-oriented CSM, Integrated CSM, and Partnership CSM.customer_successThe more complex your product, the more service-oriented Customer Success team needs to be.  In my experience, Services and Customer Success have always been intertwined because of the lengthy time it takes to make a sale and deploy the products.  Onboarding and training the users are activities that are also part of the role of this "Implementation team" within a Customer Success or Services organization.Ultimately, there is no customer success without quality service. The goal of any software organization is to reduce the product friction, increase product adoption, and reduce churn, and none of them can be achieved without some kind of successful roll-out or implementation plan.  Your team needs to focus on achieving these goals at scale for every customer without becoming a cost center, and you should organize your team structure based on whether how Professional Services and Customer Success teams can be aligned to the same goals.

Good Consultants Are Also Good CSMs

During my tenure as a consultant and then head of CS, I noticed that good consultants are generally good at doing Customer Success Manager's job, but not vice versa.  The main reason is because a consultant from the Professional Services organization typically posses deeper technical skills that is very specific to certain parts of the software.  In addition, the hiring criteria for a consultant is usually a bit more technical than for a CSM.When I was head of CS at Comprehend Systems, my first few hires were technical implementation consultants because of the complex requirements during our software integrations with customer's data.  They can make sure the customer is taken care of, and also deep dive into troubleshooting customer issues.  However, as we grew as an organization, it became much harder to hire someone who's good technically, and at the same time spend hours on project management work that is not as interesting or good use of their time.  This was when we started breaking out roles for Implementation and Customer Success, where Implementation team are in charge of deployment and onboarding, while Customer Success is all about making customers happy throughout the lifecycle of the customers.  Both roles are incredibly important to customer's success, but the skillset and job description are very different.In conclusion, I encourage everyone to evaluate how complex your product is to deploy and how long it takes for customers to find value.  If it takes more than a month just to get the customers up and running, Professional Services team is required to offset the cost of customizing the software for each customer.  For low-touch customers, a Customer Success team is generally enough to make sure your customers are taken care of without investing insurmountable cost in each customer. 

Introducing ContextSmith, the First Customer Intelligence Platform that Extracts Insights from Your Inbox

Wow, six months ago, my co-founder Richard and I were still meeting at McDonald's, hacking away, getting fat on the late night snacks, and convincing our wives that we were really working.  Since then, we have doubled our team and are backed by some really great investors and customers.  We've been beta-testing our software for months now, and today, we officially announced the launch of our product!  In case you're not familiar with us, ContextSmith is a Account Intelligence Platform that aggregates and monitors all account touch points from your team's inbox, delivering real-time 360 view of your account's lifecycle – increasing revenue and productivity.  We help B2B companies avoid awkward but realistic situations like:

  • Sales rep pinging a customer for reference, only to find that the account is being escalated.
  • Sales hand-off process to Customer Success or Services is basically forwarding a bunch of emails around.
  • Looking like an idiot when your customer (or your boss) ask you about the latest status, and all you can think about is spending hours searching your inbox, stitching data together from multiple sources, and asking others to summarize key account activities.

You're busy, we get it.  There's no time nor resource to keep track of everything that's going on with your accounts.  ContextSmith prevents things from slipping through the cracks and fire drills, because we stay on top of your customers for you, giving your team and cross-functional teams visibility into complex, high-touch projects.

How Our Secret Sauce Works

We use a couple different proprietary technologies to automatically aggregate and structure everyone's emails. Rest of the post may make us seem like we're the startup jackpot - scoring every single technology keyword that investors are looking for - so I apologize in advance! One thing to keep in mind, though, is how we apply these technologies differently than how people typically think of them, so let me quickly explain how our technologies work. 

Augmented Intelligence

We believe in augmenting human intelligence, not replacing it.  A precursor of anything we do with the customer data, is to aggregate and structure everyone's email conversations.  We can centralize your whole team's inboxes into one place, and cluster them into "project steams", so anyone can follow conversations like they follow Slack channels.  The clear benefit here is inter-team communication is completely eliminated without cc'ing everyone else, and added benefit is for Sales and Product team to listen in on conversation about critical customers.  No one is flying blind anymore, and teams don't have to spend time looking for information from their inboxes.AI structure email

Data Science

After we automatically cluster these "project streams" (you can modify them, of course), we layer analytics on top.  This is where  executives can get an overview of all critical accounts and high-level action items to move the customers along their lifecycle.  ContextSmith identify trends and alerts the team when there's a drastic change in customer behavior.  One interesting analysis that we present is how busy is the team and whether they have successfully achieve goals for customer touches.data science

Natural Language Processing

The main value proposition of our product is to be able to extract negative sentiment, risks and action items directly from email content.  ContextSmith continuously monitor all communication traffic and extract risks, negative sentiment, and critical due dates that may otherwise get drowned in your emails.

Get Up and Running in Minutes

Finally, one nice advantage about ContextSmith is that there is nothing to download or install.  We plug in directly into your email server's API, so your whole team can be up and running in minutes, not months.  Not only do you not have to invest in resources to set us up, we will be able to deliver value to you almost instantly.Want to see it in action with your own data?  SCHEDULE AN EXCLUSIVE DEMO with me!

Increasing Productivity of Your Customer Facing Teams

I came across an HBR article from 1988 about how to measure productivity of manufacturing plants, and the formula was exactly as expected:Productivity = Units of Output / Units of InputThe simple formula above can directly be translated into revenue, and it's easy to measure (and test) productivity of one plan against another.  Fast forward 30 years, the formula still applies (we track LTV as one of the  metrics for Customer Success, for example), except we need to account for a lot more "unmeasurable" factors, such as communication overhead, team morale, and customer feedback.  For customer-facing teams, it is even harder to measure exact productivity of each individual or teams.  After all, we invest money and time into our sales teams and customer service teams, we want to make sure the teams are as productive as possible.In this article, we're going to cover a few ways to increase productivity of customer-facing teams.

Effective Communication Skills

While there are many tools that help reduce communication overhead, such as Slack and ContextSmith, people generally neglect the skill set required to effectively communicate.  Think about the last time you had talk to your internet provider's customer support agent. Chances are, it was a frustrating experience because the agent was either confused or tried to upsell you another product, when the very reason you called was to cancel the service.Running effective meetings is a crucial communication skill to acquire as a customer manager.  Be able to set clear agendas and keep the team on track is something that even seasoned managers don't do well. Another way to improve communication is through training.  For example, learn how to eliminate back and forths by writing clear, concise and complete emails.  Learning from experienced sales or account management executives is also a great way to get some quick lessons about how to communicate effectively.

Get Context Around the Customer

What folds in nicely with "effective communication skills" is that having the right context can help the team better support the customers and have more productive conversations around customers' needs.  Taking your internet provider example again, the agent can help you more if s/he has information about your subscription plan, tickets, and past conversation with agents.  In a B2B setting, all of these apply as well, as your Sales team can upsell better when they know how the onboarding went, number of high-priority tickets, and last conversations with the customers.  This is where ContextSmith (and other Customer Success software) shine, because the tool aggregates all customer data, including your email communications with customers, into one place, automatically organized by your customers.

Good Record Keeping

Having your teams track their time and activities is a simple way to see who is optimizing their working hours and who is just putting in time. In professional services, this is standard practice to bill customers on the work done.  In sales, tracking the number of outreach, emails, and calls can determine how busy a rep is.   The best part about tracking these metrics is that you're able to compare historical vs now, and continuously improve your process to maximize productivity.

Use the Right Tools

Get more done with less.  Operational excellence.  To maximize output, employees need good tools.  They need the right software, the right programs, at the right time and size of the company. However, knowing what tools are necessary and which are just causing distractions can be challenging. My previous Customer Success team used Asana for task management, Evernote for note-taking, SmartSheets for project management, Box for document management, Google Docs for collaboration, Clarizen for timesheets, Zendesk for support tickets, Slack for communication, WebEx for conference calls, Salesforce to interact with sales team, and Target Process to interface internal engineering team.  11+ tools just to manage day-to-day work!  Those tool worked for us at early stages, but as the team started growing, people started using less tools and are more focused on a vertical, rather than one-person-does-everything model.

Positive Work Culture

I presented to the board once about a customer going live after 6 months of deployment and onboarding.  The board asked a great question: "What did you do to celebrate?"  If your answer is "nothing", you need to change it.It's extremely important to have good morale among your customer-facing teams. After all, how can they sell or make customers successful if they're not excited about their own product? A lot of things can effect company morale - bad leadership, layoffs, changes within the working routine, etc. Customer service reps can burn out quickly by working with toxic customers. Imagine dealing with customer complaints all day, oftentimes from people who are rude or even belligerent. This can really cause some havoc on the morale for the team.  HBR wrote a great article about how to create a positive work culture.These are some "unmeasurable" ways to increase productivity of your Customer Success, Professional Services and Sales teams.  Remember these teams are the fire-fighters and the face of the company, so it is increasingly important to make the best out of their time and move the company forward.  Let us know if you have other comments or ideas! 

How to Make Customers Your Priority Without Stalling Growth (Part 1)

As fifth employee and head of Customer Success in my previous startup, I learned a few tips about growing a company and making customers happy, while keeping everyone's sanity.  The story I'm sharing isn't about all the perfect things we did to grow the startup from seed stage to 60+ employee Series B (it was far from perfect); this article focuses on lessons learned from what brought our team to its knees, and how we adjusted our strategy to scale our growth.  I will share my experience in a two-part series on how to bend over backwards for customers without breaking your back.

workforfree

Never work for free

While this seems like a no-brainer to grow business revenue, we were actually giving out free pilots left and right during our early days.  As a small startup focusing on growth, we thought about ways to get more customers using our product.  While giving out the software for free was great to get product feedback, it was terrible to get customers.  Hence, pricing had been something we always talked about even during later stages of the company: Should the pilots be free?  Are we charging too much? Can we raise our price during renewal?"Free pilot" seemed like a great idea to lower the barrier for our prospects to try our product risk-free; however, there were strings attached.  The obvious disadvantage of free is the fact that we were actually working for free - burning the hard-raised money from our investors.  We justified it as an investment and put in a ton of time to make the free pilots successful, in hopes they would convert to real customers.  Who doesn't love free product?  Assuming the chances of customers buying after the pilot is the same despite free or paid, we were willing make them free in order to lower their barrier of entry to try our product.  The result? Total disaster.Looking back and summing up all the free pilots we did, none of them converted.  On the contrary, our most successful pilots were all paid ones, and the chances of conversion was much higher as well.  The main reason why "free" was terrible for both us and the customer was that we blindly assumed all customers love free products.  "Free" basically meant that customers were actually not committed to spend the time and resources to make the pilot successful.  "Free" also meant that they didn't perceive our product as something valuable.  In fact, it almost felt like they were forced into trying our product, because it was "free anyway".  And for us, spending a lot of endless nights at work without much appreciation was a counter-productive effort.

It's okay to ask dumb questions

Building a relationship with customers require open and frequent communication.  What may seem like "dumb" questions could potentially be eye-opening.  Below are some examples:

  • What do you want to get out of our product?
  • Can you clarify how you're currently doing [something painful that you're trying to solve]
  • Who is the solution for?

These questions may seem "dumb" at first because you know exactly the answers to them, which is why your customers bought your solution in the first place.  But no, do not assuming anything until you get clear answers from them.One mistake we made early on during our customer onboarding process was that we did everything for the customers without asking for clarifications or feedback; not that we assumed we knew what the customers wanted, but our thought was that taking up customer's time meant our product wasn't as easy to setup as we pitched it.   I remember there were a few occasions which the audience were executives from a specific department.  Even though we had a good idea what they'd like to see, the demo actually turned into a completely different conversation about an use case we had never thought of.  Lesson learned here was that it was okay to ask for clarification and frequent feedback.  Remember that customers want to be successful with their investment, and it goes without saying that delivering a targeted solution is much better than presenting something that the customers don't care about.This customer journey also has the IKEA effect, which states that "consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created."  From my experience, all of the customers who invested time and resources helping us help them had been successful.  The fact that the customers were willing to spend time and money on the pilot meant that they were serious about building a relationship together.Do these lined up with your experiences?  I'd love to hear other stories, and share more about my experience growing the Customer Success team in the previous startup.  Stay tuned for part 2!