Restoring Empathy

We live in a gilded time. The appearance of success conceals the shadows of struggle and misfortune. Entrepreneurial success without a conscience has a high cost. It’s possible to detox and do the right things. Social media weaponizes the world to mask reality. Success narratives emerge from chest-thumping and grandstanding. A winner-take-all mindset has unearthed mental illnesses even amongst high performers who feel like failures when they finish 2nd. America’s fast-paced society ignores the humble and wise — who manage well in the shadows and don’t break the rules.

The tv show Ballers is spot on about what many entrepreneurs and young professionals want. Narcissism is celebrated. Giving back is hardly noticed in the highly-popular show. Being rude and crude gathers an audience and a lucrative following on social media. Being nice gets forgotten if one is dependent on books and blogs. The erudite are losing to the illiterate. An awful lot of amoral leaders with backgrounds in entertainment, business, and tech set the tone — impacting the lives of billions who answer to their beck and call if for no other reason than a paycheck. Leaders in government used to stand up to corruption, but appear to be running with the same den of thieves. The moral backbone of civil society turns into jello when the government is run like a business. Checks and balances are in jeopardy. The relative lack of corruption drew millions of immigrants to America. The safety nets of talented newcomers are getting cut every day.

“America” is the Ayn Rand novel which was never written, a hyper-competitive place which embraces survival of the fittest but can be impersonal for gentle souls who prefer to break bread with others. A bad day for a rich guy at home could result in an impulsive decision at the office — where he lays off of thousands of workers, impacting the civic life of an entire city. The cult of personality (a la Elon Musk) has given rise to a fascist version of capitalism. Power is quantified and justified through spreadsheets by someone who may have never completed a course in the humanities and social sciences.

Fortunately, I took many liberal arts courses, but many leading CEOs only have business and engineering degrees. The path to success is paved in gold for metrics-obsessed nerds. The pursuit of riches on the other side of the tracks (or another side of the world) drive their decision-making. Wolves who rule the roost are lionized. Wealth alone might ascertain political success in America whereby it would be frowned upon in many other countries.

America’s villages and rural areas struggle to keep up with large cities. Yet, the same rural areas committed to community life and self-preservation have put their trust in wealthy saviors who only set foot in their neighborhoods with a loudspeaker in hand. The same business titans eager to run government have less proclivity towards a lifestyle based on faith and family values. The rural poor seem mesmerized by wealth and celebrity status. The prosperity gospel wins elections in America and in many parts of the world. Trickle-down economics might help the middle class but it doesn’t help those struggling for food and employment.

As someone who’s connected to many things, I’ve taken a step back. The empathy gap is pervasive and it’s better to focus on ways to get rid of narcissism and shameless capitalism. My time is going towards social impact. All that glitters is not gold. Let’s stop supporting those who only care about promoting themselves and getting rich. It’s time to stop celebrating the culture of personal success and instead, let’s solve global problems for the sake of our children.

Using Tasks in Salesforce

I’ve shared a lot of tips and short videos about using Salesforce. The software is getting much better.

Dying for a paycheck

The Economist’s article

No job is worth sacrificing one’s life for. Let the horses run but choose to become mindful instead. Here’s another book recommendation: Link

Deep Listening

Thich Nhat Hanh/ Oprah interview (KarmaTube)

Admittedly, I’m a novice at deep listening. So much of the world’s suffering could be reduced by simply listening. Technology needs to be managed so that the culture of deep listening can grow.

MDA

2019 March Madness

Distraction reduces anxiety. March Madness can be a stress buster. My bracket usually gets busted in the 2nd week.

End-of-Season momentum is my favorite success criteria when I pick. The Longhorns aren’t in the mix this year. The ghost of all-time great Kevin Durant still lingers. Coach Strong is gone while Coach Smart is still around. Only 64 of 350+ teams get chosen. Texas wasn’t in the top 18% for basketball even after achieving the top operating revenue across the NCAA. Texas is known for football, anyway.

Keeping my fingers crossed for tiny Gonzaga.

Raj’s picks

(Shown after 3/20)

Text 510-674-1414

What if you had text-based access to peer counselors as issues came up at work? Work-related dilemmas often surface by texting. I recently learned about Empower Work, an independent nonprofit that offers text-based coaching. Free coaching is now available at your fingertips. There are obvious use cases. I also think this type of service can help with performance management and scaling one’s career.

Empower Work is seeking US-based volunteers who are savvy texters.

Volunteer link

myTrailhead demo

If your org is a heavy Salesforce user, myTrailhead will help increase user adoption.

The Rise of Conscious Capitalism

I’ve met many leaders and founders of companies. The leader of a company sets the tone for social impact. The companies which care the most are the ones driven to make a difference. The companies created by selfish leaders eventually wilt or get sold. Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025.

Successful leaders survive by embracing conscious capitalism and a millennial workforce. The old ways of doing business simply won’t last. 😉

Link

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When Strong is the Only Option

The Free Solo documentary captures one of the the greatest physical feats by a human being. Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan without a rope in less than 4 hours.

SalesTrip

Nifty travel and expense management solution built on Salesforce

Try it out: Link

Houston

I spent this past week at MD Anderson (MDA) with a close relative of mine. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality, professionalism, and organization of this great hospital. The journey ahead won’t be easy, but I feel confident that this is the best place to win the battle against cancer. MDA listened to us and I’m confident they will deliver.

MDA patient satisfaction metrics: Link

Techstars Seattle

Geekwire article: Link

“Seattle leaders have done a good job of saying, ‘we need to do stuff to make this city a great place to live for everyone and not just a great place to make money.’ I think that’s an underreported narrative about why Seattle is winning more and more as an economic center. It’s because we’re doing stuff at the margins to make it a place that works for families and works for transportation. The partnership between business and civic leaders and taxpayers is what will set up the next 20 years of growth.

Chris DeVore

When the Market is Our Only Language

Great interview with Anand Giridharadas about his new book Winners Take All. How do we elevate conscious capitalism in an age of endless self-interest?

Isaiah 40:31

One-time meeting

Japanese hospitality is hard to forget. I have a strong sense of connection to Japan and go there more often than to my ancestral homeland India. Perhaps, omotenashi is traceable to the concept ichi-go ichi-e.

Helping, Hustling, and Harvesting

There are three attributes I really admire amongst my entrepreneur friends. Helping, hustling, and harvesting — move the needle for me.

#1 They are always helping even while selling. Helpers make the world go around. They volunteer and do things without asking. Helpers build trust quickly. Not surprisingly, helpers become top salespeople.

#2 Building something from scratch takes much hustling without fear. Hustlers in my network tend to be less formal, hit the streets, and talk to anyone with an open mind. They unlock and open doors. Steve Jobs was the original hustler before Silicon Valley became enamored with them. Hustlers thrive where playbooks don’t exist. Hustlers become your best friends when you need to get things done fast.

#3 Harvesting is a rare skill I see in my network. It can mean pursuing a business exit strategy, or it can mean gathering a crop of ideas. Harvesters build ideas and communities. They spark deeper conversations and connect with diverse leaders. They invest in and create communities which ignite innovation. Harvesters may not be investors seeking exits, but they still have a Midas touch — knowing where to gather a crop of ideas and package them for the market. As leaders, they create business categories, run conferences, and launch meetups, especially in areas where the dots need to be connected. This attribute is most popular in Silicon Valley.

Seattle Freeze – 2/4/2019

First snowfall in 2019. Seattle is great, but maybe not for everyone: Link

More than one thousand folks are moving here every week.

Popular Certs in Tech Industry

I get asked a lot about tech careers. An industry focus remains essential while acquiring tech skills. You don’t want to become good at something you don’t enjoy, so make sure that your skills contribute to an industry which excites you. Blog about it. Organize events. Find willing mentors.

Industry Alignment

I began my consulting career in the financial services industry. Now, I focus on sectors doing impactful work. The values alignment is a starting point. Industry knowledge becomes the lynchpin. The learning never ends. A tribe which accelerates your growth should be your sticking point.

Re-tooling with Certs

Once the industry focus is clear, I recommend a certification-based approach. Decide if you’re going to become an information worker or a developer. Software development is different from the realm of tech certs. It’s a bit more challenging to achieve the programming skills summarized in this report. The information worker’s value increases based on the number of certs achieved which are validated by hands-on experience. You can always volunteer to work as an intern to prove your knowledge. Building a website like this one is not that difficult.

Never Ending Bucket List

I’ve had in-depth exposure to some certs and skimmed through others. Whether you are beginning your career or re-tooling to meet market demand, these certs are worth pursuing:

There’s a massive shortage of workers with relevant skills. A treasure trove of resources can help you gain mastery. I feel like I’m always behind even as an industry veteran. Technical certification assures relevance in most industries. Don’t leave home without at least one. 😁

2/25 Net Impact Seattle HH

Learn more about Net Impact at our Happy Hour

Link

2/28 Workshop for CSR, Social Impact, and CS/CX professionals

Meet changemakers in this exciting SF workshop. Touchpoint mapping allows your org to visualize and improve experiences of sponsors, partners, recipients, and employees.

Codesign for Social Impact

When: Thu. Feb. 28 6:00-8:30 pm

Where: WeWork, 1161 Mission, San Francisco, CA 94103
Who: Service Designers, CX/CS Professionals, CSR, and Social Impact Professionals
Sponsors: Customer Success for Good and Service Design Network SF (SDN-SF)

We are excited to invite you to this hands-on workshop by SDN-SF for corporate social responsibility (CSR) executives, nonprofit leaders, and social impact professionals.

Join rockstar facilitators Bernadette Geuy, Daphne Ogle, and Sophie Jasson-Holt as they map the partnership experience between CSR and social impact stakeholders. Let’s uncover opportunities for community engagement which maximize impact. If you are new to service design, this program will introduce touchpoint mapping, a new skill for your toolkit.

RSVP in this link (required): https://bit.ly/2FWWiE8

6:00 – 6:30 pm networking
6:30 – 8:00 pm workshop (Get ready to do stuff together)
8:00 – 8:30 pm final networking and wrap-up

“A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission.”
Neil Peart (Rush)

10/26 Impactathon – Customer Success for Good

Great event held today in San Francisco. It wouldn’t have been possible without collaboration partners including ImpactathonSFTechforGood, and WeWork.

Special thanks to Neetal Parekh for facilitating an amazing workshop. It was wonderful sharing the stage with Vijay Mehrotra, Andrea Spillman-Gajek and Rajesh Kadam — representing a broad cross-section of Silicon Valley. We owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who joined and shared stories about doing impactful work in education, nonprofits, startups and other sectors.

It’s possible to hit a career bullseye within customer success (CS) by focusing on social impact. The CS and CX communities have significant opportunities to roll out best practices and industry standards within the impact space.

Stay tuned for the new slack channel (attendees). Feel free to join the CSG Meetup community if this interests you. This is your platform for change.

Slides from my talk…

 

 

What is Customer Success for Good?

Customer Success (CS) is one of the fastest growing job titles in the world. CS lives to achieve customer happiness across an organization. The CS team is empowered to make a difference. Social impact can become part of CS’s mission when business is great. Success means there’s less hand-holding and more party-throwing.

Success is a happy end user who’s willing to come to your conferences and learn more about your products. Success is when customers become partners and do the selling for you. Success means customers really like your solutions enough to solve problems which may not be business-related. The end game of success is giving back.

Most customers want to make the world a better place. Salesforce leads the pack, but others are not far behind in giving back and creating an active philanthropic ecosystem.

How can a CS leader give back? Here are some ways to achieve impact with your teams:

  • Establish OKRs for Customer Success and Social Impact: CS can lead a grassroots initiative to add internal OKRs related to social impact. The actions noted in this blog post could be part of the OKR initiative.
  • Launching a dot org: Salesforce, Box and and Microsoft have internal divisions represented by dot orgs; Salesforce.org, Box.orgMicrosoft.org. This is where giving becomes institutionalized. Successful startups can follow such examples and offer solutions to under-served sectors needing the best tech solutions. CS can help launch the dot org.
  • Hiring: CS teams should look like their customers. There’s a good pipeline today to hire for diversity— especially, women and underrepresented minorities. Additionally, plenty of military veterans qualify to work in CS and would have the chops to handle the challenges.
  • Implementing Tech for Good: Products can be verticalized (& simplified) for non-profits, B Corps and the public sector. Discount pricing and donations of software licenses can make a difference. Tech for Good should have an impact as great as philanthropy. CS can work with Product and Sales to champion opportunities for strategic ‘impact’ implementations.
  • Partnering for Good: Customers are willing to partner with tech companies for community impact. CS can identify such opportunities. Salesforce has successfully rolled out its 1-1-1 program to its ecosystem. CS becomes the glue connecting mission-driven companies.
  • Community building: CS can partner with community managers and Marketing to highlight best practices with customers via Meetups. It’s also an opportunity to highlight customers leveraging solutions for social impact.
  • Social impact awards: CS can identify award programs and contests where solutions could be positioned to win. Tech Crunch has given awards for social impact in its annual Crunchies program. Recognition in the community is a big deal for any company’s brand. CS can partner with Marketing to promote successful case studies towards award programs. CS can also partner with tech teams to participate in hackathon contests.
  • Newsletters and social media: CS can partner with social media managers to highlight success stories involving customers impacting the community.

There are unique impact opportunities for CS in a good economy like ours where customer sentiment is especially strong. There’s an entire sector of CS professionals employed by cloud-based companies today who strive for social impact when delivering great technologies. The Customer Success for Good Meetup brings this community together.

Success and survival

The mission statement is often understated in an organization. It should become the daily mantra. All activities should spring from an apparent overall purpose. Roles and responsibilities should be crystal clear. Of course, career paths never go by the book. 😉

Some careers are self-explanatory such as finance, sales, and marketing. Others such as customer success (CS) need more definition. The customer success function (post-sales) can include on-boarding, customer experience, implementation services, project management, training, inside sales, and dedicated support. It’s the bane of an organization’s existence and also, the hardest to manage if not appropriately structured. My domain is customer success. It’s fun, but not for the faint of heart. A recent survey highlighted the challenges of stress in the workplace. This workplace survey did not cover specific professions like customer success. It’s interesting to see Seattle rank high for work-life balance.

Link

The lack of clear goals contributes to burnout and turnover regardless of location. For example, it’s rare to meet someone with a “customer success” job title who has lasted more than 2 years at a single employer (senior executive or junior employee). Based on anecdotal evidence (i.e., deep ties to the customer success community), the customer success function is still evolving. Customer success is often viewed as an ugly stepchild and the perfect spot to pin blame if there are failures in customer dealings. It needs witness protection, or it gets sacrificed on the front lines. Thereby, high turnover is pervasive when top leadership doesn’t provide the necessary support.

Customer success should be a standalone division reporting to the CEO or COO. Things are well when the turnover is minimal in a customer success division. Things are great when the products actually work, and sales are booming — making the job easier. 👍 However, an overwhelming number of startups and large enterprises haven’t developed strong customer success organizations. Industry leaders in customer success put product gurus in these roles, not just warm bodies who look good and pick up the phone.

I began the Customer Success for Good meetup because I believe customer success should serve a much higher purpose: by on-boarding more stewards of the planet.

There are many industry verticals where customer success has become the lynchpin for impact. Most boardrooms try to evangelize a mission-driven purpose. They need to involve the voices of the customer.

It’s really hard without involving those on the front lines of building customer relationships. Customer success professionals partner and build solutions that solve business problems. The gap between profits and purpose can be filled when the CS mission includes resolving social and environmental issues. Every boardroom needs to align success with social impact.

Like the survey says, the stress won’t go away. However, I believe in leveraging the ‘greater purpose’ mantra with customers to strengthen the mission of customer success. Adherence to the mission statement is a good sign that your organization values its customer success workers and cares for the planet, too.

 

Internal playbook

Clients prefer speed over everything else. They hire consultants equipped to deliver fast. As a consultant, I’ve been handed concise technology road-maps as well as hundred-page decks loaded with business requirements. Client readiness varies across industries. The key is to provide a playbook or checklist to your business stakeholders. This sets expectations, so that they are prepared for a rapid implementation and smooth on-boarding. Clients can also save costs by preparing requirements with their internal subject matter experts before the technology consultants arrive. The requirements phase of the project sets the tone. Success or failure starts here.

A few years back I was on an engagement with JP Morgan Chase. Their consumer-banking division had a strong presence in Columbus, Ohio. A major issue was impacting their business growth: only 25% of captured technology requirements made it into production. The requirements process was broken. Execution was a disaster. The lack of familiarity with the technologies being implemented affected the quality of documentation. Also, requirements were maintained in multiple formats across many systems. This spaghetti resulted in project failures and expensive re-work. Some business milestones were missed by multiple years. Everything was in Red.

My team focused on putting together a playbook for requirements gathering. The goal would be to align Business and IT stakeholders so that they adhered with the playbook guidelines. Requirements could not be drawn up on a napkin or stored on a spreadsheet. For example, user stories would have to be clearly written for a Salesforce Service Cloud implementation based on standardized templates. The online tool Jira was customized to capture user stories based on pre-baked templates. Excel spreadsheets were complementary and used to provide detailed inputs. Jira requirements were analyzed and fed into a Salesforce tool called the PMO toolkit. Proper nomenclature and numeration was established so traceability could be maintained between the PMO toolkit and Jira. Playbook scrum masters were added to teams across the bank.

The playbook mandated such rules not only for Salesforce projects, but for other systems, too. Hands-on training was provided for writing system requirements. The quality of technical writing has gone downhill in this age of social media and tech-speak. English is becoming a second language for everyone. A college degree doesn’t ensure that one can read their diploma. It’s well known that good documentation results in good code and fewer missed requirements.

Today, JP Morgan Chase has become successful in implementing large scale projects. I believe the playbook from several years ago made a difference.

Never underestimate the power of a playbook as you execute new projects.

Link

 

Low-Hanging Fruit

What is the low hanging fruit when implementing or evaluating a customer success program? Can you deliver value to difficult customers without extraordinary effort or expense?

Some customers are very engaged. They provide constructive feedback to improve your features. They love hand-holding. They fully use your support capabilities and maintain continuous communication with your support desk. A few of these customers are your best friends. These advocates swear by your product and recommend it to their networks. You are fortunate to have customers like these.

Some customers are difficult. They dread logging into your product and believe it is the root cause of their daily strife. They troll away on social media and talk to your competitors. They won’t try to learn your product, while discouraging new users on their account. Some disenchanted customers partner with each other and make your life difficult at trade shows and meetups.

Whether your customers are advocates or detractors, they need the following basics. This is the low-hanging fruit based on experience.

  1. Provide a simple online training guide. This turn-by-turn playbook can be culled from your knowledgebase. A good example is what Freshdesk rolled out for its customers: Freshdesk onboarding
  2. Establish Weekly or Monthly Office Hours with your support engineers. Two or three hours every week can be blocked away:  this could be a meetup, webinar or a scheduled call. Here’s an example hosted by MongoDB: Sample Office hours
  3. New user training webinar – Recurring training sessions could be introduced at the account-level (enterprise customers) or for SMB customers who haven’t paid for customized training or professional services.
  4. Develop a Webinar series to cover new features, best practices, reseller onboarding, etc. Salesforce has a robust series: Salesforce webinars
  5. Public product roadmap – Customers are eager to align their business goals with upcoming feature releases. It’s great to provide this transparency to your product teams. Front App has a good example:  Public roadmap

It’s not too difficult to implement these 5 steps, especially if you are in the SaaS world. Low-hanging fruit should be made available to customers.

Feel free to ping me if you have questions.

Screenshot_11(from Dilbert cartoon)

Customer Success Analytics

Salesforce pioneered the concept of Customer Success. It grew into the ‘Customers for Life’ program and today employs hundreds of Customer Success professionals. Loyalty marketing guru Bryan Pearson shares more about this pioneering effort: Link_SFDC Customers-for-life

Today, Customer Success is an industry which keeps the SaaS world afloat. It needs the right doses of people, process and technology. Customer Success is not fully baked like other company functions such as the Finance department. Ultimately, data drives Customer Success. Analytics will make or break your customer success efforts.

Some of my insights here:

 

Customer Success 101

I often get asked what is customer success. The slides below highlight CS in simplest terms. There is substantial effort which goes into building a program and running a customer success operation post-sales.

Moving forward, I will cover CS in more detail as it pertains to people, process, technology and business strategy.