A Tale of Two Teams
Two teams at competing companies sign up for a productivity app. Both are large, aggresive sales teams with big budgets and overlapping products. One of them takes full advantage of the app's collaboration features with tons of management buy-in; the other team is unable to be truly be transparent and collaborative and suffers from lack of leadership. So who wins? Which company is ultimately more successful?
You know the answer as well as I do: the more collaborative team. In the end, though, it’s really easy to recognize this as a successful model, but it’s really difficult to act on it. At a past employer, I struggled through a corporate job at a major tech company where this was the case; there were many complaints about a lack of internal transparency, but no one really stood up to change this. In the end, though, this is a detrimental cycle that only hurts you, the company, and your job.
Ultimately, it all comes down to this: someone has to either step up to reshape corporate culture to be more transparent, or the company will flounder.
The latest shake-ups at Yahoo are a clear example of this: the company floundered under weak leadership; now, the appointment of a new CEO has led the company in a far more decisive direction. The decision to “open the kimono” and really communicate across the team doesn’t just lie with management. Each employee has the choice of whether they want to get candid, and this can have far-reaching effects.
Sales Teams Need to Communicate - Here's Why
Sales is an especially challenging arena to be transparent in. It’s a department that’s traditionally based on competition. But the best salespeople out there can’t just be competitive - they need to be team players. Each salesperson brings a unique strength to the table - whether it be an insight into messaging that works, a secret to better prospecting, or a wealth of connections in their personal network. Uniting these strengths together is what makes a sales team unstoppable and their company more successful.
While working at Tout, I've dealt with a lot of teams with different organizational structures, and I’ve seen that initial model I mentioned of two competing companies with different internal structures. That’s why, in creating a sales productivity app, we’ve gradually shifted our whole ideology from the individual salesperson to the team model. There are a lot of sales team collaboration features in ToutApp - template and group sharing, deep CRM integration, team analytics, and best practices on which templates work best.
I see a ton of startups and smaller companies taking huge, huge advantage of our team collaboration features. It’s the larger companies that struggle with a sense of appropriateness, openness, and clear leadership. And, ultimately, the ones who are able to behave with a truly transparent attitude are the ones that will differentiate themselves from the competition.
So go ahead and share a "secret" or best practice with your boss or coworker. Help teach them something they didn't already know. Pass on your knowledge and talk frankly. You're not creating competition for yourself or giving anything away - you're helping your company and becoming a leader.
Our featured Team of the Week entry comes from the Inc. Business Owner Council. Every week or so, we'll profile a different user group who uses our app to improve their email productivity. If you would like to be featured in the future, you can apply here.
We are under the auspices of INC. Magazine, which decided that many of the INC. 500/5000 CEOs and business owners needed more than just an informative magazine. So they decided to create regional business owner councils around the country to support these entrepreneurs with their goals. We meet monthly and offer peer support in a confidential setting and offer enhanced access to INC. Magazine and other members around the country. We address the common theme of "lonely at the top"!
ToutApp's take: Entrepreneurs are building the future of technology, and they're working in a fast-pacedworld where the landscape changes constantly. Inc helps bring sanity and community to the process of starting a company, which is filled with pressure. Lately, too, we've seen some devastating losses from entrepreneurs who took their own lives because of depression and anxiety. Inc.com's Business Owner Council aims to create a community for these people, and they use ToutApp to help build and manage it.
With ToutApp, we love that we are not just able to send out numerous emails but we also get to see how effective each email is and who clicks through for further info.
ToutApp allows Inc to spend time contacting truly interested prospects and keep them in the loop. The Inc team are also able to share templates with co-workers in the various regions - a real time saver. They can also use Tout's analytics to determine which templates are more successful than others when reaching out to business owners. Through communication tools like ToutApp, the Inc Business Owner's Council helps unite entrepreneurs across the United States - and we're proud to support them!
Our featured Team of the Week entry comes from Lawgical. Every week or so, we'll profile a different user group who uses our app to improve their email productivity. If you would like to be featured in the future, you can apply here.
Lawgical is an online marketing company that serves select legal niches. We have a number of brands such as ServeNow, PInow, AboutBail, and the Legal Talk Network that are recognized as industry leading networks for the legal communities that they serve. Our activities range from building our networks to actively promoting the products.
How Lawgical uses ToutApp
ToutApp is an incredibly useful tool for outreach and sales productivity. We use it throughout our marketing and sales departments to create and enhance engagement with clients and leads.
An example of how we've used ToutApp is in communications with governmental agencies for marketing projects. The responsiveness of agencies and their bureaucracies can vary greatly. So being able to view whether they opened or clicked on our emails has guided our communications, especially for when and how we follow up. As a result, we've increased the number of responses to our requests and gotten much better project results.
Beyond just tracking, the ability to create and use templates within ToutApp has helped us routinize and refine certain processes to make them faster and more efficient.
A customer-centered company
Here at ToutApp, we’re really dedicated to making our customers happy. My job title as "Happiness Officer" is a fairly excellent example of this. A month or so ago, though, as we amped up our marketing efforts, we started to experience some growing pains - especially in customer service. We’d been having trouble listening to our customers, responding as quickly as we used to, and making necessary improvements within the app - all while staying friendly, accessible, and helpful. It felt like a compromise to some of our ideals. To that effect, we decided to make some important changes to our support structure that I’ll talk about below.
Though none of this is directly sales-related, I hope that at the very least it’ll spark a discussion about how to best communicate with customers, as well as how to structure customer service at a growing company.
Here are some important changes and realizations we made where it comes to support:
1) “Customer service” is NOT a happy term.
Before doing any real restructuring of our support system, we meditated on our methodology and language for working with customers. “Customer service” is reminiscent of being put on hold and transferred, having to answer the same question over and over, or getting a nine digit case number to reference. Not the sort of experience we wanted to provide to ToutApp customers.
Since we’ve never been fans of doing things the old fashioned way, we’re throwing these terms out internally. If you want to get in touch with us, you can contact the happiness team to ask a question, report a problem, or talk to our enterprise sales team. No fuss.
2) Support tools can actually hurt productivity.
One of the biggest challenges I personally have been up against is the juggling of many different platforms in my daily workflow. At one point, I sat down, mapped out what I was using each service for (it looked something like this [right]), and decided things needed to change.
Now I’ve got Hipchat, Pivotal Tracker, Salesforce, Google Docs, Salesforce, and our internal database all hooked up to Zendesk and everything is finally in one place. I know when new cases come in through Hipchat, I can log bug reports easily, record user requests in a spreadsheet, and, most importantly, easily reference our customers’ data while chatting with them. Even if it takes some effort to build a custom setup like this, I can guarantee that the final result is worth it. Your customer support, service, or happiness team - whatever you call it - is not one size fits all. And your internal chaos will likely reflect itself when dealing with a customer. Your zen is their zen.
2) Your feedback mechanisms should be customized.
After a ton of research, we decided to migrate from Desk to Zendesk as our help desk platform.
Zendesk provided some standard forms for submitting tickets. However, after looking over them we realized these were too generic for our business. So we decided to design our own forms.
Our main reason for this was the need for two very different forms: one that allowed customers to get simple questions answered (e.g. What’s included with your free plan?), and another for more in-depth problems with our product (e.g. Why won’t my templates load?). We’re a fairly complex platform that has a lot of different integrations, so we built up a really comprehensive “Report a Problem” form that asks as many questions as it can so that we can minimize back-and-forth exchanges by grabbing a ton of information up front.
Check them out:
3) Showing is telling.
Throughout this support facelift, it had become fairly apparent recently that we’d outgrown our
homemade help/FAQ pages, so I completely redid these. Our two worst problems with these FAQs were a lack of up-to-date information and too much text. Rather than spend the necessary time updating these FAQs, I typically ended up communicating one-off with customers to show them a feature or walk them through a necessary process.
I’m cringing a bit as I write this, because we all know that’s not a sustainable process. Investing the time to make your help pages great and create good articles and video content goes a huge way in making any support organization successful. After just a week on our new FAQ pages (using Zendesk’s framework - thanks!), I can already notice a lot more customers educating themselves about the product, which makes everyone’s lives happier.
4) Our customers’ priorities are our priorities.
We previously asked customers "How are you feeling?" in our customer forms. This was a suggestion that Wufoo made at Userconf (a conference that was really helpful in us defining our support priorities!).
In the end, though, we made a basic realization: customers who have to fill out a “Report a Problem” form usually tend to be annoyed - who wouldn’t be?
We wanted to have a more meaningful way of humanizing communication with our customers, so we took a tip from Zendesk and added in a “Priority” field instead. Is this a low urgency issue? Or is it highly impactful? Now we can determine if something needs to be solved right away or in the near future.
We realized we weren’t scaling something well, so we fixed it. It was this realization that allowed us to create an even better experience for our customers. ToutApp customers can now get help more easily and quickly - with a friendlier face.
I’m sure we’ll continue to have challenges as we continue to scale, but now our revamped infrastructure will better scale with them. If your company is experiencing anything similar, I’d love to talk about ideas, techniques, and tools. If you’re a user, I hope you notice the improvements. We’re here for you guys!
Our featured User of the Week entry comes from Adam Rosenblum, Principal Attorney at The Rosenblum Law Firm. Every week or so, we'll profile a different person who uses our app to improve their email productivity. If you would like to be featured in the future, you can apply here.
I'm the principal attorney at The Rosenblum Law Firm, which focuses on traffic violations and criminal defense in New York and New Jersey. Our website at http://www.ticketdefenselaw.com has over 300 pages of unique content related to traffic violations. We also run http://newyorkspeedingfines.com, an interactive site that educates individuals about the consequences of traffic violations. Our monthly newsletter contains information from our websites, including http://rosenblumlawfirm.com, and goes out to thousands of subscribers to give them information on a broad range of legal topics.
ToutApp has been an invaluable tool for a number of reasons.
Our firm gets a significant volume of potential client leads each month. In addition, many of our current clients are looking for information we provide via email. ToutApp allows us to create templates so that we do not have to write the same emails over and over and track the effectiveness of the templates. Many of our emails include links, and ToutApp also lets us know whether or not people are clicking on them. We also love Tout's campaign feature, which allows us to have a template automatically send a follow-up email. This feature allows us to continue to provide our clients and potential clients information without having to send the emails manually.