Really care about your customers

I came across this great video. It’s a bit long – over an hour but genuinely make great points on the importance of caring about your customers, something I believe in with all of my heart.



When service is down – how open should you be?

Admitting Failure

Yesterday we’ve experienced probably the worse production down-time that we had since we’ve launched Totango. The intentions were good, we’ve upgrades a significant part of our infrastructure that we’ve worked on for months and unfortunately this upgrade didn’t go smooth…

We’ve been working around the clock to resolve the problem, and at the same time I felt that it’s important to openly communicate to our customers directly, with a message within the application, thru email to all of our admins, and on the company blog about the situation and to keep everybody up to date.

We’ve started getting feedback from our blog readers that we should have not have used public communication to report about the service problem. Some people of the team felt the same way, as this could very well become an ammunition to our competition, and may scare off potential customers who are in the process of evaluating our service.

This is a tough decision – how open and transparent should we really be?

I guess the world is divided into two camps:

  1. Information on a need to know basis
  2. Open and Transparent

Clearly, me and the team are part of camp #2. I believe that by being open and transparent, even at cases of failures, we will get credit for admitting to problems and resolving those.

However, option #1 should not be dismissed easily. There are many companies that keep very good image without exposing their failures publicly.

What do you think? What would you do?

InVision and Why I LOVE this app!

If you’re involved in the processes of web designs; website, web applications or mobile apps and you’re not using InVision – you should stop reading this, go here and check it out.

In a world where the visual representation of applications is key, InVision makes it dead-simple to collaborate early designs across teams, comment and iterate faster.

Before InVision, we’ve used wireframes to communicate the at high level and then a bunch of photoshop PSDs/Images to communicate and review the new feature/website flows.

InVision improves this in two main areas:

Flow vs. Images
InVision allowed our team at Totango present the graphic designer’s artifacts within an application flow. This allowed many of the team members, and in many cases customers as well visualize and experience (almost) the application flow. I’ve learned over the years, that for many people it’s just hard to connect desecrate images into an usage flows. InVision solved this problem for us.

Collaboration and Iteration
InVision allows you to comment on the design, on screen. I’ve used it many times to allow the customers provide their feedback that our designers took into consideration and rapidly made changes. This makes the flow of

concept -> visual design -> flow -> feedback -> design fixes

much faster and reaches a much better outcome.

Kudos for the InVision team – great work!

Trying the new SurfaceRT

I’m writing this post on a new SurfaceRT at the Windows store in Stanford mall. Was trying to figure out for myself what’s the value of this product, can it really be the single replacement for an iPad and a laptop. Short answer – not yet…

Keyboard experience:

I’ve started with the ‘touch cover’ ($119.99) keyboard – that didn’t really work well for me. It kept missing key strokes and I switched to the Type Cover ($129.99) which feels much more natural for typing.

Touch experience on the screen – seems very good. Similar to the iPad – no meaningful latencies.

Design, Look & Feel –

The non windows experience (metro) looks very modern and cool – slick. But when you press the famous ‘start’ button – you get to the old view of windows. Personally not my taste, but I’m sure some people will feel at home ;)

Bottom line – could give a fight to the iPad specifically on productivity, however, I’m keeping my Mac for a bit longer.



Pro-Customer Company – How to?

We’ve organized the first ever Customer Success Summit last week in San Francisco. The motivation for the event was a constant request by customers and prospects who want to connect with their pier group to discuss their experience and challenges around Customer Success.

We’ve started calling this becoming a ‘Pro-Customer Company‘. Companies have to change to become Customer Centric, they need to pro-actively react to customer lifecycle events and they need to learn and implement the methods professionally.

Here’s my take as presented at the event. Enjoy!

Gmail new Compose and why I like it!

Google has changed the way composing new messages works in Gmail. Now when clicking compose, Gmail opens a new window layered on top of the inbox instead of switching to another widow as it used to be.

I like it a lot. Now I can write several email messages without the need to switch between browser window. Gmail was always rapidly fast, but with this new behavior it is feels even faster than before.

Gmail also changed the reply button behavior. This is something I don’t really get nor like. It feels confusing an improper, but I’m not sure why it gets me such ‘messy’ feeling.

I’m sure that this rollout of new features is highly monitored by Google Gmail analytics capabilities, and within few days Google will conclude their A/B testing and come up with the winning model for the reply button behavior.

This is yet another proof to the power of single page applications (SPA) in modern web development. Now it’s easier to do with frameworks like Ember.js (which we use and love at Totango), Angular and others.

SockExchange ;)

Put bunch of creative people in a single room, task them with solving a serious problem with software, and here is what you get:

sockExchange from Luke Simshauser on Vimeo.

Being more serious, if you have budget for one conference a year, no doubt about it, business of software in Boston.


Bill Gates asked me this…

I’ve just received the following email from Quora. What do you think is this the real Bill Gates? Should I answer? Maybe we should pivot Totango into a CRM for VCs?

5 Traits of User Onboarding Craftsman

If you haven’t looked at Jordan Koschei‘s  analysis of dropbox user onboarding flow, you should go ahead and read it here. I’ve also found this interesting thread on Quora with other examples of good user onboarding flows.

User onboarding is a critical part of the product usage and adoption lifecycle. When users have the option from thousands of products and services to choose from, the first ‘feel’ of a product becomes very important to the success of a new product or service implementation.

Every online product manager is aware that to achieve both, there is tension between:

  • getting people to complete necessary steps in order to start seeing value from their product; and at the same time
  • making sure not to overwhelm them with unnecessary information/tasks/steps.

In the case of Totango onboarding, we’ve had a heated internal debate with one camp feeling that we’re imposing too much effort upfront by requiring a Javascript implementation, and the other camp feeling that we could ask for way less information and provide just enough value before getting deeper. We’ve called the new approach the ‘drop-in’ project. I’m happy to admit, as the leader of the ‘aggressive camp’ that I was completely wrong. The drop-in yielded fantastic results of higher rates and much faster  onboarding.

Crafting a great user experience while building a successful user onboarding flows is like an art, or more precisely a craft of minimalism.

Too little effort upfront will leave users underwhelmed with your product and too much effort upfront will turn away new users.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem and have been working with Totango customers on their user onboarding flows. You can read about nCircle’s journey here. From working with many customers like this, I have been able to find 5 rules of thumb that lead to great user onboarding implementations:

1. It’s all about the core value
When designing the onboarding implementation you should carefully understand the core  of your application. In most applications, there are many things people can do, however, you’re designing the best way for people to understand your service value without interruptions and without extra unnecessary steps.

2. User-centric approach
Think about who your user is in a very concrete way. Where did they come from, what have they done prior to initiating your “getting started” experience, what language do they speak, which device are they using? By preemptively getting this data, you don’t need to ask redundant questions and they don’t need to fill data you already have.

3. Have an owner, have a team
Someone has to own the onboarding project, which will take time to get right. Have someone (you?) own it and drive it to success. It will require many follow up changes and decisions that will impact the results. Also, important, make sure you have an implementation team in place that can follow up with UI, graphics, flow, copy (language) changes.

4. Iterate, iterate, iterate…
You will probably need hundreds of changes, some of them very minor while other very significant to get it right. You’ll have to go through many cycles of analysis and learning to get it right.
The key metrics you should care about are:

  • Onboarding success rate – of the people who started (and you care about) how many successfully completed the onboarding flow, and how many dropped and why?
  • Time to onboard – optimize for the minimal time to successfully onboard new users. Track that time and find ways to improve it.
  • Engagement – the rate of onboarded users who ended up frequently using the service/app
  • Monetization –  the rate of successfully onboarded users who ended up paying

5. Remove steps

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away“. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is an all-time favorite of mine, and it’s true in user onboarding as well. Always consider removing steps, you’ll be amazed by the results.

Which products do you find with the best onboarding experience? Let’s use the comments thread below to praise those products.

Palo Alto – New home for Totango

It has been 10 days since I’ve moved my family to Palo Alto. Just about the same time, we’ve moved Totango to a new office on Forest St. in Palo Alto.

I’m really excited about the change, these are exciting times for Totango and myself personally.