Archive for September 2010

Just what this industry needs: Moxie

September 15, 2010

mox·ie  [mok-see]
–noun Slang
1.
vigor; verve; pep.
2. courage and aggressiveness; nerve.
3. skill; know-how.

Today is a big day for one of TSIA’s long time partners, the new Moxie Software–formerly nGenera/Talisma, known for their customer information management (CIM) multi-channel customer service and knowledge management solutions. Today’s announcement was more than just a rebranding of the company, it is also a major realignment of solutions that I think is good news for technology buyers–especially those interested in bridging the gap between internal and external communities.

When nGenera acquired Talisma back in 2008, the company thoughtfully kept the new division separate from nGenera corporate, known for enterprise collaboration solutions and consulting. Clearly there were great synergies between the two groups, but nGenera was still building out their Spaces solution, and the new nGenera CIM division was hit with criticism by some industry analysts that the nGenera executive team, mostly known as a consulting group and Web 2.0 ‘think tank,’ didn’t have the chops to run a packaged software company.

nGenera CIM did absolutely the right thing–they continued to deliver on their roadmap, making some key functional announcements as well as some strategic OEM relationships that further built their reputation for multi-channel service, and they continued to close some major deals, often taking business from other best of breed players.

I have railed in the past about a fatal flaw in the strategy of leading community platforms which focused solely on customer communities, ignoring employee communities because they couldn’t make enough money on page views with internal audiences. But anyone who understands customer communities knows that employees are a critical piece of the customer community, and fostering a vibrant employee community that can share information and collaborate with customers is a critical piece of the Web 2.0 vision. And the vendors who did offer employee communities were just reselling the platform used for customers. But don’t internal communities have some unique requirements?

The new Moxie Software bridges this gap, bringing together nGenera’s Employee Engagement Spaces with Talisma’s Customer Engagement Spaces, creating a seamless end-to-end collaboration platform. I won’t repeat the whole announcement, but there are a couple of great value-adds in the Moxie vision, including Social Policy Management and social search (listening and sentiment analysis), which are two of the ‘bleeding edge’ topics discussed by technology buyers today.

If anyone has concerns that the people who so successfully brought the last few versions of nGenera CIM to market would be displaced with this reorganization and rebranding, check out the Moxie executive team. Nikhil Govindaraj, Vice President of Products for nGenera CIM, is now VP of Products for all of Moxie. And Tara Sporrer, VP, Marketing and Sales Operations for nGenera CIM, also transitioned to running marketing and sales operations for all of Moxie. Congratulations to you both!

I wish Moxie Software all the best with the new name, new direction, and renewed energy. And as always, thanks for reading!

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Fight Fire with Facts: Take TSIA’s Maintenance Pricing Survey and Receive a Copy of Results!

September 14, 2010

It ain’t easy out there for enterprise hardware and software sales reps, especially when annual maintenance agreements are due for renewal. Although every study I’ve ever seen shows that OnDemand costs more than OnPremise after 3-4 years, enterprise customers continue to threaten a retreat to the cloud during renewal discussions for OnPremise technology to keep prices down. It doesn’t help when the CEO of the largest SaaS software vendor continually preaches “death to maintenance” to the press, who print these exaggerated comments without challenge.

We know from our TSIA benchmark that renewal rates are down, and discounts are up: I think it may be fair to say that traditional maintenance pricing practices are under siege, and technology companies must understand the new dynamics out there. Last year we launched our very first Maintenance Pricing Survey to gather additional information about how companies create pricing and discount strategies in a Web 2.0 world, and the findings were not only interesting–they were incredibly helpful to our members.

This week we have launched the 2010 Maintenance Pricing Survey, which collects information on several important factors impacting maintenance revenues, including:

  • Trends in pressure from customers to reduce maintenance prices
  • Strategies and tactics to deal with those pressures
  • Maintenance contract “attach” rates, warranty conversion rates, and contract renewal rates
  • Maintenance contract sales compensation plans and practices
  • Average service & support revenue and margin contributions
  • Impact of executive compensation plans and customer satisfaction scores on maintenance revenues
  • …and much more.

Most of our surveys are only open to TSIA members, and only TSIA members have access to the results. This survey, however, is open to the entire tech support community, and everyone who takes the survey will receive a copy of the resulting report for free. Please take a few minutes and complete the survey using this link:

http://apps.tsia.com/research_portal/PublicSurveyStartPage.aspx?username=public&password=E1-0A-DC-39-49-BA-59-AB-BE-56-E0-57-F2-0F-88-3E&surveyid=36

Thanks for reading, and a big thanks for completing the survey!

A Conversation with Kyle Andrews: Creating Business Value Changes Customer Perceptions and Wins More Business

September 8, 2010

With services revenues on the rise compared to product revenues, technology companies are finding that their services organization is under the scrutiny of Wall Street for the very first time–with some positive and negative results. On the positive side, service organizations (including PS, tech support and field service) are getting more visibility and respect. On the downside, the thirst for additional services revenue grows, and companies struggle to identify the right services, in the right package, at the right price point, to meet the needs to today’s customers.

If I could pick one area of service and support with which most companies could use assistance, I’d have to go with services marketing. I’d even go so far as to say “services marketing” is an oxymoron in many companies–the skill sets required to be good service and support techies do not lend themselves easily to marketing. Luckily, there are a few experts out there who can teach you these essential skills, and a great example is an upcoming Professional Development Workshop entitled “Creating Business Value Changes Customer Perceptions and Wins More Business,” at our TSW Conference in Las Vegas on Monday, October 18th.  The workshop instructor is Kyle Andrews, founding partner of Pretium Partners, a long time TPSA and TSIA partner. For over 15 years, Kyle has helped clients learn how to define the business value created by their solutions and how to work with their customers to develop a business case that explains it. I was able to schedule some time to sit down and talk to Kyle about the role of services in tech companies and his upcoming workshop.

John Ragsdale: Kyle, it is great to see you! Thanks for making time for this interview!

Kyle Andrews: Thank you, John, I appreciate being here!

John: I wanted to start with services marketing. In your workshop, you demonstrate how to create meaningful offer messaging and content to help marketing and sales align their efforts. Do you find marketing skills are hard for service professionals to master, or are you seeing more hiring of marketing-savvy types for service and support roles?

Kyle: It’s not that marketing skills are harder for service professionals than anyone else but marketing is a profession of its own. When a technology company has a commitment to a service strategy, then you’ll see marketing professionals for the service business. Too often service marketing is underfunded due to a lack of real commitment to the business.

Sales and marketing have the common goal of finding and retaining customers but their actions are not always aligned even with seasoned marketing professionals. In this workshop we are addressing an important gap: marketing and sales messaging, especially around points of differentiation and claims of value. Our clients hire us to teach their sales teams to sell value; yet, the marketing message remains focused on product and capability and worse yet, is not competitively differentiated.

John: Let’s talk services revenue. The good old days of “gold, silver and bronze” are long gone. How do you see companies going about finding new sources for services revenue? Any industry trends you’d like to report?

Kyle: When service solutions are designed to address known business problems, then value can be easily demonstrated. Innovations in collaboration technologies have improved knowledge sharing and have reduced the time to solve problems…for the provider and the customers. Knowledge management technologies have allowed service providers to increase the overall proficiency of the technicians, consultants and other providers. Bundling capabilities and technologies in creative ways AND being able to demonstrate the value to the customer is essential. (more…)

A Conversation with Sharon Pettigrew: Support Center 101–Back to Basics

September 2, 2010

In our last public webcast, we surveyed members asking with what topics they most needed assistance, and the answers surprised me. No mentions of what TSIA views as ‘strategic’ issues like support margins and Value Added Service; the list was very tactical, with the top issues being how to better train support techs and what organizational structures work the best. This is yet another reminder to me that while looking at the ‘big picture’ is important, you can’t overlook the basic blocking and tackling that can make or break a support organization. And with rising complexity, shorter product cycles, global customers and a myriad of other factors, companies are constantly re-evaluating what ‘best practices’ are and making adjustments to core operations.

To learn more about core operational best practices and how they are changing, I sat down with industry guru Sharon Pettitgrew, founder of The Call Center Group, with over 25 years of experience in reengineering sales, support, and service operations at Apple, Sprint, and multiple start-ups. Sharon will be presenting a professional development workshop on Monday, October 18th as part of our TSW Conference in Las Vegas, “Support Center 101: Back to Basics Bootcamp.”

John Ragsdale: Sharon, I’m glad we were able to schedule time to talk about your workshop and what you see going on in the industry.

Sharon Pettigrew: John, it’s great to be here.  Thanks for the opportunity to share my perspective on the rapidly changing landscape in the support industry.  The members of TSIA are at the forefront of a massive change in the role, delivery and measurement of support organizations.  Support managers are being asked to expand their channels, reduce costs of support and improve Customer Satisfaction.  With these competing demands, the array of technology promising to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the support organization can be  confusing and intimidating.  With many failed massive CRM initiatives in the recent past, executives want to identify the few key initiatives and enabling technologies which will actually produce improved outcomes for their customers.

Tom Minick and I have a combined experience of over 50 years, mostly with high growth, high tech clients.  We always have our eye on  emerging technology which can change the support model.  Our focus on design and implementation trends toward the “industrial strength” solutions that will provide real results and enable organizations to achieve specific, measurable goals in support.   Due to the shift to Software as a Service (SaaS) Solutions, many vendors now offer an on demand model which reduces both the risk and the cost of innovative technology for Support Operations.

The industry trends that we believe offer the greatest benefit for Support Organizations center around the Cloud Based Computing Models and shared infrastructure.  If the support team is able to focus on People, Process and Technology as the cornerstones of their operation, they can assess their issues and opportunities to create a road-map for achieving specific outcomes.   The good news in the industry is that Support is getting greater visibility in the corporation as Customer Retention and Loyalty are critical in a tough economic climate.  The limelight is on Support to deliver an experience that meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations.  How can we as Support Professionals achieve these goals?  How can we align our People, Process and Technology to deliver an excellent customer experience across multiple channels?  What is the role of Social Media and Communities in delivering the support message to our customers and creating meaningful dialogues?

John: I’m thrilled you are offering a Support Center Bootcamp at our upcoming conference. Considering call centers and support operations have been active now for a couple of decades or more, why do you think there is still such a struggle to successfully manage tactical operations? Why is there so much ongoing interest in blocking and tackling?

Sharon: You are right, John, that designing and managing support operations has become increasingly complex.   (more…)