A couple of months ago, our CEO, Rob Bernshteyn wrote The One Question Not to Ask Your Startup SaaS Vendor. That question is, “how much individual attention will I get?”an article titled
Rob’s point was that while attention is important, the core value proposition from SaaS is the ability to leverage crowd-sourced best practices gleaned from data collected from all the users of the platform, versus the individual customizations that were prevalent in the on-premise software world.
The article resonated with me, (as well as some other SaaS folks) because as the leader of a SaaS customer success organization, I have to balance executing on the traditional customer service principle, “the customer is always right” with bringing customers into alignment with best practices that we know will ultimately lead to customer success. In my position, you don’t want to be the yes-man, but you don’t want to be the no-man either.
Say "no" to just saying no
When a customer wants to do something outside of a best practice, some organizations will just say, "No, you can't.” That leaves the customer frustrated and wondering what’s wrong with their way of doing things. It’s also not in the spirit of creating the kind of partnership that is critical for customer success with SaaS.
On the other hand if you just say yes, and you don’tdig deep enough, and talk to the right people, you can end up building something that institutionalizes a process that may not lead to success over the long term.
The answer is to dig deeper, and keep an open mind. I think the best approach is, "We do have the best practices in mind as we design our product, but what we really want is to work with you on what you're considering your best practices."
Instead of teaching implementation people to say no, customer success organizations need to say, "Let's look at your business process and really understand what it is you’re trying to achieve with it. Is there flexibility as long as we get the desired outcome? Can we configure the product to get there another way?"
Learning from the customer
There are also times when what a customer is doing makes us reconsider what we think are best practices. As the platform company, we have a lot of insight, but we don’t always know everything. Sometimes we learn from the customer.
For example, we had an Oil and Gas industry summit here recently. Companies in that space came and spent the day with our product managers to discuss some of the best practices for their industry. It gave us an opportunity to understand at a deeper level what they’re trying to do and see how we can take some generic features of our platform and make them configurable to support the requirements of their industry.
Another example: We have a customer that operates a thousand healthcare facilities. We met with their executive leadership to go through their wish list of changes they’d like to see in our product. Three out of their top ten were around how the people in their clinics order. Executive leaders wanted the ability to combine requisitions into a single purchase order to cut down on shipping costs.
That’s a fair requirement, but when we sat down with the people in the clinics, and looked at their workflow, what they actually wanted was to be able to track what they needed throughout the day and then be able to submit one consolidated, clinic-wide order.
The outcome, a single purchase order with reduced shipping costs, along with greater visibility into order tracking, was the same, but the workflow functionality was different than what the executive team was looking for.
Looking beyond face value
If we had taken the request at face value, we would have built something that wouldn't have necessarily made a lot of sense for the broader industry. Instead, it was an opportunity to deepen our knowledge of their business and build something that addressed a core industry requirement across the board. That’s a lot harder than just saying yes or no.
Part of the skill-set a young SaaS company needs to develop is the ability to see beyond the customer’s unique view of themselves and get to the core issue at hand. You have to then be able to take that, and create a product or a tweak that works for a broader audience and extend it to include implementation, best practices and collateral so that it’s a complete package.
My experience is that customers are far more open to “push back” than you might expect, so long as it is done in the spirit of partnership and “no” isn’t the first word out of your mouth. They actually want someone to dive in and to understand at a deeper level what they're trying to do and come back with recommendations that will help them be successful.
When we can bring case studies, and benchmarks and have the right conversations with the right people, we can often reach alignment on best practices. And when we can’t, we can usually align on a path toward getting to best practices over time.
Ultimately, it’s not about the customer always being right, or the platform provider always being right. It’s about working as partners to be right, and successful, together. I think that’s what SaaS providers are striving for. It’s what I’m striving for.
Ravi Thakur is Vice President, Customer Success at Coupa.
In the 2014 CPO Rising Report from Ardent Partners, final segment of our interview series with Andrew Bartolini, lead analyst at Ardent, we asked him, why now?the analyst firm announces a bold, year-long initiative to work toward an industry-standard definition of “spend under management.” In the
Bartolini believes refining that definition is crucial to helping organizations more accurately benchmark their performance in order to perform as well as they can, and that we’ve gotten to the point where this can be done. We agree, and want to be part of that conversation.
Today, Amit Duvedi, Vice President Business Strategy at Coupa shares his proposal for a new
“How much spend do you have under management?”
My role at Coupa is to help companies establish a business case for technology to better
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Through the Coupa cloud platform, we track hundreds ofmetrics to help us continually improve our platform and help our customers be successful.
The annual Coupa Benchmark is designed companies by sharing data on some of these key finance and procurement performance indicators. The Benchmark includes metrics about ten critical areas where we commonly find that companies do not know how good they can be. Over the coming weeks, we'll be sharing these with you in depth.
Today's featured benchmark is number of
Through the Coupa cloud platform, we track hundreds of Coupa Benchmark is designed to provide finance and procurement organizations with broad visibility and guidance by sharing data on some of these key performance indicators. It includes metrics about ten of the areas where we commonly find that companies do not know how good they can be. Over the coming weeks, we'll be sharing these with you in depth.metrics in order to help us continually improve our platform and help our customers be successful. The annual
This week's featured benchmark is Requsition-to-Order cycle time. This is
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Here’s another good reason: Because the government says so. According to a recent Economist article, governments in several Latin American countries are requiring all companies to issue invoices electronically. The move helps governments nip tax fraud in the bud and, ensures they collect all the tax revenue they are entitled to.
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When designing apps, it's tempting to want to include a laundry list of features that will please everyone. The most successful app developers have found that less is more. Overloading apps can lead to problems. Too many features tend to confuse and annoy users. With over 21 billion app downloads in 2013, it's a crowded marketplace. The most successful apps today are using flat, simple typographical designs. Here's an in-depth look at this evolving trend and some exemplary apps.
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That’s why Coupa mobile is bringing invoice approval to your cell phone. You’ll see all of the key invoice details right on your screen, so you can approve invoices that are ready to pay, reject any invoices that have issues, and leave comments to let everyone in the approval chain know why. When it’s this easy you don’t have to worry about interruptions to your other responsibilities.
Check it out in this 45-second video starring our mulit-talented dev team, Martijn (Invoice PM), Chris Yin (Mobile PM), Sal and Jeff (iOS Devs), Pallavi, Rofaida and Suzie, who's helping us put a stranglehold on our competition when she's not making videos. Props to Adhitya (our film intern), for recording and editing!