Driving customer adoption can feel like herding cats

TLDR: You defined the customer journey.  You onboard & train new users. You make support and knowledge resources available. And still, users don’t adopt your products in the timeframe and manner that you want.

To be great at driving adoption, we have to recognize that there’s no singular user journey.  Rather, there are many.  Get ready to herd some cats.

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3 ways to improve NPS® using email

TLDR: I wrote recently about how we’re analyzing NPS® all wrong. We need to look deeper at the engagement and usage history as the drivers of NPS. And perhaps worry less about customer segmentation as a source of new insights.

Since email is a primary communication channel, how can we use it to improve NPS?

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On tolerating intolerance

The bruising election has caused a lot of soul-searching on my part. And I suspect for many others too.

My moral framework values tolerance, inclusion and diversity. I feel like I am in the throes of a deep dilemma:

In the face of intolerant behavior of others, what is the appropriate response?  Tolerance or intolerance?

To that end, this quote has haunted me for a year:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

First, we have a president-elect for which his office demands the respect and support of its citizens. What to do when the person occupying the office behaves intolerantly (to put it kindly)? What exactly is being sanctioned?

Second, we have friends & family around us who exhibit intolerant behaviors. This was the case before and after the election.

Has anything changed in terms of how one should respond? Is it now more important to speak out against such behavior? Or to look past these issues to focus on people’s admirable qualities?

I wish I knew.


An open letter to Senators Feinstein and Harris

I sent this letter by mail today.  Here’s a copy of what I wrote.

Dear Senators Harris and Feinstein,

First, thank you for your service. I am proud to have you represent me as a citizen and resident of California.

With our president-elect, there is much fear and doubt. Will he exhibit the needed temperament for the job? Will he represent the interests of all Americans, or just his supporters, or just his own? Who will oppose him when there is a need?

I’m sure I speak for many Californians in saying that your role in our government is more important than ever. California on the whole is a socially progressive state, and wants further progress.

I respectfully ask you to consider doing the following.

Be courageous.

Californians will follow your leadership, and respect your choices, more for your courage of convictions than your specific positions and less for whether they align with the interests of a particular voter segment within our state.

We need fighters right now, because fighting is (sadly) going to be the political norm.

Politics and public discourse are going to happen in the public eye and in the court of public opinion, less in the backrooms of Capitol Hill.

As a former Massachusetts resident, I can tell you how admired Senator Warren is for her tenacity. Perhaps knowing this helps gird you for the same.

Embrace the basis of Trump’s support.

There is a desire for real, material change to the political status quo. Mr. Trump tapped into this desire to be sure.

This is a non-partisan issue, as evidenced by Senator Sanders’ success in the primaries as an outsider running with a platform of “political revolution” including changing the role of special interests in politics.

Term limits, campaign finance reform, and reducing the influence of special interests’ money over politicians and policy – these are unifying changes welcomed by Americans of all political affiliation.

I doubt Americans are interested in nuance at this time. One is either strongly for such charge, or not. Those who are seen as incumbents protecting the status quo will be poorly judged as resisting change.

Please consider being strongly for this.

Protect and expand the social progress we’ve made.

America is better for legalizing gay marriage. And for having elected a black president. And for having a female presidential candidate who won the popular vote. And for decriminalizing marijuana so that huge numbers of people will no longer be incarcerated over what we now deem a lesser or non-offense.

However, hateful speech is amongst us, and may well be followed by hateful action.

The weak, disenfranchised, women, and minorities of all types need a voice for equality. More than ever. And while there has been much progress, there is much more needed until we truly live up to the founding spirit of this great country.

We take for granted perhaps the special diversity and tolerance that we enjoy in California. The rest of our country needs your voice for their sake too.

Thank you.

The next four years are going to be hard for you and for America.

Such is the nature of change; it never happens in a predictable or controlled fashion. Rather, it happens spasmodically and unpredictably.

In such an environment, one could be tempted to entrench along party lines. But it is partisanship that Americans want less of.

We can make social progress, and we can fulfill Americans’ desire for a political system that better serves them.

I hope that you may summon the strength and courage on our behalf and with our support.

Sincerely, Don MacLennan

I could be happy today

Let’s assume that Trump’s voters elected him as a change agent to “drain the swamp” of status quo political insiders in Washington.  This is certainly a prevailing explanation for some or most of his support.

If Trump embraces that mandate, then his first 100 days agenda should be to implement congressional term limits and implement campaign finance reform (and reduce the broader role of special interests’ use of money to affect policies).

This would be a hugely popular and unifying outcome for Americans.

There’s a strong base of Democratic support for the same.  After all, Bernie Sanders made huge inroads as an outsider candidate running on a platform of “political revolution” including campaign finance reform.

Really, this is a non-partisan issue. America is tired of its political class. Congressional approval ratings reached a historic low of 12% in the last 2 years. Special-interest money in politics is indisputably influential.

One could even argue that voter opposition to Trump wasn’t over the desire to disrupt the political class’ status quo, but rather his suitability as the agent of change and as a president on the whole.

I could be happy if Trump made this this 100-day agenda.

Leading and lagging indicators of customer success

There was a recent discussion over on the Customer Success LinkedIn group about defining leading and lagging indicators for customer success.

Here’s my take on which is which, through the prism of churn risk.

Indicators or outcome measures?

Before we get to indicators, let’s start with defining the outcome measures.  These are the standard business metrics that are used to measure success. They sometimes get confused with leading indicators.

Some examples:

  • Logo and revenue renewal rates
  • Churn rate
  • Period-over-period revenue growth per customer
  • Lifetime value

Therefore, indicators aren’t financial metrics so much as they are operational measures.  And the best indicators are the ones you can link to the outcomes you care about.

For example, take your churn events: can you unpack your churn outcomes to spot the leading and lagging indicators in retrospect?

Lagging indicators

If we’re looking for churn indicators, think of lagging indicators as the evidence of customer risk that could turn into a bad outcome in the near term.

Some examples:

  • Account escalation
  • Low license utilization
  • Negative feedback / surveys near a renewal date
  • Refund requests / discount requests
  • Account downsell

Leading indicators

Think of leading indicators as the earliest signs of a customer struggling to achieve value and success.

It’s easiest to conceive of early indicators when the customer relationship itself is early:

  • Slow time to first value
  • Slow initial adoption
  • Negative feedback and/or low survey scores
  • High volumes of support tickets (depending on what’s in them)

Others indicators can be signs of churn risk even when the relationship is otherwise stable:

  • Declining adoption
  • Negative feedback and surveys
  • Lack of engagement


There are plenty of indicators you can pay attention to; too many, in fact.  So the goal is to focus on a subset.  

Start with just one outcome that matters most.  For example, “flat or reduced renewals”.

Unpack that outcome to spot the indicators.  Get good at monitoring them, and responding to them reliably.

Once you’ve established some focus, you face a choice. Stay the course or introduce additional outcome measures with their indicators? Regardless, start simple.

I’m sad today

Trump’s election makes me sad. Although there is a winner, there really aren’t any “winners”.

I’m sad for the people who voted for him that come from rural America and working class backgrounds. They have a reason to be upset because their past prosperity is diminished. But I fear that Trump used them as a vehicle to gain office, not because he was a champion of theirs in his heart of hearts.

I’m sad for those same people because the jobs and prosperity they used to have are gone forever. Such is the nature of capitalism and globalization and the internet-enabled world. Those old jobs aren’t coming back, no matter the leader or his policies. They were sold a story that they can have their past back, which they can’t.

I’m sad because the true source of future prosperity for those people is learning new things, and we’re not talking about investing in them to enable this. Education has been and always will be the great enabler of economic progress. This retooling of our workforce could take a generation, and sadly no politician wants to run on a platform of long-term solutions over short-term rhetoric.

I’m sad for women. It’s a double-barreled setback for gender equality when a viable female candidate was beaten by a provable sexist.

I’m sad for immigrants and ethnic minorities. We’re repeating another cycle of blaming the country’s woes on the newcomers and politically weak. Ask the African Americans of the South, Boston Irish, New York Italians or San Francisco Japanese how it felt in past decades when they were scapegoated for whatever problem the country faced at the time. Obama’s presidency as a step forward in race relations now seems to be at risk.

I’m sad for children, who see a leader who says things they know to be wrong and aren’t allowed to say in their own homes. This didn’t make our jobs as parents any easier when it comes to teaching our children civility and a moral code.

I’m sad for LGBT communities, because the long road to acceptance and inclusion is made longer during times of intolerance. We’ve come so far in 50 years on gay rights; I fear the progress will be stalled.

I’m sad that our country’s electorate is divided along such clear lines: rural versus urban, and the associated industries that sustain each populace. These divisions are a cultural and industrial chasm that don’t appear to be on a path to any near-term convergence.

As such, we have no winners today.

We have many who lost. We have others who think they won, but really didn’t gain a long term solution to their ills.

7 uncomfortable questions about user adoption

TLDR: If you’re like many folks in Customer Success, you spend most of your days working with key stakeholders at your customer accounts.  People like business sponsors, department leaders, admins and projects managers.

Suddenly, the week is over and you haven’t spent a minute with the actual users of your product.  

If you believe – as I do – that product adoption is the most important driver of customer retention and growth, then it’s important to confront this reality.

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