The reward for progress is usually silence
Nearly two years ago, when Team Scheduling had just come out, Ali, Geoff, and I were sitting at our desk discussing the new feature that we had just shipped. For many years, we had lost deals – particularly anything above 20 seats – because Accelo didn’t have a way to see how busy the team is, was, and will be. We would get far in the sales process, and the conversation would just stop; we couldn’t continue.
Then Team Scheduling came out. Deals started flowing further downstream. It wasn’t like the potential customers were commenting on how amazing the features were or congratulating our Dev Team for the really nice drag and drop functionality. It was just there – and because it worked (mostly) – there was no reason to comment.
Similar to fish swimming in water, for them, there was no reason to comment (if they could) on the water around them unless there was no water, then it would be very easy to comment as a flailing and beached fish.
The reason I bring this up now is that we just released our biggest ship since I joined the company – the invoice upgrade – and I’m feeling a similar thing to two years ago: relative silence.
We’ve dropped invoicing time massively for current customers. For sales, we can now put “Yes” on another line item of a 200-row spreadsheet and move a little further down and closer to a win. But just like Team Scheduling, it now just exists.
Not many people know the behind-the-scenes journey we took to get this point. And with a quickly growing customer base, a greater number of our customers will not know our path to this point. Soon, there will be more customers who know us as Accelo rather than former-AffinityLive and who are utterly confused about what what an AffinityLive is and why it keeps showing up in dark, random corners of our Terms of Services or API docs 😉
When things work, our customers don’t complain. It’s only when we make something that so far exceeds their expectation that we delight them into sharing with friends or thanking us.
Self help guide
This was what people complained about the most in support land. Then we wrote the Learn the Basics guide and we get “I’ve gone through the guide and watched the videos and I can’t figure xyz out.” They’ve gotten so far with our well-written online help that they are reaching out for the next step -that’s not necessarily so bad. Maybe it’s designed to be like that. And sometimes we hear a small voice break through and it reminds us that it’s worth it.
What it’s advertised to do: it helps.
User-centric sales process
We’ve totally remastered the selling experience – putting guidance and a trial front and center instead of hiding ourselves behind layers of qualification and calls. Helping them build a workflow and sending them a demo video gets a “oh, that’s nice.” But sometimes a voice like Bridget breaks through the silence, and we are reminded that it’s worth it.
An always improving product
With the invoice upgrade, a small uproar at the end of the month, and then silence. Martin from Gamcorp breaks through and reminds us why it’s worth it.
And more generally, as the backbone of our team, the product people, are not often talking to customers, and if they are, it’s a bug from JIRA with a customer pulling their hair about time logs not being in the right place or about an import that went south.
Possibly, we are developing a feature that’s a major product gap and we don’t feel it’s exciting and when the customer responds on a blog post “oh, finally.”
We need to listen harder to softer and confident voices who are helping build our company. Like those of Andy from GetStarted, who say “You guys are on the right track and are building something great. I believe in your vision and I’m on this path that we are building together. Because without you, I would be nowhere. I’ve tried to build this in-house, and it doesn’t work. And although you are the only option, it’s ok. I know you’re not perfect, neither am I. Our business model is new just like yours. Our team is small, but growing, just like yours. We are creative, nerdy, overwhelmed, mostly bearded, drink strong coffee, smart, love our customers, curious, hardworking and build fast.”