Building a Seamless Customer Experience Through a Unified Digital Business



Vanessa Lucero: Hello everyone and welcome to today’s webinar: Building a Seamless Customer Experience Through a Unified DIgital Business, brought to you by Technology and Services Industry Association and sponsored by Certinia.

My name is Vanessa Lucero and I’ll be your moderator for today.

Well, we have quite the exciting discussion planned for you today with all of the talented speakers you see listed here, that being said, I’ll turn things over to Joe Thomas, Solution Evangelist of Analytics for Certinia, who will be leading the conversation. Joe, take it away.

Joe Thomas: Great. Thanks, Vanessa, and thank all of you for joining us for today’s session on Building a Seamless Customer Experience Through a Unified Digital Business.

As Vanessa mentioned, I’m Joe Thomas. I’m the Analytics Evangelist here at Certinia. I’m really just going to moderate today’s discussion because what I have is a really great panel of industry experts. What we try to do with these panels is have a multitude of perspectives, and that’s certainly something we’re delivering today.

I’m very happy to have with me representatives of customers of ours, people that drive the ecosystem that we play in, implementation partners, and – of course – industry experts from TSIA.

So, I’ll just do a quick introduction of the participants. From a customer perspective, we have Tyler Flora. He’s the Senior Director of Professional Services at Avalara. He’ll introduce himself when he answers the first question. Covering the ecosystem that we play in is Bryant Bonner, Senior Director of Business Value Services at Salesforce. Very happy to have one of our leading implementation partners, Nick Anderson from VFP. And, of course, probably no stranger to any of you, representing, I would say, the industry perspective and graciously sharing some recent data – teasing out some data that I think is going to get presented at the TSIA event later this month – is John Ragsdale.

So, I’m going to get right to it. For my first question, I mean, for many of us, we’re now past the 18-month point since we were last in an office or last used some non-Cloud-based software. How has service delivery changed for the better for you and your customers? What’s been your biggest challenge or challenges that you see from a customer/employee standpoint?

Tyler, I’m going to start with you.

Tyler Flora: Yeah. Thank you, and thank you for the introduction.

Just for everybody’s benefit, again, my name is Tyler Flora. I’m one of our senior leaders here within Avalara Professional Services. I’ve been with the company for seven years now, all with professional services. As you already heard, I’m kind of bringing the customer perspective here. We, actually, have been a customer of Certinia now for three years.

To help answer your question a little bit about how has Covid impacted us, we were really fortunate, I think, because we were seeing some of the trends in the industry. We had moved more of our services to a fixed fee, accepting a lower rate of custom projects. Really, we had started the process, again, three years ago of embedding a lot of our customer journey within these tools within Certinia. That really helped us make the overnight switch to being remote quite seamlessly and easily. In fact, because we had been doing that, we had already started being remote.

You know, the fact that we could actually operate in a remote environment actually allowed us to do something that we didn’t anticipate. That was, actually, higher junior resources and be successful in that, in a remote environment. Right? In PS, we call “people are our product.” So, our people have to be successful.

Why I feel like we were ready for this journey and transition, I think the big thing that we learned in all of this is that our customers weren’t. They didn’t have the same tools that they had in the office. In fact, in a lot of cases, they didn’t have the experience of working with their own customers remotely. So, it was a real challenge for them to even figure out how to get the deliverables that they owed us to keep moving projects forward. So, that really forced us to have to rethink how we are working with our customers, how we can make this process or journey with them easier. We had to rethink how often and what we are asking them to do. Is there more that we could be doing on behalf of them? Otherwise, our projects will not move forward.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. Tyler, that’s really interesting. Particularly, the elements of being able to onboard junior people and get value out of them. But I think the piece that was telling, for me, was that while you were ready, your customers weren’t.

Bryant, I’m going to have you jump in here, representing the sort of ecosystem that most of us play in here around the Salesforce piece. Are you seeing the same thing? Where Salesforce, you think you were more ready than your customers for this type of change?

Bryant Bonner: Absolutely, Joe.

Just to give everyone background, I’ve spent the last five years with Salesforce leading our business value services team. So, when customers want to invest in our software, we help them justify the investment and help them realize the value that they’re going to chive from that investment.

Prior to that, I spent about 15-20 years in implementation services. So, I know it very, very well. What we’re seeing across the board are just complete changes in the dimensions of people, processes, technology.

From a people perspective, what we’re seeing are organizations are placing a massive emphasis on agility, service agility. Being able to deliver to their customers anywhere. What we’re seeing are positions like the CROs are being accountable not only dropped on revenue but the end-to-end customer journey across functional teams. I think that’s a key piece.

At a process level, we’re seeing organizations change their business models overnight. I support a lot of the high-tech industry. Most of them had this initial product-centric view of themselves prior to Covid. Now, they’re trying to figure out how do they drive a new business model around subscription-based software as a service-type of approach? What they’re trying to do is really capture the lifetime value of a customer. To do that, they need to simplify their technology stack across the value chain. Imagine trying to change from a product-centric company to a subscription-based company. All the back office, all the changes you have to do in terms of supporting that. It’s monumental.

In terms of the four initiatives that we see most companies taking on right now, it is how do I achieve predictable revenue. It gets back to that subscription model. What are those recurring relationships that I can develop with my customers to ensure long-term customer value? Can we meet customer demand anywhere? Okay, my staff will be anywhere, my customers anywhere. How do we meet customer demand from anywhere? The final thing is agility. When you think about the supply chain issues that we’re seeing as we speak, customers are constantly trying to figure out how do we become more agile? How do I adapt my supply chain to build and meet my new customer demand? That’s what we’re seeing everything focused on right now.


Joe Thomas: Great. Nick, I know you’re elbows deep in professional services, automation implementations, and service delivery. What have you been seeing over the last 18 months? What’s changed for you and your customers?

Nick Anderson: Great question. Hi, everybody. Nick Anderson, managing consultant with VFP Consulting. We are a Salesforce and Certinia implementation partner. So, really focusing on the quote to cash process on the platform. So, that runs a gamut from Sales Cloud to Service Cloud, all the way through service, automation, revenue management, billing central, everything cool to have [unknown 0:09:06] I actually worked with Tyler on their implementation of Certinia. So, good to be on this panel with him and the rest of these fine gentlemen here.

I’ll be coming at this from, obviously, an implementation perspective.

So, leveraging Cloud applications obviously facilitates collaboration without requiring people to be in the same building – pretty key for our day and age right now. After the pandemic kind of changed everything, like every other company in the world, we had to replace those in-person meetings with Zoom. There was an adjustment period, I think, for our customers, but we managed to transition fairly seamlessly into this new delivery method. Since travel has been either totally frozen or greatly reduced over the last year and a half, that allows us as a delivery team to be more efficient. You know, we’re not on planes all the time. We’re home. It’s easier for us to do some work.

As an already distributed team, as VFP with no central office, we were kind of used to that digital collaboration, so we were able to bring our customers along for that ride.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some drawbacks or challenges. You know, the lack of face time with our customers makes it harder to build those good relationships. So, we had to try to find some creative ways to mitigate that, but it’s kind of slowly becoming business as usual as both we and our customers kind of adopt that new paradigm.

Kind of tacking on to what Bryant said, we’re kind of moving more towards fixed-price or subscription-style offerings that kind of reduce some variability for the customer and for us, and give us that more predictable and manageable way of working together to still accomplish the same goals.

So, I think a lot of things are changing, but changing for the better and becoming a little more streamlined. So, good stuff.

Joe Thomas: Great. Thanks, Nick.

Hey, John, I want you to weigh in here, too. I know you’ve got some data, i think, that directly addresses this. Is there anything you would discuss from the tech survey you’ve recently done?

John Ragsdale: Well, one data point from some survey work we did specifically around Covid is 97% of professional services groups said that they planned to continue delivering projects remotely that had previously been delivered on-site.

So, you know, I think a lot of fo companies found that the shift to virtual wasn’t a bad thing, and they didn’t give up any quality and project delivery, and probably at lower margins on projects as well with no travel. So, I think we’re going to see a lot of that continuing.

But to echo a couple of things that Tyler said, one is that I think that the move to remote projects is really accelerating that evolution from custom-pay-as-you-go projects to fixed-price, repeatable projects. Currently, that is now 53% of all PS projects are fixed-price reputable. A decade again, it was about 80% for custom. Particularly for Cloud companies, they typically sell implementation options A, B, or C. So, we’re trying to get away from custom. In my mind, it’s really a win-win because it’s pushing customers into more out-of-box implementations, which ultimately have lower ownership costs, integrate better. Just ultimately deliver value faster.

But another advantage of these projects is every time you deliver it, you can capture best practices and lessons learned and bake those into your project plans. Another thing that Tyler said is they can use a little bit less skilled or experienced people to deliver those kinds of projects because they’re so well documented.

It reminded me, our conference is next week in Las Vegas, and the last time we were together was two years ago. I hosted a breakfast networking session about Millennials and Gen Z entering the tech workforce. One of the people in the discussion was a professional services exec, and he said one of their biggest challenges at the moment is they were hiring these young workers right out of college, and they told them, “You’re going to have to be in training for three months before you ever get put on a project,” they’re like, “I’m out of here. If I can’t do anything for a customer the first week, I’m not going to work for you.”

So, I think the more that we can find ways to better document projects and turn them over to junior people who don’t have to have months and months of training, they can hit the ground running, they’re going to feel valued. Ultimately, it’s going to lower attrition rates on new consultants – which, especially here in the Bay area, attrition is pretty high.

Joe Thomas: Well, I think attrition is high pretty much wherever we look in professional services as people look for the best opportunity. John, thank you, for that perspective. Thank you, everyone. I love getting the multiple perspectives here.

I’m going to move to the second prepared question I’ve got, which is really around the interactions between the various organizations – particularly on the passing of data.

Tyler, I’ll start with you. How do you pass data back and forth between your sales, service delivery support, and CSM organizations to improve customer experience? Do you have a shared experience where your employees are around that? Any best practices that you could share, I think, would be appreciated.

Tyler Flora: I’ve been within customer success organizations for just over 15 years. When I started with Avalara seven years ago within professional services… We had grown a lot through acquisition. So, as we had other professional services teams come on board, we were all working out of different systems. For each of those systems, we had some Cloud-based tools. We had some actually homegrown tools that they had their own developers create. But the key thing within my first four years with Avalara is our teams kept growing. As our number of teams and those teams kept growing, what we really found is this wasn’t sustainable long-term.

A really key challenge that we had was – like a lot of companies – their company lives in Salesforce. The fact that professional services wasn’t – and the fact that we were putting a lot of effort into getting data in or out of those systems or to getting visibility – it really, to us… What we had hoped for was that by living in Salesforce as well for all projects, would deliver the benefits that it really has. In fact, not a big superhero fan, but in the last couple of days as I was thinking about this, it’s almost like Batman and Robin. Like, you have two really great tools. To me, it is the same environment; it is the same system.

So, the pain in the efficiencies that I’ve seen in other customer success organizations and working out of non-connected systems, it’s painful. It feels like they’re on opposite sides of the world, separated by an ocean.

So, the fact that we are all connected and all of our data is there and everyone has access to it, I think there are some really obvious things there. Right? Like anybody can see anything or get any past details – current or past details – about that customer. But it goes beyond that. There is some real power that comes when you have systems that are connected or the exact same system or the same team.

For example, we’re really starting to put a lot of focus and effort because the data’s in one place now. How do certain services or the time in which certain services are completed impact the upsell of additional software within our company? We can easily run that. Multiple people can run that without having to stitch together multiple data sets that don’t quite work as well as you want.

Those high-effort exercises now just become thirty minutes of dreaming of your next report, because you’re working out of the same system and environment.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. As the analytics guy, I know the pain of stitching together those multiple data sets and always trying to flip that script between 90% prep, 10% analysis. Right? Trying to get those numbers flipped. I know how much easier it has been for me living in the Salesforce ecosystem than perhaps the Oracle ecosystem where I spent a lot of time. Just the frustration of trying to do table joins and conform dimensions and those sorts of pieces. Having that all already defined, it’s amazing how quick that is.

And I know the customers appreciate it. Customers appreciate when you talk to them and you know what version they’re on, you know if they used one of your quick starts or not, If an enhancement request that they submitted or a support bug they called in has been resolved or been adopted.

So, yeah. I’m right there with you.

Bryant, is this what you’re seeing overall in the Salesforce ecosystem? I mean, we’ve been singing its praises. Not the total commercial here for Salesforce, but I’ll tell you, as a platform, you make our lives a lot easier.

Bryant Bonner: Well, to echo what Tyler said, you’d be amazed at the number of customers that come to me that talk about the swivel chair issues that they have when they have data in multiple places. So, it’s got to be easily shared. It’s got to be utilized successfully to run an organization.

I kind of have this different frame of reference in terms of data. We’re always talking with our customers around success. How do you define success? How do you measure success? With data, if you get your data right, you can measure it, and you can measure performance and kind of improve.

In the past, we saw organizations measure their organization by customer satisfaction, forecast accuracy, loyalty, MPS (something I still love to measure), employee productivity, and those types of reactionary types of metrics. But what’s changed over the last 18 months now is that people are getting smarter with the data. Once they get the data together, like Tyler mentioned, they can start doing some unique things and predict and get ahead of the curve a little bit.

So, they’re talking about what are those predictable growth measures that we can measure? What is the lifetime value of a customer? How do we retain, expand? It’s so important in a subscription business to sustain your base but then grow it. So, having data in one spot where you can measure is important.

The other thing that I see, and I kind of want to go back to a little bit of what John was mentioning, is we’re seeing this drastic shift around employee engagement. I recently saw a study that shared if you get your customer experience right, you grow at a certain clip. But if you get your employee experience along with customer experience right, you grow at a much faster clip. Like, 1.88x times faster if you are killing it in terms of employee experience and customer experience. I come from the philosophy that if you can make your employees the most important customer in your life, they will then serve your customers in the best way possible.

So, what we’re seeing is just this drastic challenge in need around employee experience.

John, you mentioned we’ve been in this world for 18 months. I had a teammate that took a trip this week to see that team that they’ve been supporting for a year and never met them in person. The thrill that they got to come together and meet each other. Employee elation was something I could never duplicate otherwise.

So, by doing that, and combining that with this amazing customer experience, we’re seeing great growth.

So, what I would share is the data’s got to be in the right spot to help your employees. If you do that and make their experience amazing, your customer experience will be amazing, and you’ll grow dramatically.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. No argument here, Bryant. We’re seeing the same things.

What about you, Nick? What are you seeing in this regard?

Nick Anderson: I mean, my answer is going to sound pretty similar to Bryant and Tyler’s, which is some good alignment here.

With the distributed workforce communicating digitally, it’s becoming even more crucial to have that tech stack that easily supports that real-time collaboration without that in-person connection that we’re all kind of missing right now.

In what Tyler mentioned and Bryant mentioned, having your data connected is imperative to that effort. Right?

So, being on a platform like Salesforce that offers that 360-degree view of your customers and your end-to-end process is a game-changer, and it’s essential to be able to do that in this day and age. Right?

So, we leverage Certinia internally, and having all of our data in one place makes it so much easier for us to deliver quality for our customers, without that added friction that comes with disjointed or loosely connected tools. So, everything we do is connected to and driven off of that one customer record on our Salesforce org, and the delivery flows smoothly from the pre-sales effort of finding that prospect, getting them onboarded, delivering that service, and then invoicing them. Everything is there in one place for us to see end-to-end because it’s all tightly woven together on that platform. We’re not having to worry about maintaining integrations or combining data from disparate systems, like you were talking about, Joe. That’s kind of a pain, right? So, it’s all in one place to easily do that analysis to help drive that customer experience and also that employee experience, like Bryant was mentioning.

So, yeah.

Joe Thomas: Nick, obviously, reducing platforms, synchronizing data: that’s going to be good. Are you seeing any best practices or are there any recommendations VFP makes around the type of dashboards you’re building, the type of data to be collecting in order to drive success from a service delivery standpoint?

Nick Anderson: Yeah. I think it really goes back to that one customer record against which everything is related. Right? So, you can see how it spiderwebs through your whole organization. You have a full view of your engagements with them, past and present. It really just drives that visibility so that you’re not guessing. You’re building decisions out of data, and you can really address customer needs and even spot them ahead of time because you have everything in one place and you’ve got that collected data and that relationship built.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. Breaking up those silos is key. Right? Your support organization has a very different view of a customer than maybe your sales team does or your customer success org does. Right? If you’ve just got that single perspective, you’re probably going to miss 80% of what the customer’s actually thinking. So, that makes a lot of sense.

John, how about you? Is there any data you’ve seen around this or anything that you would share in this area?

John Ragsdale: Well, first of all, Joe, I’d like to thank you for asking this question this way about the impact of data integration and data visibility on the customer experience. Because when I talk to PS execs about data integration, it’s always, “How do I get more accurate sales forecasts?” and, “How do I do better resource forecasting?” That’s very internally focused.

I agree that there is a huge impact on the customer, especially in this era of selling outcomes and selling value that sales has all these conversations about why the customer’s buying it and the expected outcomes. Then, they throw the customer over the wall to PS to implement, and they have no idea what those expectations are. Then they finish this implementation and throw it over the wall to Support, and they have no idea what was customized or integrated.

So, it’s a really disjointed customer experience. I think that in my opinion, what is really driving change is the advent of customer success. When we ask our customer success members if they’re doing a customer journey mapping exercise, 55% of them say they have. I’m showing this data on who is involved in that journey mapping exercise.

Now, people have been talking about doing this for a decade, but when I go on-site with a member company and do a workshop, one of the first questions I ask is, “Do you have an end-to-end customer experience strategy?” They always say yes, and then I say, “Show it to me.” No one has ever had one. Ever, ever, ever.

So, this is really relatively new. There’s been a lot of lip service around doing this, but now it’s actually happening.

So, I think that the fact that someone is really owning the end-to-end customer experience, they’re thinking through these issues. A lot of it is these siloed systems and the disjointed experience for the customer.

So, I’m hoping that that is going to continue. I’m hoping at some point that people may involve the customer in this conversation about what the ultimate customer journey should be. I think it’s a little alarming that zero companies have so far involved the customer in that project. I think they’d have opinions on that topic.

So, yeah. I think it’s getting better. It’s also getting a little easier. I mean, back in the old on-premise days trying to stick these systems together was darn-near impossible. Now, 80% of our members are using Salesforce, so it’s kind of a default platform. Certinia is the top-installed professional services automation, and it’s built on So, you know, integration is automatic.

So, I think, also, from a technology perspective it’s getting easier and easier to do it.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. I know I was able to do some things with analytics, god, in my first 10 weeks of Certinia that I struggled to do in three years in Oracle. It was just the fact that it was that shared platform and being able to have at it. Being able to have that data quickly, easily, it’s game-changing. It has changed the way we operate as a company. I know it’s changed the way some of our customers operate. Just having that view of the customer – the true customer 360-view. Right? Not just the individual silos. It lets you do some pretty amazing things, and lets you discover some really uncomfortable truth in your business. Like, three of your top five customers from a service delivery standpoint aren’t profitable to you, or this type of project always goes over budget. Right? These are uncomfortable truths that a lot of the time get hidden away in the various silo or massaged away in a spreadsheet. Because no one ever looks bad in their own spreadsheet. Right?

Good stuff here, John. John, you’ve graciously prepared for us a sneak peek of some of the findings from the TSIA technology stacks survey. I’m guessing you’re probably going to share a lot of this at the TSIA event next week, but what can you share with us right now with the audience?

John Ragsdale: Well, I appreciate everybody who took the time to take the survey. I know a lot of you in the audience have taken the survey. We are going to be closing the survey and sending the results out on the 18th, the first day of TSW. So, you will automatically get the results by email. So, stay tuned.

But I do have a sneak preview. These are unaudited, so the percentages may change a little bit.

So, we surveyed about 10 different categories of tools for professional services. I’m just highlighting five of those.

The first column is the adoption – or the percentage of companies that said in last year’s survey (2020) that they were using the technology. The second is the 2021 adoption numbers. You can see that in most cases they went up – sometimes by quite a bit. Professional Services Automation rose from 75% to 83% adoption. That 83% is pretty consistent with our benchmark data as well. So, I think it’s a very defensible number.

An interesting thing on PSA is in the early days, we kind of thought of PSA as a big company technology. Now, the adoption of it is fairly equal across from the smallest tech companies to the largest. So, it’s become just a well-understood platform. But, interestingly, 54% of companies say that they have additional budget for new or additional PSA capabilities in the next two years. Some of that is early adopters have outgrown their original platform.

Another thing we’re finding a lot, I did a project early this year interviewing companies using PSA to find out what were they using, what did they like, what did they not like. Very few companies are leveraging the entire platform. They buy it for resource management or they buy it for billing, but they may not even be using the project management module. So, some of that spending is really expanding the adoption and the capabilities, and hopefully leveraging a lot more of its platforms because there’s an awful lot in there. I don’t think it’s realistic to consume the entire platform at step one of the implementation. But you definitely should have a phased approach in mind to get as much value as possible.

CPQ, we saw a big jump: 44% to 54%. You know, there was so much focus on trying to move more technology sales online and enable customer self-service, automating the quote-to-cash process. That’s what a lot of this is about. So, I’m glad to see that companies are investing more in CPQ.

The sad part is, typically Services is not part of that conversation, and they find out that the CPQ engine that they picked doesn’t support Services and may not offer an integration of PSA. Because if you’re going to allow self-service to purchase products and services, you’re going to have to be able to look, “Do we have the skills, the availability? When are we going to be able to deliver this project?”

So, that’s why you see so much spending from Professional Services. 41% have budgets for CPQ, and it’s often like retrofitting services into the product-centric CPQ products that they have.

One other thing I’ll mention I don’t have on this chart: knowledge management. But we saw a huge increase over the last year of adoption of knowledge and content management tools (72% to 92%). That goes back to the earlier conversation about capturing best practices and lessons learned on every project to bake it into project plans moving forward.

So, I’m getting more inquires from PS teams about knowledge management. I’ve got some knowledge management frameworks and maturity models that they are using to kind of take industry best practices from other departments and move it into PS.

I’ll also say that younger workers (younger consultants) are very collaboration-minded. They really want to share what they learn with all of their peers. That’s a cultural shift that wasn’t necessarily the case with the cowboy mentality of consultants from years past, that you didn’t tell anybody what you learned because that was how you got the best utilization rates! Because you were the only one that knew how to do something.

So, there is huge plan spending going on. I think people sometimes are trying to boil the ocean. Hopefully, this conversation is helping companies prioritize as they head into their 2022 planning. They’re probably looking at adding to or replacing some of their technology and hopefully, they will do that not only to margins and productivity but also to the customer experience.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. I loved your focus on CPQ there. For those of you that that’s an interesting piece, I would point you to some announcements we made yesterday around Services CPQ and Service Estimation, completely complimentary to Salesforce CPQ if that’s something you’re already running. I know we’ll talk plenty more about that at TSW, John. But we found that interesting as well.

Is there anything else you’re going to share here? I know that you shared some other data with the panelists, that they had some interesting reactions to. Maybe we’ll just go right to that, and you can put up the appropriate slides where it makes sense.

Tyler, I know you had some thoughts on some of the data that John had shared with us.

Tyler Flora: You know, John, one question that entered my mind is based off your comment that sometimes Services is left out of that CPQ conversation. It’s something that I think I’ve seen and experienced before, but I also think I know why sometimes we are left out. That’s because I think especially with Services, the complexity and price, there can be a lot of complexity in pricing. So, it can’t be built in the CPQ, or it’s, “We’ll worry about that later.” Again, boiling the ocean; we can’t try to solve everything at once. If Services is the most complex thing, let’s do that last.

I think, as we talked about earlier in the meeting and we’ve had to do this a lot at Avalara, we’ve really completed the journey. As we moved over to fixed pricing, that solves the complexity, and so we get added into the CPQ conversations and the setups.

Again, leveraging data. With the systems that we have and being fixed price, it incentivizes the right behaviors within Services: the focus on overall outputs per head or however you want to measure it. Right? But we are incentivized now not to work the most amount of hours if we’re a time and materials business. We have to actually figure out better ways to deliver our services or products to our customers.

The other thing that really jumps at me is PSA had the second-highest adoption year over year. It has the highest planned spend for next year. To me, that just makes sense because I think there are two main factors to me that have ROI in them. It’s not only are you delivering profit to the company. This is not a costs center like some of these other tools that could just be viewed as costs. But we’re also just such an integral part of the customer journey and the experience. So, in terms of the lifecycle of the customer, for them to have a better experience and deliver revenue on top of that, the ROI is just there to make sure that you have the right systems and data to deliver all this.

Bryant Bonner: It’s like validation, right?

I mean, I love that comment. It’s like validation, that’s what I would say. John, I think on a few other slides that you showed, I think there was some data that you talked about digital sales and how companies are using B2B as an option. I think 27% were using it in renewals. That caught my eye because when I think about the renewals business in the subscription model, it’s the heart of anything you do. So, being able to embrace technology to be able to help drive that renewal, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement that companies see that they have to do. So, I’d love to get your thought on that aspect.

One is why do you see the renewals not being as high as they should be? That’s question number one for you.

Then, the second question I have is I also noticed it’s a manual effort. You can see there the quotes on average, it’s 85% are generated manually. We see that all the time. I mean, I tell you, you’d be amazed by the number of customers in high tech that I see that have a manual process. To automate that is so key on the back office because contracting is hard enough. If you can automate it, you’re going to save tons of time. So, my two questions are what are you seeing? When you’re talking to customers, are you seeing them just have this massive nightmare in terms of manually driving quotes? Along with, why aren’t they using digital sales more in their renewal aspect? Give me some color commentary on that.

John Ragsdale: Well, I’ve got a really snarky answer to why companies are not automating renewals as fast as they should. I cannot tell you how many companies have told me it’s because Sales refuses to allow it because they’re worried that if customers self-serve, they’re not going to get comped on the sale or the renewal. So, it really comes down to a culture shift and a people management problem that everybody is worried about, “Am I going to get my commission if the customer doesn’t need me to do the renewal?” Unfortunately, that is getting in the way of a lot of companies pulling the trigger.

But there are some technology barriers. We just did a webinar last week about the challenge in getting quotes approved and the discount model. Companies have, you know, really stringent discounting policies on product. But when it comes to services, it’s like a quarter of companies don’t even have a discounting policy for professional services. So, a lot of the time they’re being given away.

So, I think if they spend some time on really baking some pricing policies, some discounting policies, it’s going to allow them to automate this. But that’s heavy work. Especially on the renewal side, if you look at who owns the renewal… Actually, customer success doesn’t own the actual renewal. They may own the relationship and help with renewal, but there’s usually it could be the original salesperson. It could be a service renewal team with end sales. It could be a dedicated renewal team.

So, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. The whole ecommerce piece is another thing that a lot of companies just haven’t figured out yet. We have billing systems that don’t even support subscription billing. So, there are just a lot of different challenges. But I have to say that it’s the people and the change management that I hear is the biggest issue, even more than technology.

Joe Thomas: Hey, Nick. I want to get you in here as well. I do have an audience question here that I think is fairly generic for you as well. So, any thoughts you have on John’s data?

Nick Anderson: So, just to go back real quick. A couple of comments here. One around the customer journey mapping, that’s something we take very seriously here at VFP and we have layered into all of our strategic conversations around how we’re evolving in our delivery, and it’s paid huge dividends. So, I love that slide. I think it’s something that a lot of companies could start to adopt to really improve how they deliver.

Just to go back to a general comment around some of these metrics that we’re seeing, and coming at this from an implementation perspective. I’ll venture to offer a bit of advice here.

So, we work with a lot of companies that come to us with a tech stack. They’ve made either lightweight tools or homegrown systems. You know, Avalara was a good example of this. Many times, it’s kind of held together by duct tape and a prayer, right? So, this is proof that you can be successful up to a point, but they all reach a limit eventually. Which is why we end up working with them.

What I’d say here is it’s a gamble to wait until you hit that limit to start thinking about modernizing tools that you use to run your business. It’s better to start putting the pieces in place before you hit that inflection point so you can be ready to ride that wave instead of scrambling at the last minute to keep up, and perhaps missing some opportunities in the process.

Also, you kind of risk being left behind as your peers across your industry look to become more operational agile by consolidating systems and processes on visual platforms.

So, play the long game here and start your digital transformation before it becomes a glaring need so you’re not playing catch-up and putting yourself behind the eight ball there. That’s what I would kind of recommend.

Joe Thomas: Great. The questions have been coming fast and furious from the audience. We’re kind of getting at the edge of time, so we’ve been answering some of them in line. We appreciate all of the questions you’ve been asking. We’ll try to get to them as quickly as we can.

The one that I saw that stood out to me is from Rob from Rockwell. He said, “What’s the one issue,” and he’s particularly addressing this to you, Nick, but I think everyone else has thoughts, too. “What’s the one issue that customers fail to see or do when implementing Certinia or Salesforce that stalls or stops the implementation project?” Nick Anderson: Excellent question. My experience is kind of a two-fold answer. Number one, you’ve got to make sure you’re involving the right people and that they’re engaged. It takes a lot of time and effort to do something like this. It’s a big change. Right? So, having the right people aligned, giving them the leeway – everybody’s got day jobs. Giving them the leeway to really focus on this kind of implementation is key. If we don’t have that focus and that engagement, no matter how good we can figure the system, you’re going to have adoption issues, you’re going to have training issues.

So, it’s really the people element that I see as key to that engagement. So, just making sure that you’re aligned across your org and that you’ve got the right people in place, and they have the time to really focus and get things right. Because it takes two to tango, right? We can do what we can do, but we need the customer to come along on that journey with us.

Joe Thomas: Great. Bryant?

Bryant Bonner: I could add a couple of things. One, when you think about the word “stalled.” I think what stalls projects is not showing early wins. You have to show the true value. So, it’s really important, as you’re doing that phase zero planning, to do this value effort capabilities analysis where you truly tick off in your MVP the thing that is going to move the needle in terms of value but make it easy to do. Okay? So, you’ve got to get early, quick wins that are going to show success. That will continue the momentum.

Bring your users in early for user experience, change management aspects. Nick talked about that.

Then, customizations. Try to reduce your customization. You’ve got to think out-of-the-box. You’ve got to have someone there that can really have a big stick to remove the old, current state processes. The things that are broken that you don’t do well today? Get away from it. Okay? Think fresh. Start anew. That will help transform and continue your program forward.

Joe Thomas: Yeah. That was going to be my answer, too. It’s like the, “Can you make it look like this? Can you make it look exactly like this?”

It’s like, “No, and why?” Right? Those are always my two questions on that. I guess “no” is not a question, but it’s the “why.” There’s a reason why you’re updating your systems. There’s a reason why you’re automating your processes, and it’s not to keep doing the same thing over and over again or to try and do it a little faster.

I know we are right here at the edge of time. I’m waiting for Vanessa to give me the hook or start playing the music.

I do want to thank all of the attendees. We appreciate you spending time with us. I want to thank all of our panelists, in particular, John for giving us a sneak peek at some of the data that’s going to get shared.

We’re going to continue this discussion. We have a session on it featuring Marshall King from VFP. Marshall is a thought leader in this space, a Salesforce trailblazer, well known in the ecosystem.

We have our booth at TSW where we’ll demo our Services CPQ product that I teased out a little bit. We announced it yesterday. We recognized that that was a pain, and we’re looking to try and solve it on platform, sharing all the same data.

Again, thank you all. We hope to see you at TSW. Come by the booth, come say hello, come to our session. We’ll send follow-up emails with our contact information if you want to get to us directly. For those of you whose questions we weren’t able to answer, we’ll follow up with you directly.

So, I want to thank everyone for their time.

Vanessa Lucero: Well, thank you so much, Joe. Like you mentioned, since we have come to the conclusion of today’s webinar, just a couple of quick reminders before we sign off for today.

There will be an exit survey at the end of today’s webinar. Please take a few minutes to provide your feedback on the content and your experience by filling out that brief survey. A link to the recorded version of today’s webinar will be sent out within the next 24 hours.

I’d now like to take this time to thank all of our presenters: Joe, John, Nick, Bryant, and Tyler for delivering an outstanding session. Thank you to everyone for taking the time out of your business schedule to join us for today’s live webinar: Building a Seamless Customer Experience Through a Unified Digital Business, brought to you by Technology and Services Industry Association and sponsored by Certinia.