Friday, June 17, 2016

Strikedeck Adds Automation to Customer Success Management

I first started paying attention to “customer success management” systems when I realized they were assembling data from multiple sources to build a consolidated customer view – something that could potentially serve other departments throughout the organization. This made them a fifth subtype of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), along with systems based on marketing, lead scoring, sales advisory, and tag management. In practice, this classification is more potential than real because few if any customer success systems actually expose their data to other systems in true CDP fashion. On the other hand, several do use rules and/or predictive analytics to help manage the post-purchase portion of the customer relationship – making them possible Journey Orchestration Engines (JOEs). Again, though, they fall short on other parts of the definition, in this case the one related to journey mapping.  If you're wondering why I'm going through this, my point is that customer success systems share functions with other kinds of customer management systems and should be evaluated in that larger context.

This brings us to Strikedeck, which emerged from stealth in April after about a year of development. Strikedeck is aiming squarely at the same market as customer success leaders Gainsight and Totango but includes more automated execution of recommended actions. In fact, the execution is fully automated: users define rules, called “recipes”, that listen for triggers such as support issues, new contracts, or late invoices and specify the action to take when the trigger occurs. Actions can include emails, surveys, and updating customer data or assigning a task in an external systems.  Actions can also initiate a "playbook", which is a sequence of recipes (some serious mixed metaphors there, alas).  This allows for standard treatments to be fully automated.

Users can see the tasks they’ve been assigned in a list or on a calendar, as well as looking at account details and an overview of key metrics for all accounts. They can also define account segments to select accounts for playbooks or reporting. The system includes features to create and send emails, surveys, and in-app mobile messages.

If this sounds like “marketing automation for customer success managers”, that’s not a bad way to think about it. In fact, Strikedeck referred to itself as “customer success automation” in an early discussion I had with them, although they don’t seem to be using that positioning at present.

But Strikedeck goes beyond standard marketing automation in a couple of key ways. Most notably, it takes data from many sources: not just CRM and its own tracking codes, but also customer support, marketing automation, analytics tools, and any other system with a suitable API connector. It also stores this data in what it called a “polyglot” data model of several technologies (Solr, Redis, Mongo, and Cassandra, fronted by Kafka data collection) that allows vastly more flexibility than a conventional marketing automation product. And it embeds Spark machine learning to build churn and upsell predictions, soon to be extended to other predictions such as willingness to give references or participate in case studies. On the other hand, the playbook sequences lack the event-based branching available in most marketing automation nurture flows. Strikedeck says it takes one to two weeks to deploy at most firms, compared with months for a typical customer success management system.

Strikedeck pricing is based primarily on the number of accounts, with some adjustments based on deal size. Pricing starts at $30,000 per year for 500 accounts. The company had 18 clients when we spoke in late May.

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