Over the past year, I’ve had the chance to talk with different SparkPost customers about how they’re using email in their business. It’s been an invaluable way for me to understand how developers at companies of all sizes see email, the kinds of technical and business challenges they face, and how they use SparkPost to solve them.
Getting insight into needs like these is critical for any product marketer. But these customer conversations also have reaffirmed how critical the actual experience of using a service like ours is to the productivity and long-term success of our customers. That’s one reason why I’ve written before about “onboarding,” the first steps of getting started with a service like ours.
At SparkPost, onboarding involves several features and resources to ensure a successful start for all of our users. For our enterprise customers, the experience also includes the expert support of our Technical Account Managers (TAM). In fact, the “white glove service” our Technical Account Managers deliver is one of the things I’ve consistently heard from our larger customers has helped them to succeed. It’s a real differentiator from other email delivery services they considered. That’s why I wanted to share a little bit about how our technical account management team works to ensure a successful customer experience.
What Is a Technical Account Manager (TAM)?
SparkPost’s Technical Account Managers are highly experienced advocates and resources dedicated to enterprise customers. They know the SparkPost platform inside and out—and they are industry experts who understand how critical email can be. This unique combination of technical and strategic experience ensures a successful start as well as ongoing business success and technical best practices.
The White Glove Experience
Technical Account Managers help enterprises make the most of SparkPost through a four-stage process: discovery, implementation, go-live, and ongoing support.
In discovery, the TAM works with a customer to lay the groundwork for the highest performance of message streams and to minimize the risk of disruptions during migration. During this period, a TAM will work with a customer team to identify key message streams and functional requirements, provide strategy and best practices, and develop a migration plan. The migration plan creates the footing for a positive sending reputation, a key element to the success of any mailer.
Implementation occurs once these key requirements have been identified and addressed. The TAM will provision and configure the production environment, begin important deliverability activities such as DNS implementation and IP address warm-up, provide technical resources for integration, and establish a deployment schedule and plan. TAMs work closely with several teams to ensure cross-functional compliance to the plan established during discovery while monitoring the IP ramp up to protect and grow the necessary IP reputation required to succeed.
When it is time to make the “go-live” switch to production, the TAM team will be on stand-by and ready to address any key customer support issues. With careful monitoring of system and message performance, message streams will be phased into production on the new environment until the migration is complete.
Technical Account Managers also provide ongoing support after production has gone live. The TAM will continue to work with customers to optimize performance and migrate additional message streams as required. TAMs will also monitor deliverability and provide regular performance and roadmap reviews. TAMs give proactive support helping senders understand the shifting messaging landscape. This includes regulatory changes, policy and privacy, deliverability, ISP updates and evolving technical and messaging security requirements.
I’ll admit I’m a little biased. But I’ve got to say that I’m consistently amazed by my colleagues on our technical account management team, and what they deliver to help our customers succeed. And I personally have never met anyone who understands email—and how to help businesses really succeed with SparkPost—better. As a product marketer, I’m so glad to have them helping deliver the best customer experience possible.
P.S. If the role of our technical account managers in delivering white glove service sounds like something you need, it’s easy to learn more about services for enterprise senders.
If you’d like to read more about the importance of customer experience, check out these other posts:
This is going to sound familiar to many product managers. And founders. And product marketers, developers, and….
You spotted a market opportunity, figured out what your customers need, built your product, did some marketing or other promotion. Or, to put it more bluntly, you spent time, you spent money, and you spent a huge dose of blood, sweat, and tears. And—amazingly—you find that people are downloading your app or signing up for an account.
Woot! What a good feeling. But then you realize they’re trying it once and not coming back. Or your conversion rates are uncomfortably low. Now that feeling’s a sinking one. What’s going on?
It might be all about first impressions. And I don’t mean just the bling. Getting started—effecting change to entrenched habits or processes—often is the hardest part.
The first few interactions a customer has with an app or a cloud service—the onboarding experience—arguably make up the most important chance you have to win a customer’s buy-in and engagement. Onboarding profoundly influences a customer’s views of a service, and it can make or break an entire customer relationship.
The discipline of user experience design (UX) in software is focused on usability, affective and emotional aspects of the product, making certain desired user activities intuitive, and so on. Designing the onboarding experience is a big part of that. In-app cues, incentives such as gamification, and triggered emails are all major drivers of the onboarding flow.
Most of these best practices apply to both B2C and B2B contexts. But what happens when requirements for getting started go beyond a user’s interactions with an app? For B2B services like SparkPost that power real-world business processes or that integrate with other business systems, onboarding encompasses broader considerations than getting through a series of steps in the app.
At SparkPost’s recent Insight user conference, our own Clea Moore was joined by a panel of customers who discussed their experiences with onboarding in the enterprise context. These professionals shared their (sometimes hard-won) advice about how to hit the ground running when moving business processes to a cloud-based platform. The discussion was wide-ranging and delivered a lot of insight into how to make migrating to the cloud a reality.
Here are some of the take-aways:
- The cloud allows the businesses to focus on their strategic differentiators rather than managing commodity infrastructure. On this, the panelists were whole-heartedly in agreement. Seth Weisfeld of Pinterest observed that “cloud infrastructure is a strategic choice for Pinterest. It allows us to focus on our real value in content and experience.” Jonathan To of fashion retailer Tobi agreed, “To be able to focus on our customers and their engagement rather than infrastructure is just so great and so important to our business.”
- Scalability and elasticity are big wins from an technical operations perspective. Travis Wetherbee noted, “I don’t have to worry about adding IPs, adding boxes, adding drive space to deal with peak volumes or to store and bounces.” Jonathan To added, “We’re not a huge company. We’re trying to stay lean. The cloud is a major win for time to market.”
- Specialized expertise—for example, SparkPost’s deliverability services team—makes a huge difference among cloud providers. For mission-critical processes, cloud providers have got to back their technology with hands-on account management and real operational and onboarding expertise. Seth Weisfeld described, “It’s really huge to be able to trust our provider on issues like deliverability. We couldn’t always rely on that in the past.” Travis Wetherbee concurred, “Beyond the pure technology evaluation, services like deliverability expertise was a big criterion in our decision-making.”
- Planning ahead makes all the difference for minimizing the risks of unexpected impacts or disruption. That includes technical legwork—Travis Wetherbee called out making sure DNS changes and suppression lists were managed systematically—as well managing the transition from a business perspective. Jonathan To added that “Thinking about the data you want to store means looking ahead and making conscious choices—even if you can’t use it today.” Seth Weisfeld described the importance of looking at the migration as a process, not something that can be done in one fell swoop. His advice was to begin with small, less critical mail streams and then gradually ramp up to the most strategic pieces as the system is proved out.
Learning from customers always has been the most rewarding part of my job. And, of course, getting information about how people actually use technology to solve problems in the real world is essential to every software or cloud product marketer. So, I was really thrilled to hear what the professionals on this panel had to say about their experiences moving their email infrastructure to the cloud.
By the way, in the coming weeks, I’ll be discussing the role of implementation and services teams in the onboarding experience. What do you think it takes for successful onboarding in the enterprise? Let me know—I’d love to hear about your own real-world experiences.
Like this post? Check out some other Insight 2015 session recaps:
- The Marketer’s Journey
- Global Data Privacy Insight from 4 International Email Experts
- #SendLikeABoss – The Best of Insight 2015