Enabling Continuous Learning Between Customer Success + Product

Problem Brief

Since being hired by Vineti in 2019, and through participation in the software release cycles over the past 2 years, I have seen a lack of communication between the Customer Success and Product teams during software development milestones; leading to decreased understanding and assumptive thinking. This causes increased churn regarding understanding and gathering knowledge about our platform solutions.

Team

1 Senior Product Designer, 1 Senior VP of Platform Services, 1 Director Commercial Operations, 2 Senior Directors Functional Implementation, 2 Senior Functional Implementation Managers, multiple Functional Implementation Managers across continental US, India, Armenia, multiple Customer Success Managers across continental US, India, Armenia

Goals

Get Customer Success and Product Team, to create a workflow enabling continuous learning, by building focused collaboration into key milestones in our software development process.

Background

I have identified 3 main pain points in our development process:

  1. Currently Functional Implementation Managers (FIMs) create a document known as  a Detailed Implementation Analysis (DIA) after speaking with customers to guide them in how to configure platform solutions. This leads to longer development timelines because UX, best practice, and functionality issues can only be resolved after seeing a configured environment.
  2. Currently there is no consistent way for FIMs to get visibility into Designers’ context and thinking for the solutions they are creating. There is no consistent process for this to occur. Ways that are currently being socialized are the Design Review meeting and our Style Guide in Figma.
  3. Currently FIMs and Implementation Engineers (IEs) are using the DIA document to configure customer solutions without Product. This leads to Product team members assuming knowledge about how the platform functions, which creates miscommunication and confusion when features aren’t configured as intended, were configured for another purpose than intended, or not configured at all.

Assessment

The overarching problem here is that Design and Customer Success are not able to communicate enough about what their stakeholders’ expectations are – CS has customer expectations and deadlines, and Design has Product Managers and their prioritized feature roadmap and release deadlines. This leads to siloing of information during our development process. An issue caused by this is Product assuming a variety of things about functionality or features that do not exist or that implicitly only work a certain way as designed during development – leading to patient safety issues, user frustration, and internal confusion. Another issue caused by siloing is that FIMs and IEs are not fully aware of the context Product was designing their solutions for, leading to features being used in unintended ways and causing configuration bugs, increased deployment timelines, patient safety issues, and user frustration. 

Examples of this confusion include: New dynamic bag data fields created solely within configuration, COI data fields placed inconsistently throughout workflows, workflow steps without sections or blank sections with no data fields, e-signature fields existing on editable data entry steps, or the ‘view only’ permission for users not being functional despite having design and implemented UI.

Recommendation

We need to build a set of processes and deliverables into our development that encourage CS and Design to align more quickly, more often, using shared vocabulary and principles. The main outcomes of these processes and deliverables should be:

  1. Ensure customer needs are met using UX and Product best practices to deliver a quality product that upholds patient safety
  2. Support FIMs to identify product limitations during DIA creation to support quick customer delivery
  3. Enable a shared understanding of new product features between FIMs and Designers by identifying key milestones during the product release cycle

Ensure customer needs are met using UX and Product best practices

  1. Design, FIMs, and Tech Comms can work together in the creation and review of a catalog of implementation and UX best practices maintained in partnership between FIMs and designers so that FIMs have a collection of Product-vetted ways for thinking about customer problem solving. 
    1. This is supported by performing an audit of existing components and evaluating them for configuration flexibility, duplication of functionality, and UX best practices.
      1. I will support this by partnering with FIMs/IEs to review our components and audit them for UX best practices, patient safety, usefulness and value. I will not support this by learning the current configuration process to audit the components myself nor will I audit the components for validation concerns.
    2. This could contain general platform best practices, as well as examples of past deployed solutions for customer problems. so that Customer Success and Product have a shared understanding of what the platform has supported in the past. It will also shorten delivery timelines because FIMs and IEs will have a menu of pre-vetted solutions to review and apply to novel customer requirements. 
    3. This catalog and process should be available as a first draft before the creation of the DPP curriculum. This will allow us to use the catalog internally and harden it before exposing it to external partners.

Support FIMs to identify product limitations during DIA creation

  1. Design and FIMs can partner during Customer Inception Workshops and during the DIA creation process for current and newly onboarded customers. 
    1. This is supported by introducing a quick and lightweight way for FIMs to create visual deliverables for customers that compliment the companion document, to build trust with the customer and help get the DIA done quickly.  
      1. I will support this by organizing meetings with FIMs and Design to determine what their preferred tool should be. Once the tool is decided, I will be happy to help create the wireframe components and pair with FIMs to ensure their usefulness in communicating ideas to customers – and also teach them the tool. 
    2. This is supported by having FIMs review DIAs with Design to share their end-to-end product perspective that will strengthen product knowledge before customer feedback on the DIA.

Enable a shared understanding of new product features 

  1. Design and FIM can work together to identify milestones within design delivery, and enact a process, where FIMs can be made aware of new features and functionality, so they can ask questions and learn how new solutions can be used in their customer implementations.  
    1. This is supported by identifying the right place in our product development process when designs can be shared directly with FIMs for collaborative feedback.
      1. I will support this by organizing a meeting within Design and PMs to determine this milestone.
    2. This is supported by identifying a communication tool and methodology to allow designers to make FIMs aware of new features and functions. 
      1. I will communicate this tool and methodology to Design once it is decided on by FIMs/CS.
    3. Allow FIMs to self-organize so that those with relevant customer needs can learn about new features in a timely way for customer delivery.
    4. This is supported by actively hosting a session where a designer presents a new feature/functionality to interested FIMs and FIMs are able to articulate specific customer problems that the solution could address.
  2. Design and FIMs can work together to reinforce our process where to ensure features/functionality align with UX and Product best practices.
    1. Design and FIMs partner to review configured customer sandbox implementation
    2. All of the above ensures customer needs are met using UX and Product best practices by identifying and adding a best practice that arises from a new customer problem, workflow, or feature request, to the Catalog of Implementation and UX Best Practices to help solve similar problems in the future.
      1. I will support this by actively partnering with the relevant designer or FIM to facilitate the addition of a new item to the Catalog if it is outside of my product area (TWM). 

Results (so far)

  • I have partnered with senior CS team members to create a new process whereby a designer (me) attends all customer onboarding meetings to ensure user and product centric questions are asked
  • I have successfully started a new process whereby a designer signs off on the DIA to ensure customer configurations meet with Product and UX best practices, and bring and new configuration learnings back to the Product team
  • I successfully created and socialized a new customer onboarding workflow and template to more easily and consistently document customer workflows and ensure product and user-centric questions are asked.
  • I successfully created and socialized a new set of wireframe templates for FIMs to use to more consistently and easily capture new customer configuration requests and changes to our OOTB platform workflow