Tag Archives: customers

The Goal: Our Most Important Metric?

We’re debating at Atlassian what’s the most important metric. Our Chief Metric God and CEO Scott Farquhar thinks Net Promoter score might be it. He has threatened to take a few months off to think about it. While we mere weak-minded mortals spend far less time on metrics, Serious Metric People such as Scotty devote lifetimes of thinking to what to measure and why.

Atlassian’s culture is fun, but it’s also about metrics. So, we decided to start measuring our Net Promoter score. Experts such as Fred Reichheld, a fellow with consultancy Bain & Company claim that companies with high Net Promoter scores far out-perform in growth and have far lower costs of sales. It’s seems intuitive given Net Promoter is all about word of mouth, a subject dear to my heart.

What is a Net Promoter score? Customers are asked “How likely would you be to recommend our product(s) to other people” on a scale of 0 [Never] to 10 [Definitely]? Then you divide the responses:

  • Scores of 9 or 10 are promoters; divide the total number by the total surveyed to get a percentage or score.
  • Scores of 7 or 8 are not promoters; ignore these responses.
  • Scores of 6 or less are detractors; divide the total number by the total surveyed to get a percentage or score.
  • Subtract your detractor score from your promoter score to get Net Promoter Score.

How We Stacked Up

We surveyed 500 customers, chosen at random, and our Net Promoter score was: 52%. Although this puts us in great company with the likes of…


… we’re now obsessed with the comments we got back on what we need to fix. Imagine the kind of customer loyalty Harley Davidson has! How does one achieve that?

How We Surveyed Customers

We learned something simply about how to survey. We made it clear we only required answering one question to participate in the survey. The other three questions were entirely optional:

  • “If you wish to elaborate on your response, do so here…”
  • “Is it OK for us to contact you?”
  • “If so, what’s your contact information?”

I felt it important that we reduce the survey to the smallest possible, even to the point of editing out superfluous words so each sentence was concise. I hate surveys that say “This will take 10 minutes” instead of “This survey has 10 questions”. I absolutely hate surveys where I never know when the end is coming. Always state how many questions!

Other Lessons from the Net Promoter Survey

The survey had a 40% response rate, and 20% of the customers said it was OK to contact them. Given how busy people are, we were pretty happy with these statistics, but while these stats compare well in marketing circles, that’s not our goal. Our goal now is understanding what we have to do to get better.

What Are We Doing About it?

First priority is personally calling every single detractor [who agreed to be contacted]. I am again obsessed on this process: one person needs to conduct these calls so the information is properly assimilated and understood. Passing support problems to support and product problems to development loses this vital analysis.

Second we are thanking everyone who participated and is willing to contacted.

Third, we are working out a process for contacting the promoters and the “middle” scores. As this is our first time, we have much to learn, and most important, apply what we hear.

Atlassian User Group: Palo Alto

It is a sad day in Mudville: We are not interviewing Paris Hilton at the User Group, and we are not giving away free iPhones. If you can get over that…

Stanford University is the idyllic setting for our First Inaugural Bay Area User Group. The spine-tingling, white-knuckle highlights include:

    • Customers presenting a variety of case studies from Sony, Apple, and Polycom
    • Scott Farquhar, founder and CEO
    • Chris Kohlhardt demoing the groovy Gliffy plugin to Confluence
    • … and more!

    Oh and lest I forget: Beer! And the venerable, Collectors Item: Atlassian T-Shirts, for which folks have been known to sacrifice their first born. The T-shirts are exceedingly more popular than iPhones, we have discovered.

    And rumor has it that in attendance will be a few of the Enterprise Irregulars. You heard it here first.

    RSVP here.

  • Does Your Software Company Answer the Phone? [On Atlassian]

    This is the first in a series on running a software business. Some of these are specific to running a software company like Atlassian, and some will apply to any business.

    cows answering phoneAnswering the phone is one of those tasks companies often give little thought. Yet it can say so much about what kind of company you are and how you treat customers.

    We have decided not to install an automated system, or IVR. We never really gave an automated system any thought until recently some people suggested we might consider it. Scott and I talked and both felt strongly that the company needs a personal touch. This is not a trivial decision for Atlassian when you have over 5,500 customers.

    Once we made the decision to stick with humans, I realized how rare this is today in smaller companies, or any company, for that matter. But it’s not without its challenges. We don’t have a lot of administrative people, so right now, we share the responsibility between admin, sales support, pre-sales, marketing, and our customer advocates.

    Some days in San Francisco the phone rings almost non-stop, and juggling customers with your normal workload is difficult. We have a number of days where we hit 70 phone calls. Most of these come before Noon due to our East Coast and European customers, so their timing is not nicely distributed.

    I tell all employees that regardless of your job, it’s a good practice to jump in and answer the phone periodically, and find out why customers call. In our business, when you sell over the Internet and have virtually no outbound sales force, there is a dark side: you don’t talk to customers unless they call. So you need to take advantage of this opportunity instead of viewing it as a burden.

    I also suggest to employees that, if the opportunity is there, to ask a few questions and learn something about the customer’s business and how they use our products. One five-minute phone exchange becomes a valuable morsel of data and even a shred of a relationship. Customers appreciate just knowing someone got their request and that someone is trying to solve their problem. I have never had a customer not want to answer a question; they are invariably interested in talking to someone behind that product they use.

    The vast majority of calls are sales-related or technical support. Interesting things happen when you just pick up the phone. Here are three examples of my random answering of the phone:

    • A woman from the University of California San Francisco was inquiring about consulting because they needed to solve some problems. My initial concern was about her satisfaction with our technical support or Confluence. But she quickly told me she loved our product and while they had some issues, UCSF intended to roll Confluence, our enterprise wiki out to the entire student population. What struck me was that UCSF is entirely a medical school, and this use was very exciting.
    • About a year ago the CTO of Abercrombie & Fitch called, “This is not an angry customer call, but…”. My heart jumped. It turned out he was a second time customer, a supporter of our products, and simply needed priority put on a technical problem so he could roll out the wiki.
    • One day a fellow from the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM)) called to ask some questions. He mentioned that our product had been recommended by folks from SAIC, a large government contractor, which has a group that works exclusively in the intelligence community. We knew at least one intelligence agency used our products, but we did not appreciate to what extent. Thanks to this phone call, we discovered a considerable number of licenses being used for several agencies. Of course, we’ll never know for what purpose. ☺

    I would never have had this information if it were not for the random customer call.

    Answering the phone can be a source of debate in an engineering culture like ours. Engineers like issue trackers for capturing customer requests and support issues because the automation benefits save time and can result in faster, better support. Can’t argue with that. Engineers are inherently more comfortable with email and IM. One of our engineers have been known to unplug his phones.

    People communicate different ways. Not every customer wants to rely on written communication. Making our company available by phone is hard to do, but we hope it makes a difference.