First ConnectWise Customer Success Officer rethinks how to make MSP customers more successful

ConnectWise veteran Craig Fulton has moved from the Chief Products Officer job to the new position of Customer Success Officer, and talks about his plans to make their MSP customers more successful.

Craig Fulton onstage at IT Nation Explore

ORLANDO – ConnectWise has built its business on having good relationships with their MSP customers. At their IT Nation Explore event here, new Customer Success Officer Craig Fulton said that he thinks that they can do better, however. He assumes the new role with a very clear perception of what he wants to do differently, with very clear objectives in mind, and with multiple initiatives now underway to achieve them.

Fulton originally joined ConnectWise in 2007 as a systems engineer, and rose through the ranks to fill a number of senior roles. Most recently he was Chief Product Officer for almost three years, before moving to the new Customer Success Officer role in February.

Fulton is ConnectWise’s first Customer Success Officer.

“We’ve never had this role before,” he said. “We had a Services and Education Department led by a senior VP, Kathy Smith. Then we added a Customer Success team and an IT Nation team. When Kathy decided to retire, that was the catalyst for all the change here.”

These customer support vehicles have been rethought to be delivered in a more proactive way then before

“I jumped at the chance to be in Customer Success,” Fulton told the audience in the keynote. “I want to show you what you need to do to get the most out of your ConnectWise software. We look on you as partners rather than customers, and it’s all about the partner experience. We are focused on making sure that it’s good.”

Having a good partner experience, and having happy partners aren’t necessarily the same thing, he indicated.

“I’m not trying to get happy customers. That may get some people upset. But I want loyal customers. In addition, there is behavioral loyalty and attitudinal loyalty. Behavioral loyalty is getting gas at the same station every day, Attitudinal loyalty is going to another station two miles away because the service is better and the pumps are cleaner. I want that attitudinal loyalty.”

Fulton’s top priority is keeping MSP churn low, which usually means assisting them to build their businesses so that they don’t go out of business.

“My number one metric is retention internally,” he said. “The industry average is about 8 to 9 per cent churn a year. Some churn is good. If it is zero per cent, that means you are keeping your bad, non-paying customers. In addition, the number one reason for churn is that they go out of business. We go after the small 1-4 employee company pretty aggressively, and that segment is always going to have some failures.”

Keeping those failures down is related to Fulton’s other top objective.

“My number two priority is product adoption  –  making sure they use what they pay for and are successful at it,” he said. “Our partners perceive they use between 20 and 30 per cent of our software. The reality is many use more than that. They use the mods they should but it’s the efficiencies inside them that make them more effective. They do tickets and measure time, but when we expose little things, such as that they can run their business to the minute with real time entry and real time analytics, not just at the do things at the end of the month, that’s when they go from 30 to 50 per cent. We never had one person keeping an eye on perception and data reality in this way before.”

Fulton plans to make significant changes to how their MSPs are trained.

“We want to improve the training,” he said. “Right now, we have trainers that train from PowerPoint and screenshots. We want to train from real environments, and provide workshop-type training that is more fluid and can be molded to the audience, and to the right time and right person in the way that they want it. We hope that this won’t be like Microsoft Clippy, where they just turn it off, but if they do, we will modify it.

“We are also revamping our search tool that will help people find things better,” Fulton added.

Getting partners to use existing resources that have fallen out of use somewhat is a priority.

“We have been doing Partner Kits for a while, around things like Service Desk, with process templates, thought leadership videos, and training all fitted into one thing,” Fulton said. “In the beginning they were very highly used, but it comes down to making people aware they are there and reminding them about that.”

ConnectWise’s blueprints are another tool which have seen their use fallen off.

“We started the blueprints years ago, and people have forgotten that they are there,” Fulton noted. “Blueprints are a Visio diagram of a process. We have diagrammed hundreds of them over the years. I was originally hired to create these, years ago, and I spent nine months making the first 42.

“Some partners use them a lot. They print them and use them as marketing material. But others don’t use them, even though they contain valuable things. We have job descriptions in these blueprints. Writing those is an awful thing to do.”

The customer support teams are also being reorganized into swarms, also known as pods.

“Swarms are a new thing that is catching on in support desks,” Fulton said. “The idea is that you take subject matter people of varying levels of knowledge and put them together so that they can learn from each other. It has become common in big enterprise help desks. It’s one of those simple changes that can make a lot of difference.”

Fulton also announced in the keynote that ConnectWise is building out a new and more proactive Partner Success team.

“The plans are to start with larger partners that we recognize need some help, and assign them to work one-to-one with a Partner Success Manager,” he said. “The idea is to get them learning, and get them working closely with our account management team. It’s really a pilot program of large and medium sized MSPs who have troubles, and we can start learning what goes on there and how we can help improve things.

“As we grow this out more, we will leverage technology to help us manage the tens of thousands of partners that we have. We will leverage machine learning and AI and bring it all together so it can be automated and scale. We don’t want to have 500 Partner Success Managers. Technology is there for a reason.”