Dealing with a small software company or an artisan software company?
When we update BlueCamroo we send out release notes. At the top of the release notes we have a bit that reads: "if you have any comments or questions do please let us know". We link this to an email for suggestions.
Sometimes we're conditioned to think companies ignore these types of things. When companies do respond it's both delightful and maybe a little disarming. I've been struggling with the Microsoft Surface. It was a Christmas gift. (Thank you, guilt-ridden divorced dads of the world!) I tilted between returning it and keeping it. I've largely concluded it's about finding new ways to do things I'm comfortable doing in Android. At some point I used the feedback link on an app and the developer got back to me within hours. I didn't expect that. If our suggestions are actually being read, we generally just assume they're kind of collected and synthesized in a kind of zen like way and then, maybe, eventually, we'll see something not entirely resembling our most cherished feature request.
But here was the developer responding to me personally. I forgot that not everything in the software world is the product of massive software companies. Smaller software companies do listen and do not have bureaucratic sclerosis that results in long, ponderous development cycles that make a Bruckner symphony seem peppy.
Small software companies (I think the politically correct term is artisan software companies) really do have the ability to listen and react to customer requests. How many emails do you think Microsoft gets per day? A small… errr artisan software company might only get one or two emails a day. Your voice counts for a lot more. By way of example, last week we released an update. Based on customer suggestions we included a Lead Age figure: a simple way to see, in days, how old the lead is. We also added a Last Activity Date figure. The Last Activity Date tells you the last time the lead was access and had some activity or change made to it (a contact was added, an email was sent out, an opportunity was generated, a call was logged, and so on).
Both these figures can help you manage leads and determine which leads have gone cold. With those two figures in hand, we imagined users could create reports that tease out, say, high value leads that have fallen between the cracks. Or leads that have gotten so cold they're worth deleting. Or maybe you have a "cold case" expert, that sales person you want to call the Resurrector for his/her ability to bring leads back from the dead, and want to setup a workflow that assigns him/her those leads.
Within a few hours of sending out the update we got an email from a client noting a way we could make their lives more useful with one small tweak.
Now that you have "lead age" being calculated in the system, would it be possible to setup some kind of workflow rule so that "lead status" could be changed automatically when a lead reaches a particular age? That would be a huge time saver. (We change our lead status at 30 days and 90 days manually using tasks as reminders. It would be great to have that calculated automatically.)
What a great idea! Such a great idea we implemented it and rolled it out within 24 hours!
Know the "Elder Magic"
Here's maybe a tip for getting your small… errr artisan software company to respond to your requests. Figure out the really "elder magic" stuff they've incorporated into the program and are quietly proud of. Show you understand how to use it and all its marvelous nuanced applications. And then suggest a clever extension.
The "elder magic" in this case was our workflow rules. The nuanced understanding was the Automatic trigger. The Automatic trigger's use can be a bit tricky to grasp. When you create a workflow (basically a simple mini program that performs some action when it meets certain criteria), you setup four features:
Object: What record types should the workflow run on? Leads? Customers? Projects?
Criteria: Run the trigger on what records? All of them? Records in a given area ("Leads in the State of Michigan")?
Trigger: What event should cause the workflow rule to launch? For example, whenever a lead in Michigan is added to the system.
Action: If the workflow is triggered, what should BlueCamroo actually do? Notify someone? Change something about the record?
The triggers most people use are When a Record is Added, When a Record is Modified, or When a Record is Added or Modified. The nuanced elder magic trigger is the Automatic trigger. The Added/Modified triggers launch when there's a change in data (new data/modified data). The Automatic trigger launches when some time-related aspect of the record meets set criteria. For example, a project's invoice due date is older than 60 days and there's still an unpaid balance. BlueCamroo will periodically run these Automatic criteria constructs against your database. When BlueCamroo runs its scan and finds an invoice that has slipped into the 60 days due figure, BlueCamroo will run the workflow's configured action. You could lock the record. Or put the project into an "on hold" status.
Previous to the January release, the Automatic trigger was available for use on records like Projects. Based on our customer's emailed request we quickly made the Automatic trigger available to all object types. In other words, if you want to accomplish what our customer wanted to accomplish, you would create a workflow that set the following:
Criteria: Lead Age Greater than 30
Action: Change Field Value (Set Lead Status to Not Contacted)
So in this case, BlueCamroo will automatically scan your lead records. When it finds a record with a Lead Age value greater than 30 days, it will set the Lead Status field value to Not Contacted.
Have a good idea?
We really, really do want to hear from you. We'd rather not guess what you guys think is important. That said, we can't meet every development request within 24 hours, but we do read and respond to every request. Many times people are delighted to find their requested feature already exists in BlueCamroo. It's a big program and no person can master one program in 90 days of use. Think how long it took you to become, say, a capable user of Excel or Word. And think of how many features there are you've not ever explored.