The POV Dispatch is our Autodesk internal newsletter, published monthly, where we discuss the big ideas that are important to us and our customers. It is published by our Corporate Strategy & Engagement team of which Autodesk Labs is a part. Our internal newsletter often features articles by guest contributors. This month we had one from Moonhie Chin, Senior Vice President of Global Customer Support & Operations. With her permission, I thought It's Alive in the Lab would enjoy a glimpse behind the scenes at Autodesk.
It's Not the "Back Office," or even the "Front Lobby" — It's the Whole House
by Moonhie Chin, SVP, Global Customer Support & Operations
Renovating the "Whole House" in the Age of Cloud/Subscription
In the last issue of POV Dispatch, Jon Pittman wrote a piece, "The Back Office is Now the Front Lobby" about how, in the age of Cloud/Subscription, all of the functions and processes that we used to think of as the "back office" have now become, in essence, the "front lobby" — meaning, they are much more essential to the overall Autodesk experience than ever before. While I agree, overall, with Jon's take on this critical transformation, I actually don't think he went far enough.
To me — and here I'm paraphrasing a comment made during a recent senior leadership meeting — using the term "back office" minimizes the scope and importance of what we're really talking about here — which is the urgent need to deliver a better overall "Autodesk experience" to our customers.
So the "front lobby" idea doesn't work for me, either, but if we do want to use some kind of architectural analogy for this concept — and why not, since we're talking about Autodesk — I think we should think of it as the "whole house," rather than as a single isolated room.
And here's the thing about our "house" today: it's very complex, and very hard to navigate — in fact, often our customers can't even find the front door!
The Four Forces Transforming the Back Office to the Whole House
So how, suddenly do we find ourselves focusing on the "whole house" of Autodesk?
Here are four forces that are driving this transformation...
We have the accelerating shift in software licensing from perpetual to term. Today, in this world of term licensing and expanding choices, we earn our customers' loyalty based on their interactions with us. Their last interaction often influences their current opinion of us.
Generational and technological developments have changed the basic concept of what a "product" is; now it's about the total customer experience, from the first encounter they have with us until their most recent encounter and everything in between.
Customers are increasingly demanding direct and continuous engagement with Autodesk, both in person and online; and our success in meeting that demand will shape our brand and our overall success.
Customer expectations for service and support are now defined, established, and elevated by their experience with increasingly sophisticated and responsive online businesses and service providers who specialize in managing such engagements.
So Many Mindsets to Change
That's what's happening in the world outside Autodesk. Each of these changes requires some fundamental mindset and culture changes that aren't always easy for a successful 33-year-old company to make. Here are a few good places to start...
The Company Is the Product
Global Customer Support & Operations leadership team defined a couple of years ago that the Customer Experience is what connects Autodesk's commitment to the customer. We believe this experience is always personal, always direct, and develops over time; ultimately, it defines the customer's relationship with us. The quality of this experience is fundamental to our continued success and competitiveness in a rapidly changing marketplace. We need to continually earn our customers' loyalty and trust by delivering value through every interaction, always reinforcing and expanding the value of our software and services. Today, because we are always connected with our customers, we can understand their goals and intentions much more clearly than when we were shipping boxes of software to our customer through our channel partners. And based on this deeper understanding, we can make their interactions as simple, transparent, and satisfying as possible, as they purchase, own, use, and manage our products and services.
Designing a Frictionless Experience
This story has been repeated many times, but it's worth repeating: at Amazon, whenever a customer ends up trying to resolve an issue over the phone, it's treated as a "defect" in Amazon's policy, process, system, data, site design, etc. And while our business is very different from Amazon's, the philosophy and culture of this operating principle is a great one, and very relevant to us. Support should be a backstop to make sure that no customers fail, but there are also many things we should be doing to know a customer is having trouble long before they ever reach out to us. Once they do that, they've already wasted their time and are frustrated. So support needs to be multi-pronged, including both proactive and reactive elements.
To create this frictionless experience for our customers, we have a great resource at our disposal: we had one million one-on-one interactions last year, where customers reached out to us needing help. We have identified and categorized these interactions into common themes. Using these insights, we need to figure out, first of all, how we can make sure customers do not need to contact us for the same issues. And if not, determine what the next best thing would be to resolve the customer's problem in the shortest possible time when they reach out to us.
Designing an Integrated Product/Service/Community Experience
We must design every customer interaction based on an understanding of the user's context, and delivering the right knowledge at the right time, through all access points. We also need to create an ecosystem where our customers can tap into the vast network of resources external to Autodesk. We need to be the agent for helping our customers effectively capture, refine, and share the insights and solutions they create with others. Autodesk Knowledge Network (AKN) is an ecosystem where customers can find reliable and relevant answers quickly and easily and leverage the expertise from Autodesk, partners, and other customers. Available both as a web site and as contextual help within virtually all Autodesk products and services, it is a highly efficient, scalable, and socially-enabled platform for online publishing, intelligent aggregation, search, and delivery of learning and support content related to Autodesk products. For example, in February of FY16 we had over 3.5 million visitors to AKN and 2.4 million visitors to our support forum. We still have much work to do in optimizing this platform, but it is the first customer "Help" platform where we are creating an integrated product/service/community experience.
Connecting the Employee and Customer Experience
In order for our internal Autodesk culture to change, we are creating a heightened awareness of the close, interdependent connection between customer experience and employee engagement. Our approach is to make our customers successful in a more holistic manner. We have plans in place to allow employees with non-customer-facing roles to sit in and help resolve issues from the field.
What This Means for GCSO
The GCSO team has been thinking a lot about what we can do to move the needle to improve the quality of what has traditionally been referred to as the "back office." We recently formalized a "trust and verify" concept that we will be driving, focusing on giving customers "instant access" as the main goal. This trust and verify framework is pretty simple: we are removing policies and processes that create friction for customer in dealing with us or getting access to their product. A good example of this is our current process of checking/merging/combining serial numbers as we take customer orders; right now this leads to customers getting interrupted as they try to use the software, due to all of the up-front checking built in to our processes. We need to assume good intentions on the part of our customers, and fix abuses later, rather than try to prevent them up front in ways that annoy the honest customers.
In the desktop software paradigm, we had always been very focused on verifying that customers did, in fact, have access to what they were trying to access. This made sense in a relatively unconnected world, where customers were using our desktop software and would only connect to Autodesk periodically. But today, as we move to the Cloud to deliver our capabilities, we need to adopt this new trust and verify approach, where the default is to give customers access, and then, as we verify later, if there's a problem, we can address it.
What This Means for You [Autodesk Employees]
Here are some things we can all think about as we continue to build the "Whole House" of Autodesk...
Do you know of any friction points that we are creating for our customers that you are able to fix?
What pain points do you see customers experiencing with that we haven't thought about, given our new business model and this new way to deliver our solutions/products?
How much time are you spending in the online communities where our customers hang out?
Do you have any opportunities to develop knowledge assets that can be amplified to help many users?
By asking questions like these, which relate to your specific areas of responsibility, you can play a role in building a new "whole house" at Autodesk — one that is much less complex and confusing, and much more compelling, for our customers.
Our CEO, Carl Bass, once compared being a CEO to being a bus driver. Both can't make radical lane changes or sharp turns, because if they do, people get tossed around. As a large corporation, changes at Autodesk are not always immediate, but we regularly make progress on them. So don't expect things to change overnight but do expect them to improve.
Global customer service is alive in the lab.