The Tech Take

Sage Intacct's 'secret sauce' for customer satisfaction

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In a world where many people won’t even consider going to a restaurant without checking its Yelp review first, G2 Crowd has become a critical gatekeeper in the software world: The website collects reviews and ratings for business software and services companies, and it plays a part in how CPA firms and value-added resellers of technology choose their partners.

At the recent Sage Intacct user conference in Nashville, which wrapped up on Friday, Oct. 26, executive vice president and managing director Rob Reid told me proudly that his company has a 98 percent positive rating on G2 Crowd. “And that’s without buying or paying for reviews,” he stressed.

The ratings Reid cited were from the 2017 fall rankings from G2 Crowd -- the rankings for this year have not been released yet.

Sage Intacct’s current rating on the website – 4.2 out of 5 stars -- translates to 84 percent satisfaction, and from my conversations on the conference floor, it's evident that customers are happy. The worst that Israel Askew, CFO of EMSI, an emissions monitoring company based in Houston, could say was that there was too much white in the new user interface, which hurts his eyes; Corinne Hua, CFO of Vancouver-based SalesForce reseller Traction on Demand said she had wanted to see a lot more capability for allocations -- so she's happy that Sage Intacct is releasing General Ledger Allocations next month. Overall, customers had to think long and hard to come up with any complaints.

From the mainstage, Sage Intacct’s senior vice president and head of engineering and technology Aaron Harris mentioned the “thousands of conversations” he’s had with customers about their needs. Later, I asked both Reid and Harris if they really sat down and had conversations with their customers and reseller partners, or did they just mean surveys.

“We rarely do less than 50 or 60 interviews in a microvertical before we even enter it,” Reid said, “And often it’s more than 100. We ask a number of open-ended, business-minded questions that helps us understand the industry. And if, after that, we feel we can’t successfully be the best solution in the world for them, we table it to revisit later.”

Harris went one step further: “We follow customers,” he told me. I thought he was joking, but Dan Miller, vice president of product management, said that following and observing customers — with their knowledge — was “a Scott Cook thing.” Cook is the co-founder of accounting software giant Intuit, where Miller had a long tenure before joining Sage Intacct. It’s an indispensible learning tool, they said, watching customers interact with and use the software in their daily workflow.

But the real secret sauce, Reid said, is in the customer interview process he built over the past decade since he joined Intacct as CEO in 2009 (his title changed when Sage bought Intacct last year). And it was work with Geoffrey Moore, author of the 1991 book “Crossing the Chasm,” that really helped his special interview process really take shape.

“I was the first person to roll out the book in-company,” Reid said, referring to his time as head of marketing at Documentum in the 1990s.

Moore’s book, subtitled “Marketing and selling high-tech products to mainstream customers,” was prescient about how difficult it is to move people from an offline to an online world. Software services, as well as accounting firms, still face this problem in 2018, when trying to convince customers or clients of the benefits of increased automation or moving to the cloud.

The next step for Sage Intacct is expanding overseas, senior vice president of sales and customer success Kathy Lord said. Intacct's acquisition by Sage is a major help in that area. While Intacct is helping Sage reach the U.S. midmarket, Sage has the international resources to bring Intacct's technology out of America.

No one charges down the innovation path alone, and for software companies looking to find success in a crowded marketplace, borrowing strategy may not be a bad idea. Sage Intacct is open about borrowing strategy and making it their own; that, in itself, could be a winning strategy.

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Accounting software Growth strategies Cloud computing Intacct