ZINFI’s Leadership Position In G2 Crowd’s Partner Management Software Category
ZINFI continues to maintain its leadership position in the G2 Crowd Partner Management Software category, earning the “Leader” designation 12 quarters in a row. In the most recent quarter, ZINFI was, once again, ranked #1 in user satisfaction and ease of use. How do we do it? The answer is our obsession with the customer experience.
Many of our competitors in the G2 Crowd Partner Management Software category have raised a lot of investment capital, but their priority has been in building marketing and sales activities to get more customers. As a result, their investments in engineering have lagged significantly compared to ZINFI over the past decade. We have always believed that the customer experience comes first. Sure, it’s important for a business to keep growing; otherwise, it risks becoming irrelevant in the marketplace. However, if your current customers are not happy, why bother getting more customers?
My first job was at a very large multinational company in the eastern US, an organization that sold all over the world and had revenue in the billions. As a new engineer, when I first showed up at the job, I was in awe of the big offices with shiny conference rooms and inspiring pictures on the wall. I felt my career was off to a great start. Pretty soon, I began traveling around the country visiting customers, and even went overseas to Europe, Asia, and other regions to meet some of our best clients. I started to collect airline miles and eventually was upgraded to business class. There I was: 25 years old, flying business class while working for a Fortune 100 company. I was on top of the world.
Then one fine morning I walked into a big conference room in a European country to visit a very big customer, along with my boss and several European colleagues. We waited for a few minutes, and then the purchasing manager, the customer’s key contact person, and a legal professional walked into the room. I could tell we were about to have a serious meeting – possibly too serious. We all stood up, shook hands, and I gave out my new business card.
The meeting began. We were told the customer was going to discontinue the contract (which was worth millions) if our product quality didn’t improve in six months. They gave us month-by-month requirements, which I could tell would be nearly impossible to fulfill. However, the customer was clear that their production was suffering because of the parts we were shipping, and if this was not corrected, we would not only lose the contract but be exposed to potential legal damages (potentially in the millions) as well.
On our way back to the airport, my boss said something very interesting – and to this day I think about it every day. He said, “Sugata, when you are selling milk, your milk better be good. It doesn’t matter how good the packaging is, how good your advertising is – if your milk is sour or off-tasting those other things don’t matter.” He continued, “When we go back, we need to convince the marketing and product team that we have to get back to basics. We need to focus on product quality first, and everything next.”
Over the next six months, we put in 18-hour days. We built a cross-functional team that lived in the factory. We came home during the weekends to be with our families, but during the week we all came together to take up this monumental challenge. We all knew that if we couldn’t save this account, many of us would lose our jobs. We spoke to our families clearly about this and everyone was behind us. The days were long, and the nights were short. During the first couple of months, progress was minimal, but from the third month onwards the product quality started to improve.
We flew back to Europe to meet the customer again. This time the meeting was less hostile. We had kept them informed of the changes we were making every step of the way, and they now saw we had prioritized their needs ahead of everything else. The next two months were brutal, but we worked with our own suppliers and the team ran statistical experiments. All of the changes we made were based on data. By end of the fifth month, we were within a few percentage points of our target. Team morale was exceptionally high. And then one late morning we got a call from Europe. We were told the customer would not only continue to purchase our product but would increase the amount of purchasing as long as we were able to hit their target by end of the sixth month. And we did.
This may sound like a fairy tale business story, but it did happen and it had a profound impact on my life as a young engineer. I learned about the power of customer focus, the importance of aligning a team to create a clear sense of purpose, and the value of pursuing “impossible” goals in a methodical way. Most importantly, I learned that when you are selling milk, your milk better be good.
I think the challenge in our marketplace today is everyone wants to be an overnight success. There is constant pressure from investors, who are under pressure from their capital owners, to perform. This passion to perform in the short run can take the focus off the most important entities: your customers and your employees. It’s easy to take shortcuts when you are developing the product. It is easy to do what is easy.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but in our earliest days at ZINFI we set this audacious goal of building an enterprise-grade product at an SMB price with a consumer level of ease of use. And we knew from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be easy.
In spite of that, we focused on the milk.
Amid continuous challenges in building out an industry-leading product, we always kept our eyes on the ball, and continue to do so to this day. We prioritize our roadmap based on what prospects, customers and their partners tell us. We also innovate on our own, but we listen to our customers first. About 60% of our monthly sprints are focused on feature development efforts tied to customer feedback. We not only focus on product development but also spend enormous amounts of time improving our own processes and training our people to improve their skills. All of this takes intense focus and hard work, but that’s how we have maintained our top ranking among our competitors in the G2 Crowd Partner Management Software category.
All of our efforts have come together in an integrated customer experience. We are far from done. We have a lot of work to do. But we know what our priority is – the milk better be good. The entire organization wakes up every morning thinking about customer experience. We constantly listen, prioritize and plan. That’s why, despite the fact that our competition is raising boatloads of investments, our partner management software product continues to generate exceptionally high rankings with G2 Crowd and other major analysts.
Simple is hard, but when you just simply focus on hard things, it gets easier. Competencies go up. Employee satisfaction goes up. Their competencies increase and retention of both customers and employees goes up. You build an open, transparent culture, and you make the customer part of the solution. You discuss challenges openly. You let your employees make mistakes, but you also let them know they get paid not to repeat them.
And that’s how you remain a leader quarter after quarter, as ZINFI has done in the G2 Crowd Partner Management Software area. That said, we also realize that when we take our eyes off the milk and start prioritizing packaging, messaging, and other ancillary things, we will begin to slip. When you are #1 the only place you can go is down. That may sound a little paranoid, but it’s also an important factor in our commitment to integrity and the sense of ownership we cultivate in every employee.
It bears repeating: At ZINFI, we put customer experience first. We focus on the milk. The rest is just details.