I admit it. I have my head in the clouds often. I’m a dreamer and a builder. I like building, creating, shaping…new ideas, new software, new businesses. Earlier in my career, my focus was on building awesome software. Later that focus shifted to creating this company, SugarCRM. What I ended up learning later was what I enjoyed creating the most was customers. Happy, successful customers.
There is nothing more satisfying than when you see that bright gleam in the eyes of a new customer who is using your product for the first time. If you’ve had the opportunity to share that moment with one of yours you know exactly what I’m talking about.
June 1st celebrates the 15 year anniversary of SugarCRM, what has apparently become my life’s work. But certainly not just my life’s work. I have the honor of having built this company with some of the most fantastic colleagues and business partners that you could imagine. But frankly, the true joy for Sugar has been helping thousands upon thousands of companies build their own businesses…one customer at a time. It’s been a lot of work–but work that is your passion isn’t really work in the end. It’s simply what you do, because you have to do it. We’ve put together an infographic celebrating “15 Sweet Years of SugarCRM” at the end of the post; there’s some really cool stuff in there. You can download your own copy here.
I took a look in our own Sugar system today and saw that fifteen of the customers who signed up with us in our first year of business are still with us today. Fifteen years of loyalty. That is amazing and quite humbling. These past fifteen years have definitely shown me what it takes to build loyal customers…a relentless drive to deliver innovation and guidance to your customers. That’s how you create customers for life.
When we started Sugar in 2004, our vision was simple: make the world’s best CRM software available to every company around the world. That year, open source and web-based apps were taking the world by storm. Entirely new software development and distribution models were being unlocked. We saw a new way to get modern CRM tools into the hands of every marketer, seller and customer service rep. That vision clearly resonated as Sugar quickly became the #1 open source business app.
Time moved on and new technology emerged. Open source slipped into the background to become how you build cloud and mobile applications and less the disruptive business model that originally shook the community. Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and so many other social collaboration tools rose to stand side-by-side with phones and email. But behind the technology was a simple promise that has remained largely unchanged since the CRM market began 25 years ago. If we make your employees more effective in their jobs, they can spend more time themselves creating loyal customers.
At times, however, it did feel like we were just building newer versions of the same thing. Moving from client-server to web to mobile. Same screens, different packaging. What was next?
Next is what’s now our new reality. With the massive compute power of Amazon Web Services at our fingertips, big data collection and new technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics, we are clearly poised for a new era of CRM apps. In fact, we shouldn’t even call it CRM anymore. It’s now Customer Experience Management, or simply CX.
And the really fun part? Computers are turning from dumb data collection devices to smart personal assistants. “Hey Siri, which customer should I call next?”
To put a finer point on it, I would characterize the past fifteen years of CRM innovation as essentially creating a better notebook for customer relationship professionals. Remember Day Runners? That’s how I now look at the last generation of CRM tools. Mind you, being better organized is a good thing. It’s helped us grow our own business to it’s current height. But I want more from my Sugar. I want a CX tool that tells me something I don’t already know about my customers. I want my CX to guide me through my calls, meetings and follow-up tasks. And just as important, I don’t want to have to type in a ton of data that simply helps others to know what I know. I want a personal assistant that learns about my customers automatically, and tells me what to do next with them. I want minimal input and maximum customer insights delivered to me before I even know to ask.
I want No-Touch CX.
This is the next chapter of Sugar coming ahead of us. As we look forward to the next fifteen years, we envision a seamless world of front-office automation that guides both your customers and your employees through that delivery of innovation and value that you work so hard to create for your own business. Imagine your personal CX assistant suggesting answers to your customers’ questions, sending that answer automatically through email, chat or other channel and then updating the customer record in Sugar without having to lift a finger. Imagine that you spend your time doing what makes your company unique and valuable, not having to do the endless drudgery of entering what you already know. Imagine all of this being conducted via gestures or voice commands on your next generation mobile device.
I can imagine that new world right around the corner. Like I said, I want No-Touch CX. Don’t you?
We’ve taken some big steps in the past year to make this new vision happen. We found awesome new investors in Accel-KKR with deep pockets to fund that next wave of customer experience innovation. We have dialed up our product releases to four new feature releases per year. We have acquired three companies in the past three months that bring incredible innovation in the collaboration, marketing and predictive analytics spaces who also share our vision of No-Touch CX. We have some of the most incredible thought leaders in the business applications market busy working right now on this vision. And we have even more big things coming in this next year.
We are turbocharging our company. What about yours? Come join us for this new era of customer experience management and become the next fifteen-year Sugar customer; you will love the ride.
I certainly am.