Interview with CODiE Company of the Year – Zuora, Inc.

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I recently had an opportunity to speak with David Gee, CMO for Zuora, Inc. about their 2016 CODiE Company of the Year win. Read the full interview below.

Rhianna: Briefly describe your company and what makes your product or service you provide unique in your market.

David Gee: Driven by digital transformation and the need to quickly launch and scale new services, organizations in every industry are embracing subscription-based business models. As a result, today’s most innovative companies have radically transformed their operations using subscriber-centric, recurring-revenue strategies that provide the agility and flexibility they need to create deeper and longer-lasting relationships with customers.

Companies like Microsoft who once relied on software are turning to cloud-delivered applications. Manufacturers like GM and Ford are adding connected-services to bring on-going value to consumers who once just drove the car off the lot. And music and TV industries have been completely transformed by the on-demand expectations of viewers.

Zuora is a SaaS subscription business management platform that includes billing, commerce, finance and revenue recognition. Zuora solves the complexities of subscription billing that cannot be addressed by legacy financial systems. It also adapts dynamically to changes that legacy systems like ERP were not designed to address as these systems were built for a product-based world of “one time” sales transactions. To keep up with the enormous opportunity of the Subscription Economy, corporate financial systems must function differently than they have in the past, with the agility to support fast-growth and the customer- centric companies they empower.

Zuora is unique to the market because it combines a core subscription management platform with Zuora’s predictive analytics solution. Zuora Insights enables businesses to predict renewals and churn, access real-time monitoring of opportunities and risks, and make strategic decisions on product, pricing, marketing, etc. Combined, they position Zuora as the only solution for subscription businesses to maximize customer growth and reduce customer churn by unifying financial, behavioral, and demographic data to make better business decisions. Bringing these three critical subscriber information sources together enables subscription businesses to accurately uncover the vital trends then take specific actions in one system to proactively acquire and retain existing subscribers.

Rhianna: Describe how your company measures customer satisfaction and describe your progress on this measure.

David Gee:  Companies using the Zuora platform span a range of industries, including media, technology, IoT, consumer goods, transportation, education and telecommunications. Customers include GM, Financial Times, Box, Vivint Solar, Schneider Electric, Honeywell, Surf Air, Okta, Zoom, TripAdvisor and HBO Nordics.

Zuora’s customer advocacy program has a vision to provide its 800 clients with proactive management and guidance, fostering use and adoption of the Zuora solution, resulting in the growth and success of their subscription business. Early on, Zuora developed a methodology called the 9 Keys that helps the company apply a methodology for ensuring successful subscription-based business strategies. In the market since 2007, Zuora has based these nine principles on thousands of conversations with customers. The same nine principles kept surfacing: Price, Acquire, Bill, Collect, Nurture, Account, Measure, Iterate and Scale. The customer success team talks to customers in the context of these nine principles across all program services which include Account Check-in, Integration Assessment, Community & Training Review, IDEAS Feedback and Coaching Programs.

Success is measured in many ways at Zuora; through direct customer feedback on various public and private forums including TrustRadius, G2Crowd, its own Zuora Community site, and during Zuora Advisory Group (ZAG) meetings around the world. Quantitatively, Zuora measures success by time spent in the community, reduction of support tickets and a satisfaction survey conducted annually.

The Assessment Board reviews implementations of the Zuora solution to facilitate healthy customer implementations through go-live review and certification. The executive sponsored review committee is chaired by support and comprised of leaders from various cross-functional teams, and lessons learned and best practices are funneled for solution design and operational support back into our Services and Engineering teams.

The customer success team has won various awards for its services including the Stevie for US Customer Service Department of the Year in 2014, UK Customer Service Team of the Year in 2015, APAC Customer Service Team of the Year in 2016, and two nominations in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business for Zuora’s VP of Customer Success.

In addition to the hands-on customer success team at Zuora, the company launched an online community in January 2016. To Zuora’s customers and partners, the Subscribed Community is just as vital and empowering as the Zuora platform itself. The new site is key to creating an optimal subscriber experience by providing free and easy access to advice, answers to questions, best practices, peer-to- peer discussions and more. Customers can also provide product feedback directly to Zuora, helping to shape the company’s product roadmap.

One customer said, "I love the Zuora Community - I think it is a great place to look around when I am not sure about something - so I usually go Community, Knowledge Center, and then Support if needed - but many times I can stop at Community, or sometimes Community give me hints to find the answer in the Knowledge Center and then do not need to open a support ticket."

Since its launch in January 2016, the Zuora Community has already begun gaining new views and engagement daily from customers, support agents and product managers. Zuora customers spend an average of eight minutes in the community – an indication they are finding valuable content from the community search and answers. In one week alone, Zuora saw a nine percent decrease in support tickets. 

Rhianna Rhianna Collier is VP for the Software Division at SIIA. Follow the Software team on Twitter at @SIIASoftware.