Does Your App Have More Than One Message Schedule?
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In last week’s newsletter, Intercom highlighted a piece by COO Des Traynor: Does Your App Have a Message Schedule. He listed 5 essential times to schedule some outreach (from Welcoming to Retention & Reactivation). Great points on a tactical level, and some easy implementation steps here, but I feel he overlooked a major consideration.
Who should own customer messaging?
- At a five person startup, this won’t be an issue—no one person or “team” would have absolute domain. At that stage, anyone could be messaging a customer is already talking to everyone else at the org who could be messaging a customer.
- At a five thousand person company, this would (hopefully!) be completely solved, with a boatload of process to boot.
- But somewhere in the middle, this will become an issue and someone will have to solve it.
When it becomes a problem
I saw this crop up at Asana in 2015, as the org was hovering around 150 employees.
Asana runs a fantastic practice every few months called “Roadmap week” where everyone in the company sits in a variety of cross-departmental meetings and plans out the next few months of work.
I was sitting in on a marketing planning meeting when I heard they were going to re-vamp some of the lifecycle messages they send. A Customer Success Manager raised her hand and mentioned that her team was also looking at their automated messaging to customers.
Odd. Both teams were working on automated messaging, neither were taking with the other team about it.
It goes a step further. I had been working on the billing flow and knew that we also had a series of automated messages associated with that, owned by an entirely different team. I brought this up and the three of us took an action item to find a white board later and hash this out.
Three messaging schedules, owned by three different teams. How many does your app have?
It simply won’t occur to your customers that yesterday’s quirky message was from “Asana Marketing”, today’s businesslike missive is from “Asana Billing”, and tomorrow’s warm welcome is from “Asana Customer Success.” From an organizational perspective, the roles of each team are quite distinct, but from the user perspective every message simply comes from “Asana.”
How we fixed it
The solution? We took one vivacious and fun 45-minute meeting to iron out all the inconsistencies in content and timing, landing on a comprehensive schedule that was composed to move together and with the same voice. Going forward, however, these schedules continue to be owned by different teams—this issue will likely pop up in a Roadmap Week meeting down the line.
In retrospect, I would recommend that someone take ownership of messaging schedules across departments. Few teams, however, want to cede their messaging to hands of an outsider.
How many marketers would appreciate someone from product giving a looksie at their work before publishing? How many customer success managers would relish someone in marketing giving them the final OK? How many people in business tech/operations will remember to talk to customer success when they change their automated messaging? And this doesn’t even include in-product messaging!
A better, systemic solution
So how could this be solved as a system? Who should own this within the org? I propose that customer messaging schedules should live with the team that owns user onboarding: the Growth team.
- They are the team most intimately aware of what it’s like to be a new user. (When’s the last time you signed up for your product?)
- That team is running experiments on various onboarding experiences and are likely affecting messaging and/or scheduling along with it.
- They tend to work somewhat interdepartmentally already, and would be pretty well suited to negotiate the political realities of the situation.
This isn’t to say that the growth team should create all the messaging, just that there should be some cohesive oversight in what voices customers here when. Like an orchestra conductor, one team should ensure all customer messaging is in time and in harmony.
Yes, your app should have a message schedule. And yes, if you don’t have one, you should go ahead and make it. But if you do have one, take a second to think about how many you might have and how to reconcile those conflicting user experiences.
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