Did you know that every Qumulo customer gets a dedicated Customer Success (CS) team? It’s a bit unusual. Such teams are prevalent in traditional SaaS companies such as Salesforce, but not in traditional enterprise storage companies. There are two fundamental reasons why we do it. The first has to do with one of Qumulo’s core values: Customers are our magnetic field. Having a dedicated CS team is one of the many ways that helps Qumulo be as close as possible to its customers — serving them better, anticipating their needs and ultimately providing them with an incredible experience.
The other reason is related to how Qumulo builds software. Qumulo uses an agile development and release methodology that allows us to ship fully tested, production-ready software releases every two weeks. This serves customers by enabling a continuous improvement cycle designed to quickly respond to their feedback. You can read more on Reason #2 in a blog tomorrow. Today, I’ll focus on the structure Qumulo has established to work closely with customers and, we hope, delight them.
The building blocks of the Customer Success team are our Customer Success Managers (CSM), cloud-based monitoring and Qumulo’s user communities.
CSMs are the backbone of the Customer Success organization at Qumulo. The CSMs working at Qumulo were all storage practitioners with a minimum of 10 years of experience managing petabyte-scale footprints. Their experience ranges from managing storage for Xbox Live to running a High Performance Computing lab at an independent health research center at the University of Washington. The CSMs act as the customer’s main point of contact for anything from support requests and questions to upgrades to general feedback about the product. One regular ritual the CSMs perform to stay in-tune with every customer is to conduct check-in calls, typically once every two weeks. Customers also can interact with Qumulo via a dedicated Slack channel — one per customer — and Qumulo’s community site.
One of the unusual aspects of Qumulo’s support model is the absence of the support engineer role. That’s because of our agile development methodology. This model poses a challenge for a traditional support organization, which typically maintains a code-base developed under a waterfall software development model.
Qumulo’s approach is to form a support team comprised of CSMs and software engineers — the same engineers who actually build the product. This team is known within Qumulo as Qston. (Note that all teams at Qumulo must have a “Q” somewhere in their name.) Combining CSMs with engineers has many benefits. CSMs, being practitioners, know the landscape of problems and storage issues very well. They can relate to the plethora of problems that customers face. They interface directly with the customer to understand the issue and work hand-in-hand with the engineers who build the product to take care of the problem.
Another great resource for customers is Qumulo’s cloud-based monitoring service. When enabled by customers, this allows Qumulo clusters at customer sites to send health metrics to Qumulo’s cloud-based server farm. The type of data sent ranges from capacity metrics, IOPS, throughput, drive statistics, thermals and much more.
This data enables the CS team to be extremely proactive when dealing with customer issues. For example, a drive failure results in an immediate alert and subsequent RMA to the customer site. The data also helps Qumulo understand how the product is being used and how to improve it. For example, an analysis of thermal data collected over a period of time led to a software change to speed up the fan RPM, thus reducing the overall chassis temperature. This information is also used to analyze drive wear and subsequently can result in the proactive replacement of worn drives.
Collaborating with Customers
Communicating and collaborating with customers is part and parcel of the CS team’s mission. As such, the team has invested in an online user group primarily focused on fostering collaboration and communication between Qumulo and its partners and customers. The community is frequently used by Qumulo to post product releases, knowledge-base (KB) articles and much more. Similarly, customers and prospects use the community to post their questions and product ideas.
Qumulo’s engagement with customers and prospects extends beyond online forums. The CS and PM teams co-host a user group, known as MaxQ. MaxQ events are typically conducted once a quarter in locations around the US. Application developers are also an integral part of Qumulo’s community. As such, the CS team stood up a Github repository which caters to developer enthusiasts that want to build applications using Qumulo Core’s APIs. The repository contains a multitude of applications like:
- An SNMP agent that triggers SNMP events like node or drive loss for a Qumulo cluster.
- Daily Storage Reports which is a tool that allows users to view, filter, and email HTML and PDF reports that are powered by the Qumulo API.
- Soft quotas for shared capacity allocation.
- Parallelized rsync for rapid data replication.
One of the activities that the CS team does on a periodic (quarterly) basis is to send out a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to Qumulo’s customer base. NPS is a standard for measuring customer experience and loyalty. An NPS score reveals how likely a customer is to recommend a vendor and is a broadly adopted methodology to gauge customer satisfaction across all elements of interaction with a company. The survey results allow Qumulo to track the overall health of its customer bases and measure the impact the CS team is having on maintaining very satisfied and successful customers.
Qumulo’s high-touch approach is resonating well with Qumulo’s customers, as evident by a consistently high NPS score and the customer feedback received.
The main reason that Qumulo invests so much in a Customer Success organization is simply that it’s the right thing to do. Qumulo not only aims to build a fantastic product, but to provide customers with a wonderful experience and ensure their success.
Karim Fanous brings 15 years of technology and product experience to the company. Prior to Qumulo, Karim was at Microsoft, first as a software engineer working primarily on VoIP and online conferencing-related technologies, then as a product manager for cloud-scale telemetry platforms. Karim also held various roles at Booz & Company, where he advised Fortune 100 clients on their digital and go-to-market strategies. Karim holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BSc. in Math and Computer Science from the American University in Cairo.