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Want To Up Your Integration Game? Adopt A Product Mindset.

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Launching integrations without the right product or customer support can cause issues that impact your entire company. If there’s a lack of communication between the people developing your integrations (your product team, your partner’s product team, or third-party developers) and your partnerships team… Then, the integrations might not fully reflect the use cases your customers need. 

If your customer support reps aren’t trained to use and maintain your out-of-house integrations …. Then, your customers might misuse your integration, suffer revenue losses, and churn. 

Compounding issues like the above can result in low customer satisfaction and retention problems. 

Itai Bengal, Director of Product BD and Technology Partnerships at Yotpo, an eCommerce marketing platform, knows that building high-quality integrations positively impacts customer retention.

“We saw that if a customer had two or three integrations installed, they had a higher retention rate, and if their tech stack was well integrated with our solution and we brought it up on sales calls, a higher win rate,” says Bengal. “But we also saw that some integrations had low adoption rates and actually had become a source of frequent customer complaints.”

He observed the following: 

  • Some partners were building integrations to simply check a box without establishing a long-term vision 
  • Some integrations solved core customer needs, but were complicated and the Yotpo customer support team didn’t have the necessary knowledge to help customers post-integration adoption. 

Bengal took this observation to his higher-ups, who eventually decided to move the tech partnerships team to sit under product, as part of the platform team. Now, 15 months later, Bengal says that if you want integrations to be treated with the same attention and urgency as your product, you should adopt a product mindset. In other words, align your tech partnerships team with the product team by learning the product team’s language and copying their release processes.

As a result of these changes, and proactively building and launching integrations with customer support in mind, Yotpo has reached adoption rates amongst eligible customers of 50-60% on average across all of its integrations. 

We spoke to Bengal about how exactly his team adopted a product mindset in their approach to integrations, and how you can do the same. Skip ahead: 

Sit with your product team and learn their language

As a method actor might tell you, the best way to get into a distinct, unfamiliar mindset is to immerse yourself in the corresponding environment. And while we don’t recommend some of the more extreme tactics (Google Jared Letto, arrabbiata sauce), having your tech partner program report to or work closely with the product team is a quick and effective way to kickstart your product mindset.

“Over time, the company started to see tech partnerships, first and foremost, as a product value and a commercial channel second,” says Bengal. 

This mindset, he explains, begins before any integrations are launched: First, with your org chart (who’s on it and where they report to) and second, with the parameters you build for creating your tech partnerships program. 

Reporting to your product team can:

  • Help you connect with other product team members. When you build relationships with your product team members and establish trust, it can increase the likelihood that you get their buy-in on integration development projects. 
  • Communicate better with product team members. Before you know it, you’ll be learning your product team’s language (MVP = minimal viable product, not most valuable partner) and helping them with their key performance indicators (KPIs), like how integrating your software with the rest of a customer’s tech stack can increase daily active users (DAU) or average session duration for users. 
  • Focus first on what value an integration adds to your product. Is there a product gap that your product team has identified? Find a partner that can close this gap. This will help save time and resources for your product team that they would otherwise spend developing a new product feature.

Hire technology partnerships roles with product or technical backgrounds

Bengal also recommends bringing people with product or engineering backgrounds directly onto the tech partnerships team. 

“After the tech partnerships team moved under product, I hired another person that had a more technical background and was able to handle conversations with product managers and developers on the partner’s end, as well as internally,” he says. 

This is valuable, Bengal shared, because someone with a product background and partnerships skills can translate product tactics into partnerships language. 

Look for people who:

  • Have been measured by or are familiar with both partnerships and product KPIs. 
  • Have worked with or on both partnerships and product teams.
  • Have experience managing or working with external teams on product launches. 
  • Have a tested communication strategy for making sure internal and external teams are aligned throughout a project.
  • Know how to prioritize tech partnerships based on account overlap.

“It’s important to have someone who can keep all of the nuances of our product in mind and prevent issues and overcome product gaps while also collaborating with our partners, all the way to full integration release,” Bengal says.

Take ownership of your integration-building process

For your own tech ecosystem, inviting partners to use their own dev resources to build integrations and populate your integration marketplace can be tempting. Even if the integration isn’t particularly popular, you haven’t used your own resources, right? However, if the integration has bugs or doesn’t satisfy the right use cases, it will impact product usage and customer satisfaction. 

Yotpo’s tech partners have built around 80% of their 200+ existing integrations. “We had to take some level of ownership over the integration process and what integrations we associate our brand with,” Bengal says.

Now, it’s a requirement for Bengal’s team to greenlight all integrations, regardless of who is building them. “We started looking at all integrations with the same critical lens, whether or not it was built by us, a third party, or a partner.” 

For every integration, the team asks:

  • What is the minimal viable product (MVP) for this integration? Is this going to bring more value than it will cause any type of frustration? (For example, does it fully address the use case it’s built for, do both partners have the resources to address any bugs that might arise, or will customers need an excessive amount of custom development on top of the integration?) 
  • Does this integration align with our product roadmap or strategy?
  • Have we determined via account mapping that there is a large base of mutual customers and prospects that will benefit from the integration?

Copy your product team’s integration release & support process

When the product team at Yotpo releases a new feature, their customer and tech support teams provide continual support for the customers using it. Bengal mimics this process with integrations, calling it their “release and education process.” 

Yotpo offers two paths of escalation for customers and partners who might have issues with an integration. They can refer their customers to

  1. Yotpo’s customer support team that is trained on all integrations (regardless of who built them) 
  2. Yotpo’s technical product partnership managers and subject matter experts for each Yotpo product line with integrations

Bengal’s team trains the customer support team to have a basic understanding of the integrations relevant to their particular role. Now, most support reps can help customers troubleshoot an integration issue or answer basic questions, should one arise.

This integration education training can also help customer support reps hit their own KPIs, such as the number of customer support tickets resolved and customer satisfaction scores.

“It’s the same education as we would do for any feature that the product team built,” Bengal explains. 

When training your customer support team, consider: 

Inviting your partner to present at your integration education training for your customer support team (and offering to return the favor). Try putting together a slide deck that covers both partner’s products, the integration, and use cases and present it to both customer support teams. The more insight your customer support team has into the integrated products, the more holistic their help can be. 

“Slack channels for integrations that include both teams, but are focused on the integration itself and sharing product knowledge with each other, are another great way to maintain deep knowledge with your top partners,” says Bengal.

Creating a working FAQ sheet of customer or beta questions. Update it as new questions arise so all customer support team members have the most up-to-date information at all times and keep it wherever your customer support team works.

Tying the training to your customer support team’s KPIs. It’s no secret that people tend to be more invested in a project when it’s tied to their own goals. For example: If customer support reps are able to quickly troubleshoot integration issues for customers without having to go to an external party for help, they will close help tickets faster. 

When your CS team should manage an activity versus when subject matter experts (SMEs) should. In Bengal’s case, their SMEs manage more technical issues that may affect a large percentage of customers. Some companies also work with external SMEs with their system integrator (SI) partners who know their partners’ software really well in order to protect their CS team’s time.

Bengal found that by elevating integrations to the same level as product, integrations quickly became a priority for the entire company. 

“I knew we did something right when integrations became part of our most basic company identity. Integrations organically started getting higher priority across the board,” Bengal says.

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