Andrei Petrik, CEO, and Co-Founder of NetHunt CRM tells us about organized customer management systems that innovate using the Customer Success (CS) Model.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrei Petrik: It’s been interesting. Busy too, but I guess it’s been the same for everybody. I find it mad how it takes a global catastrophe to take a step back and appreciate what you’ve got and what takes precedence. It made me realize how delicately that work-life balance teeters. On the one hand, we want the business to be a success and we work and work and work. But on the other hand, something like this happens, and you’re busier than ever because you’ve got a bigger job to do: looking after the kids, mums, dads, grandmas, grandpas, and the work stuff suddenly doesn’t seem so important. Yes, am filled up to my eyeballs with things to do; but am blessed to have learned so much about myself and my life.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded NetHunt CRM.
Andrei Petrik: I’m an absolute, self-confessed coding nerd and have been since I was young. I actually wrote my first line of code when I was like 11 and since then I’ve coded my way through my free time in school, through university making mobile games and traveling all the way around Europe and the US to onboard new customers for an enterprise-sized CRM system.
Travelling was great, but there was always something that bugged me. I didn’t understand why this CRM couldn’t be more simple. That’s the point in CRM, to simplify things. Why was it $300 per user, per month? Why were these companies changing their business processes to fit the CRM? And why on Earth were we trudging across the World to train huge teams that would only end up using one or two features that we showed them?
An idea was born, and like most other great ideas, it was born over a beer. A CRM that bends to fit your business, rather than your business bending to fit the CRM, a simple-to-install browser extension, and a realistic price tag that small businesses can actually afford to grow. Why not?
How does NetHunt CRM innovate?
Andrei Petrik: Well, we don’t innovate for the sake of innovating. We follow something called a Customer Success (CS) Model. It replaced our Customer Support Team and is focused on proactivity. Where a support team responds to one-time questions with one-time solutions, a CS team uses foresight, research, and better communication to stop those problems from ever occurring. In the CRM industry, the more successful our customers are, the more users we gain and the more money we make. Any innovation is based on what our customers need for success. The devs ask the CS team… “what are they asking for?”
Becoming advocates for our clients, providing a conversational customer experience, and focusing on customer retention. We brought all of our communication and request channels together, ensuring a direct, one-to-one line of communication with our clients at all times.
Generally, and I appreciate that this might sound daft, but we learned how to be nice; empathetic, and flexible. It’s nice to be nice and to help our customers. This goes way beyond the pandemic, and in the long run customer retention and brand loyalty wins.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Andrei Petrik: To be honest, our tech stack didn’t change too drastically over the course of the pandemic. Our product is Google-based, and it just makes sense for us to use a lot of so-called G-tools for our work: Docs, Sheets, and Chat. Outside of the Google-sphere, we make sure that our task-management systems are always up-to-date and everybody knows exactly what’s going on. We have weekly online meetings for the whole team to catch up with what each other have been doing, and the marketing team has a meeting every day to stay current and on top of things. For example, we launched our new Workflows feature. It’s been in the pipeline for a long time; sales automation is not a good thing. But with everything going on in the World, we bumped heads to think about what people need in that feature. It became clear that communication between remote teams was a priority at that moment in time. So, we introduced a webhook for NetHunt and different communication platforms that enable NetHunt alerts within those systems. Whenever something noteworthy happens with a lead, you get pinged in Slack, Google Chat, or via email. It’s an innovation our users need and it fits under our mantra of everything in one place.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business and how are you coping?
Andrei Petrik: Sadly, we lost a few clients who couldn’t survive. But apart from that, we’re lucky to be in such a strictly digital industry and nothing much changed. It hasn’t influenced our marketing or our communication channels; we’re a SaaS company with clients across the globe so we already relied on the Internet. In fact, without it, I don’t want to imagine the kind of mess the world would be in now.
Yeah, offline events moved online; my inbox is full of webinar invitations. We hold Google Hangouts for team meetings now. Again, communication became the biggest issue for us as we all got locked down and forced to work from home. I’ve had the most random complaints from my team… like back pain for example. I think everybody is missing their comfortable office chairs!
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Andrei Petrik: Yeah, of course. It’s not just businesses that have changed, but people and their attitudes have changed too. Like I referred to earlier we learned all about how fine that line is between work, especially when we’re working from home. We didn’t have to make many difficult decisions, because everything happened so quickly. We just kind of ripped that band-aid off.
The decisions we did make were centered on stuff that we realize we should have already been doing. It’s working… but it’s a pain in the ass, isn’t it? Get me back to the office and my comfortable chair!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrei Petrik: The CRM market is busy, and why wouldn’t it be? I might be slightly biased, but it’s a useful, flexible tool. It’s also the fastest-growing SaaS market, and why wouldn’t you want a slice of that pie? I love it. I love the competition and I love watching our product continue to grow after so many years. To stay in the game, we stay original, we speak directly to our audience, we provide world-class customer service, we put out some top-notch, relative, actionable content, and we cross our fingers. That’s business!
Your final thoughts?
Andrei Petrik: First of all, thanks for having me.
Secondly, I just want to send my best wishes to the wider business community. The game has changed, and 2020 was a horrendous wave to ride. But, if you’re still hungry after all that, still fighting for your dream, then I’d like to extend a “socially-distant” handshake to you. Yeah, some of us are against each other, direct competitors, but ultimately we’re all in it together.
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