The HotLine Magazine was an online resource [TheHotlineMagazine.com] that begin in March of 2007 and continued to publish well into 2013. Before that, there had been over twenty years of articles in various print magazines, plus innumerable posts in online discussion forums dating back to 1979. (CompuServe, The Source, The WELL, AOL) The essential concepts of what has come to be known as social marketing, crowd support/sourcing, self-support, self-service, self-success, content-marketing are far from new. Customer retention and relationship management were constant themes in the HotLine articles from the beginning.
In less than a year, the voice of The HotLine had developed a considerable reach as readers came from all 50 states and over 70 countries. By 2010, there were regular readers in over 170 countries worldwide and in more than a dozen languages — thanks to Google’s translation functionality. CEO’s, EVP’s, VP’s, COO’s, Directors, Managers, VC’s/investors and front-line Support supervisors and leads were all to be found on a daily basis, reading article after article and emailing copies to colleagues.
The intent for The HotLine was to create a place where the conversation could focus on the key missing element, Strategy, in the standard Process-People-Technology way of looking at organizations and their activities. The articles asked questions that were not being addressed anywhere else. Why are you setting up your organization structure in that way? What does it mean to your company when you release products (regardless of readiness) in order to hit a marketing window? Who really owns the ongoing customer-company relationship?
The SaaS Tsunami
The key aspects of the fundamental change in the business model, from traditional front-loaded bulk profit-taking over to the management of incremental income streams from subscriptions were clear to be seen from the beginning. The meaning of those factors to the typical software company organizational model, however, was another matter entirely. There was no significant difference between the org chart of a traditional on-premised perpetual license seller and a new cloud company. Dev built the product, Marketing found leads to prospective buyers, Sales closed those deals and Support got stuck with everything after. The drivers were the addition of ever more new features in the hopes of attracting more new customers, and the building of Market Share.
Even though companies such as Siebel OnDemand began to recognize the need for a new role in the organizational array as early as 2004 (No, Salesforce did not invent either the title or the role of Customer Success Manager), companies are still struggling with the meaning of the changed business model. People are still reading the early HotLine articles about the implications of authentic customer centricity today, and asking the same questions of the search engines to get there as they did in 2007. While a bit dated in some regards, there is much in those articles that is as apt today as it was when they were first written.
The HotLine Magazine Archive
As the profession and practice of Customer Success continues to evolve and spread, understanding the origins and the history of the role will be important. In the early days, I thought that perhaps Customer Support could be redefined and re-positioned to serve the needs of the new era. That idea turned out to be less than optimum for a variety of very sound reasons, but people are still asking the question today. There is still a need to examine the meanings of different approaches.
Rather than continuing to maintain a separate website, I’ve decided to move the old articles here to the Customer Success Magazine site as an ongoing resource. As time permits, they will be republished and added to a catalog for easier access. (In the meantime, you can find them at: www.TheHotLineMagazine.com)