Concord interviews Cody McLain, CEO of SupportNinja, to find out how contract management software has played a role in the technical support industry.
Tell me about SupportNinja?
SupportNinja was founded back in early 2015. After I sold my last company, I was trying to figure out what to do next and create a startup without all the risk involved with being a startup. I had my list of service customers from my previous hosting companies, which had given me a lot of experience providing customer support. I also knew I wanted to work with startups. There are all kinds of interesting startups that seem to be everywhere now. After some research, I found that there is nobody out there that is supplying customer support specifically to startups. That’s where I got the idea, and I started SupportNinja in early 2015. Since then we have been able to grow very significantly, 20-30% every single month. For example, we do the background checks for a very popular ride-sharing service, that I can’t name, here in the US, and we also have a lot of other interesting social media apps that we do content moderation for, we essentially do all the back office support services for them. What I like to refer to as “scalable, repeatable processes that need to be performed by humans”, and there are a lot of aspects of startups or software or platforms as a service that require a certain human element. So if they have a process that needs to scale with the growth of their platform, we are that back office support. We create this team, manage the team and then we will have them assist in providing the process necessary for their platform to grow, scale, and be successful.
What drew you to the startup realm?
Well, it’s a really underserved market, there is no one else really honestly doing it, so I saw it as not only as a cool opportunity to work with so many interesting companies but also just as an underserved niche. In the BPO space, which is short for Business Process Outsourcing, which is a fancy term for a call center, you have a lot out there but they are really small, with a specific market. We’re based in the Philippines, and I have toured a lot different call centers. They are either typically a large corporate structure that services a few particular markets, or it’s a guy from the US or Australia that is living in the Philippines, running a small call center. But there was no one that was doing it for startups or tech companies. When I say startups I don’t just mean companies with really small teams, but we’ve got very large clients that are huge but still have the label “startup.” For us, it’s more about serving the tech market and technology businesses.
What are you most proud of? What do you guys do best?
Trying to reinvent what outsourcing really means. There are a lot of call centers that really have this ancient ideology for managing their call center workers. The structure that we have is less hierarchical, so it’s not as top-down official. We try to give everyone a voice, and we try to create a Google-like office here in the Philippines. I would say we probably have one of the coolest places to work. We encourage them to hang with friends, we have Beer O’clock Fridays after work that they can go hang out, and so forth. We really try to create this family within the office. We also encourage the companies to send over their company swag as a way of making their team in the Philippines feel just like a remote office for their own company. There is a real difference in the way we function with a core focus on our employees compared to the traditional outsourcing company that puts profits before people. I have been through a lot of those companies where you are solely based on your efficiency if you don’t meet the KPI’s – you’re fired, and they have a very high attrition rate. We have a very low attrition rate because our employees enjoy working here and we got the extra mile to help them should they fall behind.
Lastly, we also go a step further in helping our clients. We have a lot of clients who come to us without their process fully defined, and what we’ll do is take that process and more clearly define it based on our previous experience. And then we will do what’s called A/B optimization, so we will actually take a small team in that process, once they are beyond a certain number of agents, and we will try and improve that. If we are setting up cold emails, for example, we will take a small subset of the overall group we are targeting and we will try different titles, different messages, etc. and see which is working better. We are doing that without the startup’s involvement, so we’re actually improving their process without them needing to put any time, energy, or focus on it.
What does your company stand for?
We put a lot of effort and attention back into our people. In many ways, our people are our product, so we’re constantly reinvesting back into the company. Everything that we have made thus far has been put back into the business as a way of trying to see how can we improve the culture. How we can improve the environment and make our employees not only more productive, but happier as well. That is seen really well by our clients, who really love the people we’ve been able to find for them. Overall what I would like to see is our ability to make startups successful today. I think you have a lot of startups or founders who go into starting their company and they have this vision of having this big impact on the world, and so what we hope to do is help those smaller startups in those earlier stages be successful today and help them lower their operational costs, lower their overhead costs, so that they can actually focus on developing the platform. We help them accomplish their dream of changing the world. I would like to think we are having an indirect impact on these startups, some of whom do have these huge goals and big ambitions.
As CEO, how important day-to-day is contract management to you?
Really important, I think it’s something that we didn’t really know how much of a problem it was until we started thinking about it.
Did you have a system before? Or how were you handling your contracts before?
We were actually using a system called PandaDoc, and the problem that we were consistently having, is that platform is extremely limited. So a lot of our clients, they either have their own legal team or lawyer, and since our contracts are typically quite complicated, they are typically negotiated in very specific terms. We are not looking for a cookie-cutter service where we send out a general term of service and you either accept it or you don’t, there is a lot of back-and-forth in all of our contracts. So with PandaDoc we would have to download the source, or put it into a Google Doc, and share that with their lawyer, then they would print that out and redline it. Then once we finally agree on the changes, whether that’s through sending repeated Microsoft Word docs back and forth, or just simply having them annotate the Google doc, and then we had to figure out how to reimport that back into PandaDoc. That was a huge pain. Because there is no direct copy and paste, we would have to practically recreate the document from scratch every time. From that perspective, it was very very difficult to manage that process. We didn’t really know that it was a contract management issue we were having. It was not until we sent out a bunch of contracts and hired our first sales guy, that we realized that we were spending way too much time trying to manage these contracts, and then I ask my Sales Director, “So how are we tracking when the contracts expire?” and he says “Oh, I just have them in my head.” Haha. So he is just keeping track of the expiration dates of these contracts in his head. So now I’m thinking, ok we really have a problem.
Do you have any features that stood out to you about Concord?
The biggest benefit from using Concord is that it allows our clients to download the document and it allows the lawyers our clients hire to upload a redlined version of that contract. I like that I can check back on the different versions and see what was modified. Even if they upload a pdf we can always see that there is a new version. We can see what changes are actually happening without having to refer to a document comparison software. Sometimes we will still have a lawyer send a document to a sales guy, and then the sales guy will upload that new revision into Concord and we can see that there is another version. Being able to track the contract changes makes it easier for us to know exactly where in the process we are with the negotiation. We can also better keep track of variables, like start date, or financials. So there are all these little ways of configuring Concord that really give us a greater awareness to knowing overall where the contracts are and statuses. We can track the number of contracts sent out vs. how many were executed. That gives more insight into seeing is there a greater problem that I need to try and fix.
Would you recommend our solution to others?
Yes! Of course I would. It’s a relatively simple software, there are other platforms our there that are a little more complicated. Concord does what it does very well. Everything that it offers in terms of the simplicity, and of the UI in particular, is brilliant. It did not take long for our team to figure out how to use, there were no complicated training sessions, and the pricing is reasonable. I don’t see any downsides to not using Concord. It really solved a problem that we didn’t even know we had before. I think my sales guy would agree it has made it a lot easier to send out the contracts, and we can tag it with the various clients, click a tag, and see all the contracts that have been executed by a particular client, or by types of contracts, etc. It’s very a very good software, I would definitely recommend it.