The CoachAccountable Blog

What's new with the CA platform, tutorials on using it, and customer spotlights.

Archive for Ruminations

Five Years

This year’s cake is actually vegan and gluten free.  You can hardly taste the difference!

Holy moly, that’s like half a decade!

As I look back over the (now quite long) path of this endeavor I’m struck by how thoroughly CoachAccountable has moved past the “startup” phase, how far beyond that humble “Yeah, I’m going to make a web app to help coaches and see if it takes!” hopeful state.

CoachAccountable has taken.

This past year was our biggest yet by a lot in terms of the number of coaches we helped to deliver better and more results-based coaching, and the number of their clients who had a more supported experience with the help of our platform.

Paolo, my first hire and who came on board during this fifth year, turned out to be a lucky hire indeed.  As many of you have experienced Paolo is wicked smart and a patient teacher for coaches all along the technophobe spectrum.  He is talented well beyond answering support issues and giving demos, and I couldn’t have asked for a better person to be the first to join the CoachAccountable team.

Five years.  I’d like to give a nod to the late, great David Bowie whose song of the same name has been playing in my head for the better part of today and all of composing this missive.

Our work is far from done, so I say here’s to five more.  I’ve had so many life-giving and inspiring interactions with coaches while on this path, so it is decidedly my pleasure to keep on it in service of the practice I revere.

 

Helping Your Clients Understand How You’re Going to Use CoachAccountable

I got a note the other week with an interesting ask from Adil of Adil Iman Coaching:

Evening John,

Hope all is well. I love the software and I will be sure to sign up after the trial.  I am shooting a video next week about what happens in a coaching session and there after.

Are you okay for me to mention this software and if so what could I say in a nutshell to sell the idea.

Any suggestions or scripts would be fantastic.

Thank you for creating a great software.

Regards,
Adil

I found this interesting because it made me consider a problem I’ve never myself had: how to sell the idea of using CoachAccountable to a client.  As you might imagine I’m steeped deep within the world of using CA and I practically shudder to think of the dark days of trying to coach without it (they’re not dark days, of course, I just remember it being much harder and a lot less rigorous).

So I naturally think there’s nothing to it: if they’re sold on you as a coach you can just shuffle them right along into your process (a sort of “Welcome to the program, here’s what we’re going to do: we’ll be tracking our plans and our results in here, etc. etc.”).

But of course there’s power in being able to show of how you’ll be doing your work BEFORE your client signs on the dotted line.  I was reminded of this truth by a note I got this morning, a coach named Christina who opened to say “I would love to use CA as a way to differentiate myself. E.g. on my website – let my clients know that when they coach with me they get access to CA.”

So this is a useful area for us help coaches in.  It’s a tricky proposition: every coach has a different style so it’s tricky to prepare materials for a diverse collection of coaches who are going to be working with an even more diverse collection of clients, but there are a few resources we can offer that cover the more universal, broad strokes.

The “Show your value” video illustrates a number of ideas on how to showcase your coaching for prospective clients with the aid of CoachAccountable.

The Client Manual is another resource you as coach have handy to share with your clients, to better let them know what they’ll be getting with you.

But here Adil gave me another interesting angle: if you were to shoot a video to explain to a client what they’re getting themselves into, what would you say to introduce the use of CoachAccountable?

Here’s the example riff I gave Adil for such a script, which I think is surprisingly applicable and adaptable across the board:

…So by the end of our coaching session you and I are going to have come up with a few things: things for you to keep in mind during the coming week, a few action items for you to tackle before the next time we talk, maybe we’ll have you tracking something.

To make this all real (and not just some cool ideas of what do to) we’re going to set these things up in CoachAccountable, to support you AFTER our session in getting these things done.  The reminders will help to ensure you follow through on what there is, and when we reconvene the next time you and I are both going to have a very clear picture of what you got accomplished during the interim, and where you could use some extra support.

We’re gonna gonna focus on real results, we’re gonna make sure you’re making real progress.  You’re gonna love it.

Just as I was happy to share this with Adil I’m happy to share this with you to plagiarize freely.  Tailor it to the specifics of your coaching practice as you see fit to best convey how CA will play a vital and enhancing component of the experience of being coached by you.

We’re going to go deeper into how to get your clients excited to work with you specifically because of what you’ll be able to bring to them via CoachAccountable, but for now these ideas should give you a nice foundation on which to build.  Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, CA–It’s been 4 Years Now!

You know I can probably fit like 2 or 3 more on there.

You know I can probably fit like 2 or 3 more on there.  Re-gifting might be a sin, but re-caking?  Totally fine.

Oh jeez, someone ordered the wrong sash for Mr. CoachAccountable, it was supposed to say "Happy Birthday". Oddly he doesn't seem to mind.

Oh jeez, someone ordered the wrong sash for Mr. CoachAccountable, it was supposed to say “Happy Birthday”. Oddly he doesn’t seem to mind.

CoachAccountable’s fourth year of existence since the 2.0 release got off to a groovy start with the release of CA Mobile, the appy experience of CoachAccountable for coaches and clients but without the hassle of having to find and download anything from an app store.

Then in January CoachAccountable got a named shout out in the Acknowledgements section at the end of the New York Times best seller book Always Hungry, for which CoachAccountable served as the platform for the pilot program upon which the book is based.

Tambre Leighn and company chose CoachAccountable as the delivery and community platform for their cancer survivors program, Well Beyond This. That CA Groups serve as a support group medium for participants makes this a project for which I am deeply honored to be a part of.

Along the way there has been the usual bevvy of enhancements and expansions to the system, including Course Whiteboards, Unit-Based Courses, Worksheet Image Prompts, and Form-Based Session Notes.

Beyond that it’s been busy times as the platform continues to grow and evolve to serve ever larger organizations and programs, so much so that my days as a one-man shop have come to an end.  The need for assistance to keep up has prompted me to create the new Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding position.  I’ll be introducing him in this space very soon.

Year 5 promises to be the biggest leap forward for CoachAccountable yet.  As usual I have much more up my sleeve to better the platform in order to better forward and serve the industry and the many talented coaches working to produce great results.

My many heartfelt thanks to coaches and organizations who continue to try out CA and find it a win for their work, here’s to another year of great coaching!

On Shitty Customer Service

Yes, the title of this post is crude and vulgar.

But we all know it when we experience it.  It can be maddening enough that any gentler term would be whitewashing of how it leaves us.

The other day I got an email invoice for my annual service with a company that, to protect the guilty, shall not be called out specifically.  It was for about twice the amount I paid for the previous years of which I’ve been a customer, and invoice contained these friendly words:

Thank you for your purchase! Please contact billing@____.com with questions or concerns.

Hey, I have a question or concern!  I mean the new price isn’t a big deal ($30 became $60), but such an unannounced price hike seems worth asking about.  So I wrote:

Hello!

I notice my price for one year of _____  this year ($60) is up substantially from what it was last year ($35), and that is up from what I originally signed up for in 2013 (and paid again in 2014), $29.99.

I don’t recall getting any notification about any impending price increase, what gives?

Thanks,
John

Within seconds I got back the following message:

Thank you for contacting ___ Customer Support,

This email notification was in regards to services in your account at http://___.com. If you require an invoice from your renewal, you can generate one in your account. To do so:

1. Log into your account at ___.com
2. Under the Billing header, click on “Payment History”
3. Click the “View Details” link next to the purchase
4. Click the “Printable Invoice” link on the next page

If you would like to cancel your services, you may do so through your account at http://___.com. To cancel your ____ service:
1. Log into your account at ___.com, using…

To cancel ____ …
1. Log into your account at ___.com…

As long as the service is cancelled within 30 days of the purchase, your services will be refunded automatically. Please allow a minimum of 48 hours for your refund to be sent to your payment issuer. Once it reaches the payment issuer, it is at their discretion as to how long it will take for the funds to post back onto your account.

Thank you,

___ Customer Support

Sigh.  Okay, clearly answered by a robot.  But at least the from email address seemed to indicate a real person, some dude name Kevin.  So I wrote back:

Hi,

As best I can tell that reply addresses absolutely none of what I just asked.  Can you tell me when the pricing was approximately doubled and why the first time I’m learning about it is when I get an invoice for my next year?

It’s not a big deal and I’m mostly happy to stay on as a customer, it just feels like quite an abrupt price increase with no warning.

That was sent 4 days ago.  No reply.

In a sense, I get it: I’m just a $60/year customer (at least that’s higher than I was before!) and my gripe (actually not so much a gripe as a question) is a matter of $25, $30.01 tops.  This issue might not warrant a thoughtful response, let alone from a human.  And in fact a less charitable reading of the response might suggest I DID get an answer to my question: a lot of words that boil down to “If you don’t like it and want to cancel, here’s how”.  (The “and go fuck yourself” subtext exists, admittedly, only in my imagination.)

But whichever way I slice it, what a sour taste this leaves me as a customer–such unresponsive service to a genuine inquiry.

Doing all of the customer service these last three and half years for CoachAccountable has made me particularly sensitive to seeing it done sloppily by other companies.  Certainly this is unfair, as I’m comparing the passion of a founder to whatever legions of support teams the big companies have to cobble together, but I still just don’t get how you can allow a really poor job to be done of it.

I’m just one dude and I handle hundreds of customers and thousands of users.  In the last 48 hours I have:

  • Spent 45 minutes helping one user tweak the layout and functionality of some of her Worksheet Templates.
  • Issued a refund of 5 months of invoices on an account that was canceled which I noticed had simply been quite dormant (this was unrequested, I explained that I sleep better at night knowing that folks are getting their money’s worth out of the system).
  • Built and launched a new feature within hours of the request (per-appointment type availability rules).
  • Chatted for 30 minutes with a power user of what they want to do next with the system and where things are headed.

And in the middle of writing this blog post I spent time consulting on how best to deliver a group program at scale with rolling admission, including how the software development to employ the CoachAccountable API should be handled.

What I’m trying to say is if you’re like me you’ve had your share of shitty customer service moments, where it’s just painful to do business with a company and/or you’re left to feel insignificant and unsupported.  And amid that kind of experience, putting your trust into a system & company like CoachAccountable, wherein key parts of your business hinge upon that system up and well supported, can be daunting.

To put your mind at ease I want you to know how thoroughly turned off I am by shitty customer service, and the flip side of THAT coin is that I LOVE giving SUPERB customer service.  Those bullet points above?  That’s my kind of fun, that’s what gives purpose and meaning to the many hours of heads down work spent creating CA.  That’s how I roll, and just as stated in the Terms of Awesome, that’s what my customers get to expect of me.  There will eventually be others doing the support for CoachAccountable, and you better believe they’ll be on this same page when it comes to offering that support.

It’s hard to walk away from every company that gives shitty customer service.  I’m proud to promise that you’ll never have that problem here.

Terms of Awesome

Most of the legalese-filled documents like “Terms of Service” and “Privacy Policy” are lengthy, uninteresting, and full of jargon that is generally inaccessible to humans.  CoachAccountable has such documents and they indeed fit that model: they are fully vetted as legit and covering all bases by qualified lawyers, but that still doesn’t mean they’re not boring, boilerplate, and overall uninteresting.

Perhaps that is as it is meant to be to satisfy the needs and eventualities that can arise in our current system of law.  Fine, so be it.

But when it comes to outlining the parameters of the relationship between CoachAccountable and its customers, there really is (and deserves to be) more to the story.  Enter the CoachAccountable Terms of Awesome.

Written like a manifesto of the rights and privileges one can expect as a user of CoachAccountable, the Terms of Awesome is essentially an account of how I’ve been doing business with folks since launching back in 2012.  It’s been working well, so I’m happy to declare publicly that that is, in fact, the deal.  Read the Terms of Awesome here.

 

CoachAccountable Merch First Sighting

Baby Kira, sporting promotional gear.

Baby Kira, sporting promotional gear.

In fairness I drew this on a plain white onesie a few weeks before she was born.

Turns out demand for CA merch for newborns is really low. :)

On Being a One-Man Operation

Amid a tendency in business for smaller operations to portray themselves as larger ones to appear more successful or be taken more seriously, I submit to the world a proudly defiant confession:

CoachAccountable is indeed a one-man operation.

I’m delighted by how often that surprises people when they learn this, from long time customers to first time visitors to the site.

This setup works remarkably well.  Having marketing, customer support, UI design, copy writing, and actual building of the system all come from the same brain affords delightful efficiency.  Just the other week when creating a tutorial video I found places wherein it would be more logical to teach and more pretty to present with a few modifications.  So I just made those modifications to the software, and continued on with my screen captures (in a larger organization the marketer would usually have to propose those changes to the product manager, and if the marketer was lucky enough to have those changes accepted and prioritized, the product manager would have to schedule in those changes to with the development team, and then those changes would be made and released days if not weeks or months later).

But that I am just one person causes concern for some people, and understandably so.  One coach who was at the time a prospective customer summed it up beautifully:

…It concerns me a little that you are a one man shop.  Though obviously a very gifted, committed, and responsive one man (in fact I don’t like people like you who can make me – a mere mortal – feel like a sluff…haha) but there is inherent exposure for all of us there.  How will you keep up with supporting the system as it grows?  What happens if you (heaven forbid) were to get hit by the proverbial beer truck?  For those of us who could be staking our coaching livelihoods on a system like this, it leaves one concerned about the exposure and need for a continuity plan.

Very fair questions indeed.

» Continue reading “On Being a One-Man Operation”

Why You Can Still Chat with the Founder

Yesterday I had a fun chat come in to me from the website.  A fellow from Poland started it off by writing:

I just found your web software
are you really founder of this?

To which I replied “I am indeed.”

wow
can I be frankly?

To which I replied “Please do.”

sound like: hmm is they have so SMALL about of business, that founder can spend time to chat ??
because for example I am founder of my own company and its hard to talk with me – only via coaching session :)

To that I chuckled.  That’s a fair assessment, and since I have no hang up about CoachAccountable being a tidy, one-man operation realized then and there just how comfortable I am with projecting that appearance.  I replied the truth, the last line of which was an insight which came to me on the spot:

Yep. For the time being I’m going to enjoy for as long as I can the luxury of being able to talk directly with the community I’m serving.
It makes a huge difference for me to be able to do so,
you might think of it as the best sort of market research one could possibly do.

That about says it all.  Being available to chat keeps causing great conversations.  These conversations bring super useful insights to me and helpful answers to people who chat me (to say nothing of the sense of connection to this being a real thing made by a real guy and not just some faceless company).

So THAT’s why, yes, you can still chat with the founder of CoachAccountable.

I’m gonna ride this train for as long as I can.

True claim.

No, seriously.

Delightful Dissent Re. Pricing Plans

After explaining in detail the reasoning behind why I charge $50/month for white-labeling, I was delighted to receive a comment containing most thorough dissent from Michael Leahy, one of the newer customers of CoachAccountable, and one of my favorite for his high level of engagement and input.

I believe it’s the first real criticism ever to be expressed in the comments of this humble blog, and while the always-positive environment of the community’s feedback is a delightful boon to my morale, it does pose within it the chance of this devolving into a sort of rosy echo chamber.  By contrast, Michael’s strong opposition brings forth the chance for a lively exchange and exploration of ideas (if you haven’t read it yet, go check it out first before continuing), and affords me the chance to get off my laurels and work through a thoughtful response.

This is good stuff, so I’ve opted to move this more center stage into a post of its own rather than have it languish in the comments section.

» Continue reading “Delightful Dissent Re. Pricing Plans”

On Professional Presentation

Have you ever thought about what coaching looks like?  Or, more to the point, what YOUR coaching looks like?

It’s more worth pondering than you might imagine.

Coaching by its very nature is a rather abstract process: you would be hard pressed to fill a box with “coaching”, point to it and say “Here, this is what coaching looks like.”  It’s more elusive than that.  Most coaching relationships (even the really good ones), appear on the surface to be a jumble of documents, a few email exchanges, and memories of some good sessions (plus notes about them, maybe).

They appear that way because that’s what they are.

This poses a problem of presentation for any given coach, and for coaching in general.  To the people who hire you, external appearances often form a huge basis for choosing a coach, and even choosing whether to be coached at all.  It’s hard to show off something that is inherently so abstract, and smooth glossy brochures (and their digital analogs) are generally met with at least some skepticism.   You might not trust them to mean anything more than a good design budget, and the same applies for your would-be clients.

» Continue reading “On Professional Presentation”