Stefanie Cramer, Customer Experience Program Manager at ActiveCampaign, is what you might call, “the process whisperer”. She takes time-consuming, manual business processes and automates them. And she does it using ActiveCampaign.

When you look for information in your day-to-day job responsibilities, how often do you switch between data sources?

Chances are, your business information lives in several places:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • Internal wiki
  • Billing software
  • Customer service and support software
  • Email
  • Google Drive
  • Business intelligence software

Once you find the information you need, how many other teams need to get involved before you can act on that information?

At ActiveCampaign, a single customer request for a billing change might require:

  1. Locating and gathering customer information from multiple sources
  2. Locating and gathering billing history
  3. Distilling that information into an easy-to-read format
  4. Sending the data to another team member for approval
  5. Waiting for that team member to approve the information
  6. Sending that approval to a manager
  7. Waiting for the manager’s approval
  8. Completing the billing change for the customer

What if you could remove all of the manual activity from processes like this?

Enter workflow automation.

What is workflow automation?

Workflow automation is the process of using automation software and tools to replace manual tasks in business and customer operations. Workflow automation automates multi-step processes that otherwise require manual actions and take up your time.

To automate business and customer operations, Stefanie needs to make sure that the right information is:

  1. In the right system
  2. Available to the right people (customer-facing teams)
  3. Available at the right time (when they need it)

This means automating the flow of information from multiple different sources into as few locations as possible. First, Stefanie identifies where the information is .At ActiveCampaign, we store customer and business information in several locations:

  • Billing data
  • Platform usage
  • User account preferences
  • Customer support information (Zendesk)
  • ActiveCampaign CRM

We need our customer-facing teams to spend as little time as possible looking for information in those platforms, and as much time as possible making an impact for our customers.

We needed a way to get specific information our customer-facing teams need from these sources into the ActiveCampaign CRM.

Stefanie uses webhooks to pull specific data points from these sources and import them into the proper fields in the ActiveCampaign CRM. A webhook is a lightweight way for an app to pass information to other apps in near real-time.

For more information on how to use ActiveCampaign webhooks to automate the transfer of information, take a look at this article.

5 examples of workflow automation at ActiveCampaign

Our customers use ActiveCampaign to create great customer experiences. At ActiveCampaign, we use it that way, too — but we also use it as a project management tool across teams (including those that aren’t customer-facing).

In this post, we’ll take a look at 5 examples of workflow automation at ActiveCampaign:

  1. International currency calculation for billing
  2. Customer support ticket reflection
  3. Custom billing request approval
  4. Lost deal feedback
  5. Contact update upon booking an onboarding call

1. International currency calculation for billing

ActiveCampaign has customers across the globe, which means we work with international currencies and exchange rates.

Based on their plan level and annual subscription, some ActiveCampaign customers can access additional support and services. To make sure that these services are only available to those who qualify, each account’s annual contract value (ACV) is converted to USD ($).

For example, 4 Brazilian Reals convert to 1 United States Dollar (as of January of 2020). Before we convert currencies, a Brazilian customer’s total billing amount appears to be 4 times more than the dollar amount.

Before currency conversions, many of our Brazilian customers appeared to be above the ACV requirement for the additional services — including those who didn’t qualify. To make sure we offer the right services to the right plan levels, we needed a way to calculate the USD value of international accounts.

It would be a huge waste of time if we asked our sales reps to:

  • Take the ACV in the customer’s local currency
  • Look up the exchange rates
  • Calculate the ACV in USD
  • Re-enter the adjusted ACV in the CRM

Lucky for us, Stefanie had a better idea.

Using a webhook connection between ActiveCampaign and a Google Form, the local currency information is recorded in the form and converted into USD in the ActiveCampaign CRM — automatically!

The currency selection on this Google Form triggers the math action calculation and converts the local ACV to USD.

Using math actions, we can trigger an automation any time a local ACV (in non-USD currency) gets updated. The automation checks the currency, then divides by our pre-set exchange rates.

I can already hear you:

“But wait! Currency exchange rates aren’t fixed – they change all the time!”

And you’re right. We re-evaluate the rates every quarter (and if a major global economic event occurs). The quarterly re-evaluation helps simplify the automation – and our sales team’s commission structure.

This automation calculates the USD equivalent for local ACV, then imports that data field into our CRM.

This workflow automation:

  • Makes consistent calculations based on consistent exchange rates
  • Saves customer-facing teams time and frustration in updating ACV fields
  • Removes the possibility of human error in calculation
  • Ensures that our services go to the correct customers

2. Customer support ticket reflection

With over 90,000 customers worldwide, ActiveCampaign customer support has no shortage of customers to help. We can, however, run into a shortage of time.

Time is critical when it comes to customer support, and our reps should be able to access the information they need to help our customers as soon as they need it. It used to take reps too much time to switch between a customer’s profile in the CRM and our ticketing software (Zendesk).

We needed a way to get the customer ticket URL from Zendesk into our CRM for:

  • Ease of access
  • Transparency and reporting
  • Time efficiency

ActiveCampaign webhooks (and Stefanie) to the rescue!

Stefanie created an automation to solve this problem, so our customer support reps could solve customer problems. The automation looks like this:

  1. A customer submits a ticket through the contact portal
  2. Zendesk creates a ticket and triggers the automation
  3. A webhook matches the ticket to the contact in the ActiveCampaign CRM
  4. The automation creates a CRM task for our support team with a link right to that ticket

An ActiveCampaign CRM task pops up in the deal when a ticket is opened, or a customer makes contact through another support channel

This business process automation removes the manual task of searching for the specific contact that submitted the ticket, and vice versa. This automation also creates a record of the ticket in the CRM as a task. This helps with:

  • Visibility into which customers open tickets
  • Reporting
  • Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs), like:
    • Speed to contact
    • Time to completion
    • Tickets solved per rep

The expanded view of the task provides more information for the customer support rep

Our customer service reps save time, and our customers don’t have to wait, which improves the customer experience. 82% of US consumers stop doing business with a company because of a poor customer experience — this workflow automation helps us retain those customers.

3. Custom billing request/approval

ActiveCampaign bills customers either monthly or annually, depending on the customer’s plan.

Sometimes a customer requests a custom billing period, like quarterly or semi-annually. These custom billing cycles must be approved by:

  • Legal
  • Finance
  • Sales team manager

As a manual process, custom billing is time-consuming. It takes time to send a request for approval to each team, it takes time to approve, and there’s always the possibility that an email falls through the cracks. Wouldn’t it be great to automate this workflow?

(Spoiler alert: It is.)

Here’s what the workflow automation looks like:

  1. The sales rep closes the customer
  2. The customer wants a custom billing cycle
  3. The sales rep fills out a custom billing request form

This is the billing change request form our sales reps fill out to kick off the workflow automation.

4. Upon form submission, ActiveCampaign creates a deal
5. The deal creation triggers an email notification to the legal team
6. The legal team selects “proceed” or “don’t proceed”
7. The automation tracks their selection and sends the deal to the finance team
8. The process repeats, and the deal gets sent to a sales manager
9. Upon approval by all teams, the sales rep receives a notification that their request is approved

By the end of the process, an ActiveCampaign deal was created and moved through 3 pipelines for 3 teams, but nobody has touched:

  • The deal
  • A pipeline
  • The ActiveCampaign platform

Using webhooks and Zapier, we automated a multi-step, multi-team workflow that pulls information from several different sources. Zapier is a “middle-ware” tool that acts as a translator between 2 software tools that otherwise don’t integrate. This automation streamlines a tedious process that used to take hours (or days) into minutes!

4. Lost deal feedback

Not every free trial converts into a paying customer. In fact, most trials don’t. Our sales leaders needed a way to get feedback from the sales reps on why they marked a deal as “Lost” — but not for every deal. With 29,000+ trials per month, giving feedback on each lost deal would eat up too much of our sales reps’ time.

Especially when:

  • Some trials are created by mistake
  • Many trials expire without responding to a sales rep’s calls or emails
  • Some businesses are disqualified based on our acceptable use policy (AUP)

So which deals should we get feedback on? And how do we get that feedback?

Stefanie and sales leadership decided to start with the deals that show engagement, but eventually get marked lost.

When a deal engages with a sales rep, it moves from their marketing qualified lead (MQL) pipeline to their sales qualified lead (SQL) pipeline. Once a deal moves to the SQL, it becomes eligible for the “Lost Deal Feedback” workflow automation.

When an engaged deal is marked lost, the SDR received an email prompting them to fill out the feedback form. There was only 1 problem: virtually no one filled out the form.

Why?

Because not everyone checks their email every 5 minutes (shocking, right?). And even if they did see the email in their inbox, switching from the CRM to their email inbox, following the link, and filling out the form takes juuuuuust enough time and effort to make it “not worth it”.

As a result:

  • The SDRs and AEs didn’t see the email notifications until much later
  • The SDRs and AEs couldn’t remember the exact reasons why they marked a particular deal as lost
  • The feedback form completion rate was low

Using webhooks and Zapier, Stefanie switched the notification from email to Slack. Now, when an SQL deal is marked lost, the deal owner receives an immediate Slack notification (complete with an alert noise and pop-up) with a link to the Google Form for feedback.

This Slack message appears whenever a sales rep marks an engaged prospect’s deal “Lost”

The rep follows the link, and the first page of the form auto-populates with information from the deal in the CRM. This gives sales leadership visibility into exactly where in the sales process the deal broke down.

Webhooks automatically populate these form fields with information from the CRM.

The next section of the Google Form asks the sales reps to indicate why the deal broke down.

The ActiveCampaign sales rep provides additional context for the lost deal

The Google Form submissions are ported into a Google Sheet. Sales operations and leadership analyze the results to learn more about:

  • Our sales process
  • Our deal routing process
  • Problem areas in the sales funnel
  • Reasons why potential customers don’t convert
  • What our potential customers choose to use instead of
  • ActiveCampaign

This workflow automation:

  1. Begins with an action in the ActiveCampaign CRM
  2. Pulls CRM data into a Google Form
  3. Notifies the deal owner in Slack
  4. Publishes the results in a Google Sheet

5. Contact update upon booking an onboarding call

Depending on their plan level, new ActiveCampaign customers are eligible for guided onboarding with our customer success team. Customer onboarding is a series of 1-on-1 phone calls with a customer success rep.

Each call dives into a different aspect of the ActiveCampaign platform to set up the new customer’s account. By the end of the onboarding sequence, our new customers have a configured account and a deeper understanding of the platform.

But how do we know when an account registers for an onboarding call? And how do we know which accounts are in the onboarding process?

Stefanie automated it.

ActiveCampaign customers can schedule calls through Calendly, a call scheduling software. When a customer books a call in Calendly, it triggers an automated workflow:

This flowchart shows the business process automation from when a customer books a call to when the contact is added to the correct pipeline.

Using Zapier and webhooks, this workflow automation:

  1. Checks to see which ActiveCampaign team member is on the call
  2. Moves forward only if the call is with an account manager and includes “onboarding” in the event type
  3. Checks the ActiveCampaign CRM for an existing contact
  4. Creates a contact if one doesn’t exist
  5. Updates the contact fields in the CRM for “First/Last Name”, “Last Call Date: Date of Booked Call”, and “CSOnboarding Start Date”
  6. Adds tags for onboarding and correct email address
  7. Adds the contact to the Success team’s onboarding automation
  8. Logs the call in a Google Sheet for auditing purposes

Without a workflow automation, this process would include:

  • Manual call assignments
  • Checking the status of every booked call for onboarding
  • Searching the CRM for an existing contact
  • Manually creating a contact if one didn’t exist
  • Manually updating the correct fields in each contact
  • Adding each booked call to the onboarding automation

Instead, our account managers know when they have upcoming onboarding calls, and can rest assured that the contact information in the CRM is up to date.

How do you figure out which workflows to automate?

To prioritize which processes to automate, Stefanie recommends you ask your employees. The workflow’s end users are in the best position to identify manual, inefficient processes that eats up their time.

These end users should then share their ideas with their managers. If the idea makes sense, the manager can advocate for the idea to their manager to get buy-in from executives and managers in the organization.

Automating workflows takes time, and you want to make sure that the workflows you automate will help as many people as possible.

Stefanie asks 3 questions:

  1. What’s the most efficient way to complete the process?
  2. How long would that take?
  3. If it’s too long or too difficult to automate the entire process, are there middle steps that we can automate?

The ultimate goal is to have your processes centralized, but the immediate goal of workflow automation is incremental improvement.

How does Stefanie automate a workflow?

You can only automate a process once you know exactly how it works right now.

Stefanie likes to use LucidChart to map out existing processes. She says,

“If you can flowchart something, you can make it happen.”

Once she has mapped the process out with a flowchart, she talks to everyone involved in the current process. She asks them about their pain points and drills down until she has an isolated, actionable problem she can solve.

Next, she asks the end users how the process would work in an ideal situation — and figures out how she can create that situation through automation. Once she has an automation in mind, Stefanie uses Zapier to test the automation.

“Zapier is the perfect starting point because it allows me to test on my own before sending it to the developer team to build into our internal systems. Resources are always limited, but by building first in Zapier I can say, “this is already running, we see the business value, but it’s not scalable.””

This helps ActiveCampaign developers to cement the workflow automation by giving them a framework to write the code for a custom (or API) integration.

Conclusion: The automation goes live, now what?

After Stefanie builds out a business process automation, how does she know it works? How does she know if it breaks?

Take it from someone who learned the hard way: End every workflow automation with a webhook to submit the final results (via Zapier) to a Google Sheet.

Things happen fast, and Stefanie makes sure that every automation is auditable.

“You can see when something works, but if you don’t have visibility — you’ll never see when or where it doesn’t work.”

Middle-ware tools like Zapier are great for integrations and one-off data transfers, but they’re not able to automate complicated workflows with simplicity the way that ActiveCampaign can. Stefanie says that ActiveCampaign’s simplicity is something she hasn’t seen on any other platform.

ActiveCampaign is a powerful marketing automation and email marketing tool. But it’s also an amazing project management tool.