CGT Software LeaderBoard: Everything You Need to Know

Note: This is an edited transcript of a recent webinar.  

Tim Denman: Welcome everyone to the inside scoop on the CGT Software LeaderBoard. I'm Tim Denman, editor in chief of CGT and RIS.

The Software LeaderBoard has been produced by CGT sister publication RIS for nearly two decades and we're excited to bring the database approach to ranking software solution providers to CGT.

The report will rank technology vendors across a variety of metrics, which are all focused on one thing: customer satisfaction. We go right to the source and ask consumer goods executives their opinions on their technology vendors and provide that information to our audience free of charge to help them make more informed technology purchasing decisions.

With me today to provide the critical background solution providers need to know to understand the LeaderBoard methodology, its purpose and how to position your company to score as high as possible, is RIS editor at large, Joe Skorupa. Joe has been the driving force behind the LeaderBoard for more than 15 years and is an invaluable source on the entire process. He's agreed to help launch the LeaderBoard for CGT and is here to provide a behind-the-curtains look at the annual solution provider rankings.

While the LeaderBoard is a new project for CGT, the concept is certainly not new. CGT has been ranking consumer goods executives' customer satisfaction with their tech vendors for 20 years in its annual Readers' Choice Report. The Readers' Choice asks CG execs to rank their overall satisfaction with their solution providers and has been a great barometer of success for two decades. But now the LeaderBoard will take the customer satisfaction research one step further by not only asking CGs how satisfied they are with their vendors, but also breaking that satisfaction down into 10 sub-categories that provide even more clarity of vendor performance.

The CGT LeaderBoard will be modeled after RIS's successful project. The LeaderBoard has evolved over the years and took on a monumental step last year with introduction of a 100% digital format, which will continue for the 2021 version and will be adopted by CGT. For those out there curious what exactly the LeaderBoard will look like, we encourage you to check out RIS' report from last year.

Joe Skorupa: As Tim mentioned, this webinar kicks off the multi-month LeaderBoard process, which begins today and goes through deadlines and phases every week between now and the end of November when the LeaderBoard goes live.  We're going to go over in transparent detail the methodology we will use in the timeline of critical dates that will occur during the multi-month process.

The topics include the CG evaluation form that we will ask all CG-ers to fill out. This data is aggregated to comprise the customer satisfaction score, which is really the heart of the CGT Software LeaderBoard. We're going to discuss the breakouts that we create from the dataset and the mailing protocols we will follow to ensure we get as many qualified CGT voters as possible in as secure a way as possible.

We will discuss deadlines in a timeline that we're going to follow so you don't advance without any critical dates that must be met. And finally, we will offer some tips about how you can optimize your score in the LeaderBoard rankings.

First of all, it is important to note that CGT is working with an objective third-party research firm during the entire LeaderBoard process, Litchfield Research. They send out all the invitations to CG companies so that they can participate in the survey and vote.

The invitations include a coded HTML link to the survey that can only be used once and cannot be copied or forwarded for use by anyone else. And when the CG-er enters the poll, he or she will see a list of software vendors to choose from and to evaluate based on their experiences that they've had with the software vendor within the last 12 months.

The list of vendors is approximately 100 and it's created by the editors of CGT. It's based on industry experience that establishes that these vendors have a footprint in the CGT industry. Every effort is made to include all relevant vendors that appear on this list. So the 10 screens the CGers see for evaluation correspond to the 10 customer satisfaction criteria used in the CGT evaluation that comes up with a final score for customer satisfaction.

The 10 individual criteria are: technology innovation, total cost of ownership (TCO), return on investment (ROI), reliability, ease of administration and maintenance, support, ease of installation and integration, overall performance and strength of recommendation. A maximum score in each criteria is five. And since there are 10 criteria, a maximum score for customer satisfaction, a perfect score, let's say, is 50.

Note that we do allow software vendors to send us references. And in the RIS LeaderBoard, for example, most vendors who are serious about maximizing their scores, do this. Some vendors send us a few, say five to seven, and some send us a lot. Actually some send us dozens.

The CGT LeaderBoard will be open to all CG companies on the CGT mailing list, which is extensive. This means that whether you participate or not in the LeaderBoard process or send us references or not, your company, as a software vendor that has a footprint in the CGT industry, will likely get votes.

By sending us a list of your reference clients you can ensure that the voting pool for your company is seeded with the votes from your references. Again, for emphasis, your non-reference clients will be voting. In other words, you may or may not know why they are non-reference clients. I think most of you do, but it is likely that your non-reference clients will vote. This may be a good thing or not. To make sure your voting pool includes your reference clients, however, it is a smart move to send them to us to add to our mailings.

When you send us reference clients, please use the format you see on this screen. Use an Excel spreadsheet with five column headers, first name, last name, job title, company and email address. Note that we only count corporate email addresses and not Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, etc.

One final note: More is better. Experience has shown us that it is the rarer company that gets as many as 50% of its reference clients to vote. Remember, that's the maximum. We typically see is no more than 50% of all the names on your reference list. That's just the way of the world.

There are many reasons for this, including corporate filters that detect and block mass mailings. Some execs are on vacation. Some are on busy schedules and can't take the time to do these things and so forth. So the more references you put on the list, the better.

This screen is from the 2020 RIS Software LeaderBoard and it shows the logos of the top 20 vendors. This same type of list will appear in the CGT Software LeaderBoard and it will feature the top 20 vendors as ranked by CGT company votes. There'll be company votes for customer satisfaction in the 10 criteria I mentioned and those aggregated scores are finalized, they're ranked and we get a top 20 list out of that. And by the way, this will be the only top 20 list in the report.

This screen shows the titles of the other lists that will be featured in the LeaderBoard. We filter votes by CG companies with revenue greater than $1 billion, which we call tier one and by CG companies with less than $1 billion, which we call mid-market. Each of these will get top 10 lists.

Also, we will have one top 10 list for every customer satisfaction criteria. And these are all listed on this screen. So you'll see innovation, TCO, ROI and so forth. There are 10 criteria and, therefore, each one will get a top 10 list.

In addition, we're going to be featuring a number of CGT software vendors in the Vendors to Watch section. And I'll have more on this a little later, but these are companies that do very well, but have not made the top 10 lists. They were close and they deserve special recognition and so we're going to recognize them.

Here is a look at how the top 10 criteria lists will appear. These are actually from the RIS LeaderBoard, but we're going to adopt a similar style for the CGT LeaderBoard. One final note about the top 10 lists, all vendors that appear in these lists are winners. I say that because it's true. There are no losers on a top 10 list because the list will only show the cream of the crop.

For the RIS LeaderBoard, for example, the top 10 lists are actually about 50 deep. So that means you are not seeing as many as 40 other vendors that have received votes. To make the top 10 then is quite an achievement. So no matter where a vendor lands on the list, it means that it has achieved an outstanding score for customer satisfaction. All 10 are winners and there are no losers. I really want to emphasize that and that should be clearly understood.

We guarantee that our mailings will be sent to every reference client that you send to us and remember send those references to us in the format I showed in the earlier slide. As mentioned, our mass mailing also go to the entire opt in mailing list that CGT has. And obviously we put a lot of effort into reaching the entire industry in as much depth as possible. So it's likely that most of your clients are on that list. However, it is also true that people change jobs, people change addresses. There's certainly a churn in every list. That's why it's important for you to provide us with references.

We suggest that you let your clients know the from line in the email messages, the subject line and the email address the messages will come from. As you can see here on this slide, email messages will say from the editors of CGT. The subject line will say, CGT LeaderBoard call for respondents and the email address will be from [email protected]

To guarantee a clean voting pool, the email blast will include a link that can only be used once, which I've already mentioned. These links cannot be used or sent or forwarded to someone else. Also note that we guarantee anonymity for all voters, only Litchfield Research raw data. Also note we do not use supplied reference contact information for anything other than a LeaderBoard mailing.

Here are the dates that you should keep track of. This is how we structure the entire LeaderBoard process between now and publication.

If you are sending us references in the format we saw on the earlier slide, the hard deadline is September 4. We cannot take references sent to us later than that date because we send them to Lichfield Research and it takes them a few days to set up the whole mailing protocol and the coding and then set it up once and then use it for all the rest of the time period that they send out mailings.

The first blast of the CGT list will go out on September 11. The second blast will go out on September 18, and the third will go out on September 25.

The survey will close on September 30, and it will take Litchfield Research more than a week to aggregate, validate and produce a final report, which they will then send to us, CGT.

Then it'll take CGT about a week to validate the report and create the top 20 and top 10 lists.

On October 27, the CGT team will inform CGT vendors who appear on these charts and this will be sent to them, to everyone who gets sent a notification under embargo. And it'll be under embargo until the LeaderBoard report is published. But it's sent as a courtesy so everybody knows it's coming.

Also, note that since the lists are under embargo and not in final publishable form, there is still the possibility we may find typos and other mistakes in the lists. And these will all be corrected by the time the report is published.

We're going to talk about how you can optimize your score. As I mentioned, include as many reference names as possible. This is so that your reference clients appear in the voting pool.

Communicate with the reference clients about the LeaderBoard evaluation process. If they don't know it's coming, they aren't going to be able to find it in their email.

I know every CG executive is busy. They have lots of things going on and they get sent lots of emails. The veteran LeaderBoard vendors that participate in the RIS LeaderBoard definitely communicate with their reference clients. And as I mentioned, they're the ones that probably get as many as 50% of their reference clients to vote.

So inform the reference clients about the emailing process, that they're going to get three reminders. Get them to whitelist CGT at [email protected]. Certainly get them to recognize and whitelist [email protected] because that's where the email blasts are coming from. And try to get them to open spam filters for messages from CGT and that mention the LeaderBoard. All of these will ensure that they actually get to see these messages.

I have to say that over years the main problem that I find as a hindrance to voters is they literally don't get the mailings. There are a few things we can do about that, but honestly, there's going to be a certain percentage of CGT execs that aren't going to go through the hoops needed to get bulk emails to appear in their corporate email account. Almost nothing we can do about that, but we try. And every year we try harder.

Finally, review your customer satisfaction policies, your processes and the metrics that you track within your company. This is how you truly improve customer satisfaction and then how you can set a goal for continuous improvement. I know people listening to this webinar may not actually be in charge of customer satisfaction with the users of your software. I get that, but nevertheless, everyone has a voice in every company and your voice added to anyone else who might be aiming to improve customer satisfaction will help.

So as you know, this is the inaugural year of the CGT LeaderBoard. However, the RIS LeaderBoard has been used as a unique branding opportunity over the years. I can't tell you how many PR press releases are created, how many postings are created, how many logos are used on websites, promotional materials, booths at trade shows. It is a major branding opportunity that you can take advantage of. For RIS, we average about 800 leads over the 12 month period that the LeaderBoard is most active.

We will certainly be making major announcements about the winners and all of the lists in the CGT newsletter, in our social media and browser notifications. Also, note that you can promote your own scores and find achievements in the CGT LeaderBoard. We can provide you with a CGT LeaderBoard logo and any help you might need in getting that message out about the great result you achieved in the inaugural CGT LeaderBoard.

As we mentioned, RIS has done it for many years and what we find is that many companies who do well in the LeaderBoard really want to maximize that message. And one of the ways they do it is by working with us to develop a LeaderBoard profile. This is not in the actual LeaderBoard report. It's editorial content, it is a supplement, let's say, to the LeaderBoard list. And it is a profile of one single company and their top results in the LeaderBoard and tells the story about why they scored so well, why they did so well, what it means that the company scored in the top areas that it scored in. And it's written by the editors of CGT. We get quite a few requests for that and certainly contact the CGT team to find out more.

Denman: Thanks, Joe. If anyone later on comes up with any questions, you can contact myself or Joe Skorupa and we'll be happy to answer them.