Customer success as the name suggests is about your customer’s success. And this success goes beyond mere satisfaction and maximum usage of your product and Customer Success Program. It needs to be defined from the customer’s point of view. How does your customer describe a great experience? What are the goals they are trying to achieve? What is the value they are looking to gain from your product/service and extended support?
Customer Success Management is an on-going process that begins when your potential customers are made aware of your brand and ends hopefully never. Hence it is crucial to view Customer Success through the lens of your customer’s journey and undertake adequate actions at every stage, to turn a prospect into a customer who is a strong advocate of your organization.
As per Precision Marketing Group, “89% of leading brands say it is critical to their growth that they anticipate customer needs and provide assistive experiences along the consumer journey.” There is a cost benefit as well, as stated in a report by Deloitte: “Maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential of lowering the cost of serving B2B customers by as much as 20 percent.”
An expert in Customer Success Lincoln Murphy reinforces the above point through this definition: “Customer Success Management is the proactive orchestration of the customer’s journey toward their ever-evolving Desired Outcome.”
Hence inculcating a solid Customer Success program that is fine-tuned to your customer’s journey is the wise thing to do.
The components of a Good Customer Success Program
As a function Customer Success is perennial and dynamic. It needs to be constantly updated and adjusted to meet the changes in customer lifecycle and segments, and evolving business needs. This is possible by focusing on the following key components of a Customer Success program:
In an increasingly digitalized world, encompassing cloud and on-demand services; multiple devices, platforms, and networks; the IoT (internet of things); remote working; and complex digital infrastructure, technological solutions have a strong role to play.
Several tasks (reporting, self-onboarding/service, email follow-ups, training modules, satisfaction surveys, FAQs) can be automated to provide a basic level of customer service to all clients, while human interaction is reserved for more complex issues/high-level clients.
Furthermore, invest in technology to measure important KPIs and metrics to prevent churn, encourage retention and renewals, and maintain high standards of positive customer engagement. Predictive analytics greatly help by optimally channeling resources and strategy towards high-value clients that might be unhappy (based on identified triggers), thus giving you ample time to intercede and turn the situation around. Data captured by your product platform can also provide insights to segment and target customers effectively. These insights can enhance the success rate of your cross-selling and up-selling efforts.
A clear and well-defined process leaves no room for confusion/poor service that could lead to lost opportunities at best and lost customers at worst. Customer Success processes include establishing how the different departments – sales, marketing, operations, customer service, product, finance, billing, etc. work together. This is especially important in the context of sensitive junctures like deployment, onboarding, and renewal. An initial memorable experience can go a long way in fostering a positive customer relationship, while a negative experience requires a lot more effort to be nullified. And both types have a bearing on renewals, expansions, and referrals. Research states that “after a good customer experience 62% of B2B customers have purchased more from a company; while owing to a positive experience 83% of customers would be happy to provide a referral”.
Process could also involve deciding details of customer engagement in the sales funnel, buyer-journey, post-sales service, and customer lifecycle. The ways in which you determine KPIs; business goals in line with customer success goals; customer categories and corresponding service levels; among others. The systems, policies, and best-practices you put in place to create an environment conducive to achieving Customer Success. While these are not exhaustive, they highlight the role of process in your Customer Success program.
Depending on the size, complexity of the product, number of customers, and further parameters, your organization can opt for a diverse Customer Success (CS) team or a few Customer Success Managers (or Customer Success planners). Either way dedicated human resources are a must to nurture a long-term fruitful relationship with your customers. The rise of the Customer Success Manager (CSM) proves the growing importance of the Customer Success approach. As quoted in an article by Harvard Business Review, “The CSM title was almost unheard of a decade ago. But, in a 2019 survey of high-tech companies conducted, more than 40% of 109 respondents reported having CSMs. And a LinkedIn survey identified customer success manager as the second most promising sales job for 2019, behind enterprise account executive”.
A CSM is meant to guide customers along their journey from pre-sale, onboarding, and beyond. Their role could involve sales and service. They should have product knowledge, domain expertise, and deep customer understanding to be able to cross-sell and up-sell effectively. They aren’t there just to push products onto the customer, but identify and fill gaps in product/service that could bring customers maximum value.
A key feature of a CSM/CS team is proactivity. The real value of having a team focused purely on ensuring Customer Success is in their ability to predict and pinpoint areas for improvement and potential for growth. They need to be skilled in dealing with current problems as they arise, as well as have foresight.
Technical knowledge and skills apart, a CSM/CS team should be good at communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Regular training through workshops, seminars, conferences, or any other form of knowledge and skill transfer should be provided, for them to succeed in the art and science of Customer Success Management.
Customer Success isn’t Just Another Term to be Eventually Forgotten
An ideal Customer Success approach blends technology and human interaction, while process facilitates the effective use of both.
The best Customer Success programs do well because they aren’t designated to a CS team or CSM working in isolation. They excel because it’s a top-down mandate which guides the way the organization functions. Making it a way of thinking and working ensures that there is a regular exchange of knowledge between different departments, due to the need for cross-functionality. The findings of one team lead to insights for another.
Research has proved time and again that a customer-centric approach to doing business is profitable. A report by Deloitte states that “After building a relationship, customer spend grows alongside trust. Eventually, loyal customers spend 67 percent more than new ones. Over the course of a year, experience-driven businesses grew revenue 1.4 times faster and increased customer lifetime value 1.6 times more than other companies”. That’s some heavy food for thought.