Every company out there today claims to be customer obsessed. Just scroll through a random selection of companies and you will see values, pillars, beliefs, cultures all claiming to be customer obsessed, customer first, customers-for-life or with customers-at-the-heart-of-everything-we-do. They focus on great products, great solutions, great service with great people. Is this enough? I am not sure it is but what else really ensures this customer obsession runs through the veins of its employees and the very nature of the company?
Through The Eyes Of Your Customer
The starting point for any company wanting to drive a culture of customer obsession has to be to see what your customers see. Mapping the customer journey is very powerful but 90% of companies make the same mistake – they map this with a group of senior executives in a room with zero representation from their customer-base. The other common mistake is thinking the customer journey starts from contract signing or a go-live date, when in reality the journey starts when your customer interacts with your brand the first time. This maybe through viewing your website, it maybe through marketing activities, it maybe through an event or maybe it is through a dinner party when you talk to someone from that company. Either way, map the journey from the true start point and with your customers engaged in the process.
Everyone Has A Stake In It
Customer experience cannot afford to just be a role or even a department, it has to be much bigger than that with the breaking down of silos and a fully aligned cross functional approach delivering a consistent, high-quality customer journey. Siloed departments result in conflict and lack clarity in accountability and there is only one person who truly suffers – the customer.
Ensuring that everyone has a stake in driving a customer obsessed approach requires all departments coming together to firstly understand the customer journey (see above point) and then map their relevant interaction with each touchpoint. Representation from product to sales, engineering to support, consulting to customer success, and everyone in between. And then measure the impact on that touchpoint……
Improvements & Measurements
As the saying goes, you can only improve what you measure and this is particularly true in the world of customer experience. And a token gesture NPS survey every twelve months just does not suffice. The customer journey involves different people from your customer, different people and departments from your company all coming together with a different goal at that journey touchpoint. So why are you not measuring each touchpoint with a relevant question and aligning that score to the relevant department? This ensures the department has a true stake in it. So measure the pre-sales experience and align that to your sales team. Measure the on-boarding experience and align that to your on-boarding and implementation teams. Measure the implementation experience and align that to your consulting organisation. In my honest opinion everyone should have part of their bonus aligned to some thing that impacts the customer experience and only then will you see a true change in a company wide approach to customer obsession.
Right People, Right Seat
Hiring and developing people with the right approach, the right mindset and the right intentions maximises your chances of delivering a customer obsessive culture but this takes time. You inherit people, you can make poor hiring choices and over a period of time employees will check out if the role and company doesn’t match their own expectations and needs. So hiring the right people is important, but getting and keeping them engaged is where the challenges really start. Creating that right environment to feel empowered and accountable, and where decisions are taken with the customer at the forefront of that decision not only keeps them engaged but drives a true customer obsessed culture.
The next determining factor is how you measure your individual employees and your departments. This is key – choosing the wrong KPIs will be counter productive to your goal. KPIs and the relevant rewards of achieving those will drive behaviour so choose wisely.
Recognise & Reward
Recognising and rewarding your employees doesn’t start and stop with the KPIs and bonuses that reward the achievement of them. As you embark on that journey of true customer obsession take the opportunity to reward your employees in small and large ways. It maybe something very simple and easy such as an email and small Amazon voucher, or it maybe something larger and a more structured reward for a specific execution of a goal. Sales have SPIFs, and so should every other department driving those short-term goals.
Learn From Your Mistakes (Churn)!
Eighteen months ago before I joined SAP I was speaking to a number of companies about customer success leadership roles and as a CS leader the one thing you want to know before taking the role is, what problem are you being brought in to fix. Now, 90% of the responses were around churn but churn is the outcome of a bigger problem. So when I asked what was the cause of their churn it is hugely surprising to see CEOs, CCOs & CROs all shrugging their shoulders and offering a sheepish “don’t know” as their response.
For every customer that doesn’t renew you should have a process that in place that reviews the reasons behind that. Detailed analysis of the product usage, analysis and reviews of your C-Sat scores and comments (plus your action management), reviewing your adherence to the governance model (did you deliver your QBRs, etc.), a customer exit interview if they are willing to provide that feedback and then an internal account review that needs to be transparent and honest. The hard work starts now though – a clear plan to address the failings (and there will be failings) needs to be created and owned, then executed.
Our customers expectations are higher than ever before, the consumer experiences of interacting with the likes Amazon have seen to that. Our customers are more empowered and more free to make decisions than ever before, which not creates challenges for all companies but offers great opportunities to truly differentiate yourself from your competitors.
That differentiator should be your people so enable and empower them and as Richard Branson says, “Look after your people, and they will look after your customers”.
Nothing screams credibility like proven customer success. Decision-makers can spend hours listening and interacting with knowledgeable experts who clearly articulate inspirational examples of real-life examples and use cases expanded over time to build up their customers’ capabilities. And just the notion that a vendor, supplier, or software provider can retain customer favor through a steady string of successes may become a good reason to sign on the dotted line.
This approach may be a useful sales tool, but it is also a gross mischaracterization of the fundamental philosophy underlying customer success management. It’s not a way to grow a reference list, protect revenue, nor amass marketing fodder to be shared with businesses all over the world. In fact, its true value has nothing to do with furthering the marketing and sales agenda.
So, what is customer success management? It’s a function of accountability for delivering success that is financially sound, scalable, outcomes-focused, and growth-driven throughout the life of the customer.
Tipping the subscription economy towards the outcome economyA while back ago, the introduction of software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings is said to have ignited an economy driven by subscriptions. Goodbye one-time, large purchases. Hello affordable, incremental, monthly payments. But if we know anything about our highly digitally enabled world, it’s the reality that nothing stays the same for very long anymore.
As digital technology is increasingly supported by the cloud, the promise of SaaS is opening up an entirely new economy. Known as the outcome economy, the physical world is moving online, creating a landscape where the value of everything is quantified and accessible. One prime example is Slack’s business model, which closely ties pricing and refunds to the volume of transactions and achievement of desired business outcomes.
How is economic shift related to customer success management? If you think about, customer success management is all about delivering measurable outcomes consistently throughout the life of the customer.
Finding the higher purpose of every interaction with customer success managementThe application of customer success management has evolved over the last decade, primarily fueled by growing SaaS adoption. For businesses moving from an on-premises model to one that is cloud-based, the constant cycle of monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly updates can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting.
From my experience, many businesses are rightfully concerned whether certain upgrades and add-ons to their SaaS landscape will deliver significant outcomes that further the boardroom’s agenda, asking:
Since the initiative was tactical and operational in nature, our customer relied on the help of a customer success manager to explore the “why” behind deploying a mobile HR solution. After engaging our customer in a series of discussions, surveys, and workshops, the customer service manager uncovered viable reasons that support the implementation from a different perspective.
Key findings included:
Bringing discipline and proactive action to digital innovationGiven the scale and the pace of technology innovation, customer success management cannot be used as a channel for selling technology, managing accounts, and creating marketing content. Instead, it should become a discipline of accountability and proactive action to allow businesses to refresh their cloud landscape in a way that best meets their need and on their terms.
Customer success managers can become a business’ best partner when it comes to intelligently assessing, for example, specific work behaviors, collaboration preferences, data usage, and digital maturity. This information empowers businesses to proactively advocate for the capabilities, tools, and interfaces that can elevate the ability to gain the most value possible from a cloud investment.
Originally posted as part of three part series for SAP’s Digitalist Magazine:https://www.digitalistmag.com/tag/true-value-of-customer-success-management-series
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters