Customer Success in recent years has gone from a buzzword to a movement. Exceptional customer service has always been a priority but now, with the new era of digital enablement, customers are demanding more than ever. Customers expect to interact when, where and how they want to through a more individually personalised experience. These customers are also seeking companies who can understand their internal drivers and help them achieve their goals and expectations. Companies need to adapt and tailor interactions, products and services to align closely to the individual needs of their customer.
The rewards for a company that can provide this include:
- Increased Customer Retention– Quality customer interaction builds engagement and long term relationships. Satisfied customers do not tend to move to a competitor unless a compelling value proposition can be made.
- Increased Customer Acquisition – Successful customers will advocate your business. Word of mouth is the most effective way in acquiring new customers and is even more important if there is little or no product or service differentiator to your competitors.
- Increased On Sell – Understanding your customers’ drivers and objectives will uncover valuable up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
- Operational Improvement –The more you understand about your customer, the more you canproactively engage rather than just react to outcomes. Planned engagement is considerably more efficient and opens up the potential to utilise automation tools to drive marketing, sales or service interactions in a personalised way.
- Shared Success – Through a Customer Success program, shared success goals between your company and your end customer can often be identified. Joint success will lead to a high degree of customer investment and loyalty.
Leading SaaS providers such as Salesforce market the concept well, their interest is to sell an enabling technology platform through a subscription based business model issuing licenses per user/month. Their logic is to drive user adoption through a platform that can enable and as the platform expands so does an increase in subscription licenses. A key advantage to this model is only minimal investment is required before value in proven. This is a key win message that resonates with many companies that have had poor experience with traditional CRM, where up front costs are weighted heavily on initial implementation and user adoption has been low due to functionality not living up to expectations.
Even though a technology platform is a core component to enablement, Customer Success is much more than just technology procurement. The analogy of one size fitting all couldn’t be further from the truth and every organisation will have unique objectives and challenges. The strategy and implementation needs to be tailored to the circumstances and aspirations of the company accordingly and external know-how is often required to support throughout the process to achieve optimum outcome.
The following outlines a list of considerations for achieving Customer Success, and how the right supporting services provided in an integrated manner can add value to a cohesive and quality outcome.
Defining your Customer Success Strategy
Establishing a Customer Success strategy produces a central vision and considers how the many interactions emerge into an overall customer journey. This will help define how, when and which changes to make to provide an optimum experience and answer questions such as:
- What does your existing customer experience look like?
- How will you help your customer succeed?
- How can a technology platform help enable Customer Success?
- What’s the appropriate approach for engaging customers and monitoring them throughout their lifetime?
Answers will originate from every aspect of your business. External consultancy services can provide a range of capabilities to overcome challenges, such as bringing together disparate silos to deliver a single cohesive strategy. Stimulating an innovating environment to help think outside the box is also important to investigate new ways of working. Much will depend on your situation and organisational maturity in this area and overall objectives.
Implementation of your Customer Success strategy
Once the Customer Success strategy has been defined, the implementation needs to ensure that value is delivered throughout the process. Some of the key considerations in the implementation activities include:
- Start Small, Iterate Over Time and Measure – Implementing a Customer Success strategy will not come from a single project or action but rather as a result of many small changes all moving towards a common goal. Focus on one topic with a single team and then get feedback from customers to establish a baseline. Then throughout a series of iterations, set a single improvement goal. Taking on too much scope too quickly makes it difficult to take action and to make progress. The key is to also take measurement and obtain supporting data to make informed decisions. Each metric should also have an accountable owner.
- Creating the right culture: Foster innovation – Everybody has ideas. A few may be so incredible they could bring a whole new way of doing business, potentially leading to industry disruption. The implementation of new products or services which your customer has never seen before typically leads to invested customers bought into a culture of doing things differently and connecting to your company in a whole new way. First mover advantage is certainly an advantage. Challenging conventional thinking and accepting the risk of failure need to be promoted by management and accepted throughout the organisation. Innovation needs to iterate back into the Customer Success strategy.
- Creating the right culture: Empower and collaborate – Employees need to be empowered with supporting information and also given a mandate to act upon it. A technology platform is a key enabler in this process, but only if the organisational and cultural aspects are considered in the implementation.
- Embrace Agile and Lean Development – Throughout the implementation, the business and customer needs will change and the direction of the Customer Success strategy will evolve as feedback on the process is gained. Matching your development cycle to your feedback cycle will help with continuous change and enable the business to move more quickly.
- Management Commitment – Accountability should be defined for both defining the Customer Success strategy and implementation. This will ensure that the business can work in a cohesive way. A Customer Advisory Board will also help to support the process.
- The right technology platform – An enabling platform will help both customer and internal employees in achieving Customer Success. However, the platform needs to be tailored to the individual needs of the business.
Choosing the right technology platform
SaaS platforms such as Salesforce are ideally suited to many of the principles outlined in this article. However not all products are equal and some key points when evaluating products include:
- Innovation platform –The vendor should actively promote innovation. In the case of Salesforce, the AppExchange market place is a true testament to innovation providing thousands of innovative applications and components many of which are free.
- Complete CRM – The platform needs to seamlessly integrate core functions such as sales, service and marketing into a single customer view. The platform should also be configurable and allow you to connect with customers in a personalised way through channel of choice (e.g. mobile, online portal and social media).
- Provide a high degree of customisation and fast app development – A tailored application should not need lines of code written by an IT department. A broad range of platform capabilities such as mobile, integration frameworks, etc. should be available to leverage and fulfil the majority of business requirements. However, the platform should also support heavy duty customisation if required through Object-Orientated programming languages to ensure the platform can truly meet any demanding business need
- Security Specific industries have more demanding security requirements. In Australia SaaS platforms that are certified through the Certified Cloud Service List or IRAP certification are often critical to ensure compliance.
Implementing the platform
The quality of the implementation is critical to success. External consultancy services can offer true value in making sure the platform is utilised to its full potential and aligned to both best practice and the overall Customer Success strategy. Key aspects in the success of a platform implementation include:
- Agile / Lean – Agile and Lean principles are ubiquitous but not often delivered in the most optimum way. A tremendous amount of value can be added through Agile coaching to ensuring teams are working in the most effective way with stakeholders effectively engaged.
- Continuous Integration (CI) – Benefits of CI include improved quality and reduced cost through automated testing and the ability to work with multiple change streams.SaaS products such as Salesforce are especially suited to CI.
- Data Integration – Technology platforms do not operate in silos. Specific technical expertise is often required to provide guidance on how to integrate with in-house systems and perform the technical integration. Data integration may be batch or real time integration (SOAP/REST) or with interactive systems such as CTI (e.g. Genesys and Avaya). Data migration is often a key consideration and considerations such as data quality
- Customer UX – Customer experience is core to the Customer Success Strategy. Translating an engaging experience to user interface design is a specific skill that if not done well undermines the value of the platform.
- Change Management / Training – No implementation is complete without fully considered change management or training program. There are a range of techniques to ensure the right outline, including interactive videos and onsite programs.
- Managed Services – Once the platform has been deployed, the right support structure needs to ensure that the platform is operating efficiently. Often it is more cost effective to outsource the support services and provided a mechanism to accommodate small changes requiring technical resources.
This article outlines just some of the considerations in the path for achieving Customer Success. Of course each organisation is individual and your Customer Success strategy and implementation needs to be tailored to suit your objectives. Wherever you are in your journey, SMS Management &Technology can provide a comprehensive portfolio of services to ensure you reach your goal. From Salesforce, to Agile, to formulating strategy, your Customer Success is at the heart of what we do.