How do Best-in-Class Companies Drive Customer Success?
Customer-centric enterprises no longer focus exclusively on account management, customer support, or client services. They are operating by a new set of rules. They understand that the best way to grow the value their company receives from customers is to grow the value they deliver to customers. They also realize that the only way to deliver that level of value to customers is by understanding customers’ business priorities and desired outcomes and making sure everyone in the company focuses on unlocking that value for customers.
And that’s not all. Leading enterprises go above and beyond by striving to help customers realize the full value of using their products and services. Such superior support not only ensures customer stickiness, it encourages enthusiastic customer advocacy.
Here are six ways best-in-class companies drive the highest levels of customer success.
NEW RULE #1
Build value, don’t simply manage customers
Many customer-facing organizations take a customer management approach to customer success. They seek to nurture long-term relationships with customers for the purposes of selling more products and services by providing good service and answering customer questions. But if organizations simply answer questions and give people the help they need, they can be blind to whether customers are achieving the business outcomes they expect. Customers are likely to churn even if they give the organization high satisfaction scores for each particular interaction.
Best-in-class customer-centric companies don’t only satisfy customers in the moment. They create value for customers in the long run—whether that value is tangible (e.g. lower costs, operational efficiencies or time savings) or intangible (e.g. deepening a relationship or building trust in the organization).
Companies create ongoing value by proactively working with customers across the post-sale customer lifecycle. They work with customers to determine their business priorities and desired outcomes, map out the steps necessary to achieve those aims, and help unlock value from product to bring those outcomes to life.
Because a customer’s definition of success can easily change over time, they also keep in touch with customers and proactively address ever shifting requirements. For example, if the customer indicated that decreased process time was a key driver during the sales process, the company might ask how long the process takes today. If the customer has achieved that goal, the company would identify additional objectives the customer now hopes to pursue.
NEW RULE #2
Create a strong customer maturity model
For customer-centric companies, Customer Success isn’t a once-and-done deal. These organizations clearly define a customer maturity model to proactively improve the value customers achieve from their products or services. This maturity model doesn’t just cover traditional CS activities. It is aligned across the organization, rather than operating in silos, and is operationalized to ensure strong execution with the right tools, processes, and organizational structures.
The most advanced customer maturity models operate across the entire organization, not just the customer facing teams, to systematically move the customer to greater levels of adoption. These models:
- Start with an incredible product that truly satisfies market demands.
- Ensure that the marketing team knows exactly what niche they serve and how best to present the product to that market.
- Help customers become intentional about how they use the product to ensure they’re immersed in it. And while most companies stop here, the best companies proceed to Steps 4 and 5.
- Get customers to where the product becomes integrated into their daily operations.
- Help customers innovate with the product—and become true advocates.
By keeping an eye on where customers are at and advancing customers through a maturity model, best-in-class companies create stickiness and delighted advocacy.
NEW RULE #3
Mine data for granular insights
The best companies have strong domain expertise in their customers’ industries. Domain expertise allows companies to come up with solid theories about what features and services will provide value to their customers. But they need data to determine exactly what customer actions and behaviors indicate that they’re achieving value and stickiness.
The trouble is, companies are awash in data. Contracts, survey responses, satisfaction scores, demographic data, help desk tickets, logged interactions between customers and support, product usage tracking data, all provide tantalizing clues that teams across the organization can mine to find ways to increase customer value. Yet all too often, this data is not easily accessible. Or it is available in aggregate, but not at a granular level.
Customer-centric companies use technologies that provide visibility across existing data sources and deliver detailed information at the right time to the right person to provide insights into every phase of the customer journey.
For example, granular, real-time data about what customers are doing with a CRM product can show a customer-centric company whether a user is using a specific feature, such as reporting. If she isn’t using that feature, she may not be sharing the information she’s gathered with the executive team, and the customer won’t see the full value from the product. With fine-grained data about individual users, best-in-class CS companies can determine when value gaps arise and proactively address them.
NEW RULE #4
Nurture and engage every customer
Most companies segment customers to determine the level of investment and effort they should devote to them. But just because a customer only spends tens or hundreds of dollars doesn’t mean that they don’t have high expectations of value from a product or service. And when taken in aggregate, customers paying even a few dollars a month can have a significant impact on the top line.
Best-in-class companies help all customers achieve success with appropriate levels of investment. For high-value accounts, companies typically assign an account manager to speak directly with customers during and after the sales process to determine what value customers are looking for and to track markers of whether the customer is achieving that value.
With customers that represent a lower dollar value, superior CS companies offer a similar level of service and experience with the help of strong domain experts, content, and technology. Domain experts identify the concerns of the market. And then the company uses technology to send the right information at the right time and to track measures of customer value, thereby scaling its engagement model at an affordable cost.
As a result, superior CS companies now have the wherewithal to nurture all customers, not just high value ones, and support all users, not just buyers and decision makers.
NEW RULE #5
Engage contextually, not periodically
Instead of checking in with customers periodically to see how they’re doing and answer questions, the best companies check in intentionally and strategically. They understand that the customer journey has different phases (such as onboarding, adoption, and evolution) and that within each phase, customers have different priorities and expectations—and engage accordingly.
For example, during onboarding, the product must be configured correctly, delivered on time, and meet customer needs. Moving towards adoption, the customer should be using the product, achieving business value, and becoming delighted. During evolution, customers are looking at what’s next—how they can derive even greater value.
Customer-centric companies identify customer expectations across this spectrum and take their engagement cues from where the customer is on the journey. Rather than being premature or too late, these organizations give the customer exactly what they need when they need it. And, they understand that customer expectations change over time.
How do companies gather this information? By doing their homework. They ask customers about their expectations for each stage in the customer lifecycle and then make those expectations their priorities. In addition, they ensure that engineering, sales, marketing and all other departments across their own organization understand and align with customers’ priorities.
NEW RULE #6
Never stop learning
And finally, truly successful customer success professionals are research-oriented when it comes to creating relationships with customers and continually sharpen their skillsets
within their industry.
Topnotch customer advocates do relationship mapping to determine the best ways to develop relationships with customers. Relationship mapping allows these professionals to clearly outline what they’re looking to achieve and how they plan to achieve it, how they can leverage relationships to achieve their goals, who can hurt their efforts and how, and how people within their company and the customer’s company are affected by their actions. With this information, they then develop more effective strategies for achieving goals and ultimately strengthen ties with customers.
As a byproduct of their continual outreach to customers, these CS professionals get to know their industry well. They then leverage what they learn to become an even better resource for their customers. The customer ends up walking away not only understanding the company’s products, but also how other companies do things in their industry.
In other words, leading CS practitioners provide value not just with their products or services, but with their entire practice.
Follow these new rules today
What’s the secret of Customer Success? It’s all about meeting, and far exceeding, your customers’ expectations for value from your product or service.