So you’ve heard that Customer Success is the new industry buzzword, and read a dozen articles on how you’re company can benefit from focusing on it. But where do you go from there?
Customer Success isn’t just a new name for old processes like customer support or accounts management. It’s a far more hands-on, proactive restructuring of a company’s engagement with its customers. The first step in getting an effective Customer Success solution in place is evolving the proper strategy and plan for it.
So what are the fundamental rules for evolving an effective Customer Success strategy?
Step One: Know your customer
As the name suggests, Customer Success begins with the customer. Knowing your customer is a dual-level process. At the enterprise level, it involves understanding your customer’s key business outcomes and what your product can do to help them achieve those outcomes. This involves clearly and quantifiably defining the key metrics for each business result and mapping out the Return on Investment (ROI) that your product will provide in relation to these key metrics.
But Customer Success is also fundamentally dependent on how users within the customer organization take to your product and the operational changes it demands. Beyond enterprise-level goals, this means identifying the KPIs and key drivers of user behavior. User adoption is less often a technical problem than an organizational performance issue, and understanding how organizational change is adopted and received within the customer organization is key to a successful Customer Success strategy.
Step Two: Assessing your company’s Customer Success capabilities
Customer Success solutions don’t develop overnight. Failing to match a Customer Success solution with organizational viability can be disastrous, since the approaches, key metrics and goals a company should focus on differ based on the maturity of its Customer Success capabilities. From early crisis-based interventions (what one model calls the “CPR stage”) to highly mature stages of accelerated growth and acquisition, the key focal points of a Customer Success Strategy are very different. Whether your strategy should focus on Net Promoter Scores or Customer Effort Scores or Dollar Churn, will change based on where your organization stands on the maturity scale.
Step Three: Aligning your resources with customer needs
Perhaps the most important component of a Customer Success strategy is determining how best to deploy the capabilities and resources of your company to the whole range of your customers.
Firstly, trying to service 100% of the customer base the same way only leaves your customer success team overworked and stressed, and your higher-priority clients unsatisfied as they lose out valuable attention to less important customers. It’s therefore important to tier your customers (on revenue and other factors), and then decide the automation and self service versus high-touch, personalized service each tier requires.
The other aspect is deciding how your own functionality is built up. What are the components of a Customer Success solution your company has, and what components does it lack? Do you build these yourself, buy them from sub-contractors or partner other companies that can provide you with long-term functional expertise?
Step Four: Mapping the customer journey
Customer Success Management is less a single-point agenda than a comprehensive shift in the customer relationship. To prevent a narrow vision that clusters efforts at some points such as just sales and acquisition or the pre-churn crisis moment, companies must comprehensively map the entire spectrum of the customer lifecycle. Some of the key touchpoints that companies must invest dedicated resources into are customer on-boarding, customer training, consulting, customer service and renewals. Clear metrics should be evolved for each of these departments, and the hand-offs between them clearly defined, so customers can seamlessly transition through the various stages of their journey with you.
Step Five: Making room for customer conversations
Customer Success is all about establishing a two-way street for information and learning between you and your customer. A top priority for any effective Customer Success strategy, therefore, is making room for customer feedback. A good feedback strategy involves setting-up multiple contact-points for regularly interfacing with customers outside of support tickets; formal mechanisms for collecting and properly collating voice-of-customer inputs obtained through surveys, focus groups, etc; and systems for adapting technical and business processes promptly and rapidly based on received feedback.
If Customer Success is all about the ongoing customer journey, it will fail unless your company can listen, learn and adapt at every step.