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The 10 Golden Steps to Customer Delight: #5 Will Surprise You!

"How do we implement best practices in customer success and delight customers?"

Cloudskope's Customer Experience Manangement Practice has worked with several customers in the SaaS startup world, and one theme that continues to come up is: " How do we implement best practices in customer success and delight customers?"

Well, its such a common question, and a somewhat elusive one, that we thought a post may help.

1. FOCUS ON THE BASICS (The Customer):

(a.) The primary purpose of any customer success team is to ensure that customers are successful with their use, adoption, and satisfaction with the product, or service you are selling. Period.

(b.) The quintessential product question of what “customers want,” isn’t simply answered by a CSAT survey or an NPS survey. It is answered through human interaction. By live phone-calls- by trust, by empathy (from Customer Success) and by service experience.

(c.) Problem Solving on behalf of customers, driving internal resources to get stuff done for them is a core part of the job, (or should be).

2. CS IS NOT A SALES FUNCTION:

(a.) Growth and Renewals do NOT belong in Customer Experience:

No matter what anyone says, IMHO, the two roles don’t usually co-exist well. Too many companies (including ones I’ve worked for and consulted for) make this mistake.

It’s the wrong approach for two reasons:

i. G&R is a function of sales. Always should be. Customer Success is a function of account management and customer advocacy. It always should be.

ii. Quotas for Customer Success defeat the purpose:

Think about it. If you’re empowering your CS staff by asking them to sell, rather than knock heads internally (when things aren’t going well) in Support and Product, how is that contributing to the success of the customer? Their focus at quarter end, and year-end will be to make quick outreach to customers to sell them something (upsell or cross-sell) and everyone hates a sales guy. In doing so, you’re essentially setting them up for failure and a break of trust between them and the customer.

(b.) Let Sales handle G&R:

SDR’s are perfect for end-of term outreach. They are good at it (Or at least they should be)

3. BEWARE OF “OTHER DUTIES AS ASSIGNED” JOB DESCRIPTION

Continuing the trend above, several versions of the job exist today as an expectation from the business. Here are the common responsibilities of the (current-day) Cx Agent:

  • Account Management:

(Folks that keep their customers updated, their salesforce updated on interactions, and provide an interface to the client)

  • Uber Sales and Renewals Person:

(Folks that ensure that their customers renew during the end of their contracts, and are also cross-and up-sold new products, and features)

  • Project Management (manager):

Also known as the CGSD (Chief Get Stuff Done) person for the customer, also known as the Customer Advocate (To product teams)

  • General Punching Bag

(For customers complaining about the service, or support side not carrying their weight)

  • Pseudo Sales Engineer:

That works on client onboarding, and “some common” engineering tasks, too mundane (aka much too trivial for Professional Services) and charge for.

If this sounds familiar, and well-structured, its also Dead-WRONG!

#4 tells you why:

4. BEWARE THE JACK OF ALL TRADES (And Master of None)

Its no surprise that you can’t expect one person to do 5 jobs, because you can bet that they will only marginally do a great job at each one of them. Sure, we all know the superheroes out there, but most of us are still affected by kryptonite, and most of us can’t juggle internal and external challenges with an account base of 50 customers- (at least not efficiently anyway).

You cannot expect your customers to get good experiences when one person is handling the tasks of many customers and juggling conflicting priorities. Which ball should they drop, when the top 10 revenue customer wants something trivial, vs a low ARR customer that wants something more complex?

The essential purpose of the Cx Manager should be to manage the relationship (and maintain them), not everything under the sun.

RECOMMENDED STRUCTURE FOR A CX TEAM:

(Recognizing that there are many approaches to this)

(a.) Start with a Structured Org Chart: Typical functions that you’re solving for are:

i. Account Management (Relationship Management)

ii. Project and Process Management

ii. Provisioning and Onboarding or Problem Solving

iv. Outreach and Marketing (Yes, Marketing)

(b.) Structure your team as a POD:

i. 1 Lead Customer Success Manager (Structured by Vertical, Market, Region,etc.)

ii. 2-3 Associate Customer Success Managers (That work the POD and its lower ARR customers)

iii. Project Manager

(That manages the conflicting priorities and juggles scheduling with- -various teams)

iv. Customer Success Engineer

(That works on solving technical challenges for customers that spill over- -between Customer Support and Professional Services)

(c.) Use Professional Services. Professional services engineers are seldom saturated on billable hours 100% of the time. (Regardless of what their manager claims). Utilize them for your customers when they are sitting idle. This helps with three problems:

i. First, it allows them to become familiar with the customers’ teams, thereby

generating trust. When a PS project does come, the customer will be that much more willing to sign up, given the prior relationship, and familiarity.

ii. Second, it breaks down the silo between CS and PS. (Yes, it exists) by making

them work together for the common good of the customer. It also relieves the pressure on the AE (CSE) or other relationship management folks, including Sales Engineers, by bringing engineers to solve engineering problems.

iii. Third, PS Engineers are typically awesome at what they do, and bring a

collective intellect and experience that your customers will benefit from. Use

them.

Your customers will like the perspectives, and it’s always fun to talk shop.

(d.) Don’t Lie to your Customers (and) Don’t Promise the Sun:

i. Never, never, ever never promise a customer something on a product roadmap

without talking to product. EVER! If the watercooler mentioned that Feature X

is coming out in Q4, and you can’t see a roadmap document somewhere (from Product) then don’t commit to it.

ii. Don’t overcommit and under-deliver. This is a no-brainer. Promise a follow-up,

do so, and then make sure your pod drives internal resources to a solution.

5. DON’T OBSESS OVER NPS, CSAT AND CES SCORES:

Since Bain and Company introduced the NPS Benchmark, companies are obsessed with NPS surveys, CSAT surveys and CES Surveys.

  • NPS = Net Promoter Score, (A measurement of a customer’s loyalty to your brand)

  • CSAT = Customer Satisfaction Score, (Used to track how satisfied customers are with your organization’s products and/or services.)

  • CES = Customer Effort Score (A metric that measures the ease of an experience with a company’s product, website, team, etc.)

(a.) FOCUS ON THE WRONG STUFF

While great anecdotally, and required reading for some C-Level Meetings, hyper-focus on these scores and surveys without first understanding your Customer Journeys is meaningless and a waste of time.

(b.) LACK OF ENGAGEMENT

Traditionally, the response rates for Cx surveys are about 9-15 % of the customer base. For any serious survey to gauge customer sentiment, this cannot represent overall sentiment of your install base, or revenue base. IT SHOULD NOT!

(c.) ILLUSION and DELUSION

By focusing on results from a small set of respondents, you’re suffering from the illusion that that your customers by and large got represented, and you understand the overall install base. You’re also susceptible to the delusion that the rest of the customer base “must feel the same.” Wrong.

Suffering from both these problems, is the prescribed recipe for Early Churn, Mid-Lifecyle Churn and Late Lifecycle (contract) Churn.

Avoid them at all costs.

Focus on the customer, the experience you provide and solve the customers problems, and you’ll automatically start to generate great scores. Don’t, and your KPI’s will start to create the illusion of good service, forcing you to suffer from the delusion that you’re doing well.

6. BEWARE OF THE HIPPO (The Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)

Organizations that focus on hierarchies and org-charts too much, and chase titles suffer from the common problem of the autocratic HIPPO. The results of such a strategy are invariably a lack of engagement by internal staff, breakdown in design thinking, (or innovative thinking) and stagnation of process and customer engagement. In other-words the No-No’s of customer experience.

(a.) Empower your teams to make independent (non-approval based) decisions for their customers.

(b.) Train your teams to understand process and engineering workflows so they get access to information fast, without having to constantly ask.

(c.) Encourage a culture of transparency in your company- From the executive team, down to the customer support engineer. It is instantly empowering for the organization.

7. HAPPY EMPLOYEES MAKE HAPPY CUSTOMERS

There is a direct co-relation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. After all- if your employees hate working for your company, how can you possibly expect their interactions with your customers to elicit positive responses? The two don’t mix.

Keeping a keen eye on how your employees feel, think and act at work has a direct impact on customer satisfaction.

8. MEASURE EVERYTHING ( Some, not all KPI's show here)

Companies spend an immense amount of time on metrics, which is good. The key to metrics driven cultures is that they should be purposeful and thorough. Here are some metrics we recommend to our customers:

(a.) Hand-Off Time

i. The time it takes to hand-off action items to your internal teams. The purpose of this metric is to determine (trends) where the ball is frequently dropped.

(b.) Product Area of Concern (Customer Support Tickets)

i. It’s important to determine what customers are complaining about the most- product features? UX? UI? This is key.

(c.) Change Correlations

i. There is a famous saying-- "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." The reality of the

SaaS world and AGILE Development is that companies frequently push changes to their platforms, in order to drive their product forward.

You must measure the impact of these changes to customer support issues, and customer success complaints, as they are(usually) a key indicator of how your changes may impact the customers perceptions, and in-turn, experience.

Microsoft is famous for driving changes to UI and UX on their customers and irritating their user base. While they may get away with it due to their cap on the market (for now), this type of arbitrary thinking tends to make customers jump to alternative solutions. Don’t do it.

(d.) Life-Cycle Stage Churn Ratio

i. Measure the amount of times your customers churn in their lifecycle to look for

patterns. Early churn, vs mid-stream churn, vs late churn.

ii. Early churn may indicate a problem in your onboarding

iii. Mid-Stream churn may indicate a problem with your Sales promising things

your product can’t do

iv. And late churn may indicate a problem with broken promises or support cases

not being handled efficiently.

9. MAP YOUR CUSTOMER JOURNEY(s):


There is a difference between what experiences you think you’re delivering vs. what

your customers are getting. Measure them. Customer journey mapping is a science

itself, but still suffering from adoption issues due to a lack of understanding.

When implemented correctly, it can be hugely rewarding in understanding the experiences you’re delivering your customers, v/s what you thought you were.

Use the insights to your advantage for every aspect of your customer interactions- from your website, to pre-sales, to POC, to Post Sale and into Support and Customer Success.

You’ll be glad you did.

10. ALWAYS FOCUS ON THE CUSTOMER FIRST:

A famous saying on Sand-Hill Road, that’s held true of most of the unicorns that came out of the last bubbles, is:

"If you focus on solving the customers problem better than anyone else and focus on giving them an experience better than your competitors, you’ll win customers for life."

Google wasn’t the first at search, and AWS wasn’t the first cloud services and orchestration vendor on the Market. Yet, they captured the user perspective, delivered an elegant experience, and to this day, enjoy a market share that most companies can only hope for.

Focus on the customer, build processes around experiences, and your customers will remain loyal.

Cloudskope helps SaaS and Enterprise companies jumpstart their Customer Experience programs, re-structure their support and Customer Success teams, and build teams that delight customers and reduce churn.

We work with companies of all sizes. From SaaS Startup to Mid-Market and Enterprise.


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