Making Smarter Decisions For Your Business
How building a data-driven decision-making framework into your company, from the top down, ensures longevity and profitability.
"How do we implement bestpractices in customer success and delight customers?"
Cloudskope's Customer Experience Management Practice has worked with several customers in the SaaS startupworld, and one theme that continues to come up is: " How do weimplement best practices in customer success and delight customers?"
Well, it is such a common question,and a somewhat elusive one, that we thought a post might help.
1. FOCUS ON THE BASICS (TheCustomer):
(a.) The primary purpose of anycustomer success team is to ensure that customers are successful with theiruse, adoption, and satisfaction with the Product or service you are selling.Period.
(b.) The only product question ofwhat "customers want" isn't simply answered by a CSAT survey or anNPS survey. It is best answered through human interaction, live phone calls,trust, empathy (from Customer Success), and service experience.
(c.) problem-Solving on behalf ofcustomers, driving internal resources to get stuff done for them is a core partof the job (or should be).
2. CS IS NOT A SALES FUNCTION:
(a.) Growth and Renewals do NOTbelong in Customer Experience:
No matter what anyone says, IMHO,the two roles don't usually co-exist well. Too many companies (including ones I'veworked for and consulted for) make this mistake.
It's the wrong approach for tworeasons:
i. G&R is a function of sales.It always should be. Customer Success is a function of account management andcustomer advocacy. It always should be.
ii. Quotas for Customer Successdefeat the purpose:
Think about it. If you're empoweringyour CS staff by asking them to sell rather than knock heads internally (whenthings aren't going well) in Support and Product, how is that contributing tothe customer's success? Their focus at quarter-end and year-end will be to quicklyreach customers to sell them something (upsell or cross-sell), and everyonehates a sales guy. In doing so, you're essentially setting them up for failureand 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, severalversions of the job exist today as an expectation from the business. Here arethe typical responsibilities of the (current-day) Cx Agent:
(Folks that keep their customersupdated, their salesforce updated on interactions, and provide an interface tothe client)
(Folks that ensure that theircustomers renew during the end of their contracts and are also cross-andup-sold new products and features)
Also known as the CGSD (Chief GetStuff Done) person for the customer, also known as the Customer Advocate (Toproduct teams)
(For customers complaining about theservice or support side not carrying their weight)
That works on client onboarding and "somecommon" engineering tasks, too mundane (aka much too trivial forProfessional Services) and charge for.
If this sounds familiar andwell-structured, it is also Dead-WRONG!
#4 tells you why:
4. BEWARE THE JACK OF ALL TRADES(And Master of None)
It is no surprise that you can'texpect one person to do five jobs because you can bet that they will onlymarginally do a great job at each one of them. Sure, we all know thesuperheroes out there. However, most of us are still affected by kryptonite,and most of us can't juggle internal and external challenges with an accountbase of 50 customers- (at least not efficiently anyway).
You cannot expect your customers toget good experiences when one person is handling the tasks of many customersand juggling conflicting priorities. Which ball should they drop when the top10 revenue customer wants something trivial vs. a low ARR customer that wantssomething more complex?
The essential purpose of the CxManager should be to manage the relationship (and maintain them), noteverything under the sun.
RECOMMENDED STRUCTURE FOR A CX TEAM:
(Recognizing that there are manyapproaches to this)
(a.) Start with a Structured Org Chart: Typical functionsthat you're solving for are:
i. Account Management (RelationshipManagement)
ii. Project and Process Management
ii. Provisioning and Onboarding orProblem 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 SuccessManagers (That work the POD and its lower ARR customers)
iii. Project Manager
(That manages the conflictingpriorities and juggles scheduling with various teams)
iv. Customer Success Engineer
(That works on solving technicalchallenges for customers that spillover between Customer Support andProfessional Services)
(c.) Use Professional Services. Professional servicesengineers are seldom saturated on billable hours 100% of the time. (Regardlessof what their manager claims). Please utilize them for your customers when theyare sitting idle. This helps with three problems:
i. First, it allows them to becomefamiliar with the customers' teams, thereby generating trust. The customer willbe more willing to sign up when a PS project does come, given the priorrelationship and familiarity.
ii. Second, it breaks down the silobetween CS and PS. (Yes, it exists) by making
them work together for the commongood of the customer. It also relieves the pressure on the AE (CSE) or otherrelationship management folks, including Sales Engineers, by bringing
engineers to solve engineeringproblems.
iii. Third, PS Engineers aretypically fantastic at what they do and bring a
collective intellect and experiencethat your customers will benefit from. Use
Your customers will like theperspectives, 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 promise acustomer something on a product roadmap
without talking to Product. EVER! Ifthe watercooler mentioned that Feature X
is coming out in Q4, and you can'tsee a roadmap document somewhere (from Product), then don't commit to it.
ii. Don't overcommit andunder-deliver. This is a no-brainer. Promise a follow-up,
do so, and then make sure your poddrives internal resources to a solution.
5. DON'T OBSESS OVER NPS, CSAT,AND CES SCORES:
Since Bain and Company introduced the NPS Benchmark, companies have been obsessed with NPS surveys, CSAT surveys,and CES Surveys.
(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 wasteof time.
(b.) LACK OF ENGAGEMENT
Traditionally, the response ratesfor Cx surveys are about 9-15 % of the customer base. Any serious survey togauge customer sentiment cannot represent overall sentiment of your install baseor revenue base. IT SHOULD NOT!
(c.) ILLUSION and DELUSION
By focusing on results from a smallset of respondents, you're suffering from the illusion that your customers, byand large, got represented, and you understand the overall install base. You'realso susceptible to the delusion that the rest of the customer base "mustfeel the same." Wrong.
Suffering from both these problemsis the prescribed recipe for Early Churn, Mid-Lifecycle Churn, and LateLifecycle (contract) Churn.
Avoid them at all costs.
Focus on the customer, theexperience you provide, and solve the customer's problems, and you'llautomatically start to generate excellent scores. Don't, and your KPI's will beginto create the illusion of good service, forcing you to suffer from the delusionthat you're doing well.
6.BEWARE OF THE HIPPO (The Highest Paid Person's Opinion)
Organizations that focus onhierarchies and org charts too much and chase titles suffer from the commonproblem of the autocratic HIPPO. The results of such a strategy are invariablya lack of engagement by internal staff, breakdown in design thinking (orinnovative thinking), and stagnation of process and customer engagement. Inother words, the No-Nos of customer experience.
(a.) Empower your teams tomake independent (non-approval based) decisions for their customers.
(b.) Train your teams tounderstand the process and engineering workflows, so they get access toinformation fast, without having to ask constantly.
(c.) Encourage a culture oftransparency in your company- From the executive team down to the customersupport engineer. It is instantly empowering for the organization.
7. HAPPY EMPLOYEES MAKE HAPPYCUSTOMERS
There is a direct correlationbetween employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. After all, if youremployees hate working for your company, how can you possibly expect theirinteractions with your customers to elicit positive responses? The two don'tmix.
Keeping a keen eye on how youremployees feel, think, and act at work directly impacts customer satisfaction.
8. MEASURE EVERYTHING ( Some, not all KPI's show here)
Companies spend an immense amount oftime on metrics, which is good. The key to metrics-driven cultures is that theyshould be purposeful and thorough. Here are some metrics we recommend to ourcustomers:
(a.) Hand-Off Time
i. The time it takes to hand offaction items to your internal teams. The purpose of this metric is to determine(trends) where the ball gets dropped frequently.
(b.) Product Area of Concern(Customer Support Tickets)
i. It's essential to determine whatcustomers are complaining about the most- product features? UX? UI? Yes, thisis the critical point.
(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 are when companies frequently push changes to their platforms to drive their Product forward.
You must measure the impact of these changes' impact on customer support issues and customer success complaints, asthey 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 typeof arbitrary thinking tends to make customers jump to alternative solutions. Please don't do it.
(d.) Life-Cycle Stage Churn Ratio
i. Measure the number of times yourcustomers churn in their lifecycle to look for
patterns. Early churn vs. mid-streamchurn vs. late churn.
ii. Early churn may indicate aproblem in your onboarding
iii. Mid-Stream churn may indicate aproblem with your Sales promising things
your Product can't do
iv. Late churn may indicate aproblem 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. Measurethem. Customer journey mapping is science
itself, but still suffering from adoption issues due to a lack of understanding.
When implemented correctly, it canbe hugely rewarding in understanding the experiences you're delivering yourcustomers, v/s what you thought you were.
Use the insights to your advantagefor every aspect of your customer interactions- from your website to pre-sales, POC, 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 off most of the unicorns that came out of the last bubbles, is:
"If you focus on solving thecustomer's problem better than anyone else and focus on giving them anexperience 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, andto this day, enjoy a market share that most companies can only hope for.
Focus on the customer, buildprocesses around experiences, and your customers will remain loyal.
Cloudskope helps SaaS and Enterprisecompanies jumpstart their Customer Experience programs, re-structure theirsupport and Customer Success teams, and build coalitions that delight customersand reduce churn.
We work with companies of all sizes,from SaaS Startup to Mid-Market and Enterprise.
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