We hear a lot about the importance of customer service. You know, that aspect of business that tends to the customer’s needs, resolves their issues quickly and efficiently and does it with a smile: that’s in essence basic customer service.
But what is customer success? It's a way of treating the customer like a prospect throughout the entire life cycle of the relationship. You know how attentive sales folks are when you are about to purchase? How accommodating and focused on your needs? It's applying that mindset and energy over time. And applying a customer success framework requires an investment of time, funding and buy-in throughout the organization.
The customer success life cycle
Judith Platz of TSIA research recently published an article on five questions to ask when considering funding for a customer success framework, which focused primarily on the three most neglected steps of the customer journey: adopt, expand and renew. Let's take a look:
Adopt: This is the process by which we help the new customer use the product they’ve purchased to achieve their objectives, also sometimes referred to as training.
Expand: This is the point in the relationship where we help the customer find reasons to expand into using more products. An example might be an Amazon customer who purchased running shorts then purchasing running shoes. Or, in a more technical example, a Spoken Smart IVR customer expanding to use the Spoken Automated Call Distributor (ACD).
Renew: Basically, this is renewing the contract with the new customer into what will hopefully be a long-term and successful relationship.
In the past, it’s been noted that technology companies tend to focus a bit more on the beginning of the customer life cycle, the landing phase, pouring energy and resources into building a customer base. However, as more technology market segments embrace technology-as-a-service models, the need to shift the thinking to a customer success model has become necessary in order to stay profitable. Focusing on the areas of adoption and expansion have become critical to economic growth.
Top five questions to ask for funding
In order to implement a customer success framework, funding and buy-in is required from several different departments of your organization. For the best chance of success, Platz recommends answering these five questions before attempting to implement a customer success program:
- What is the target financial model your company is attempting to achieve?
- Will the customer success organization have responsibilities for traditional support activities?
- Will the customer success organization be responsible for adoption?
- Will the customer success organization be responsible for renewing the customer subscription?
- Will the customer success organization be responsible for cross-selling and upselling existing customers?
Feeding the customer success life cycle
What are techniques for beefing up the adoption, expansion and renewal phases? A few ideas:
- Newsletter Maintain a client services newsletter to highlight new products, services and case studies
- Events Offer a user conference for clients to network, discover the entire product suite and share best practices
- Webinars Offer frequent webinars to showcase how new products align with tech trends
- White papers Offer technical white papers highlighting common tech challenges and best practices for addressing them
- Customer surveys Never forget to survey your customers and determine their top challenges and priorities you might be able to help solve
Figuring out results
With funding comes the responsibility of analyzing key metrics to determine the success of various campaigns. Newsletters can measure open rates, clickthroughs and landing page conversions; events can use a special offer to gauge interest in new products and free demos; webinars and white papers can institute follow up sales calls to measure interest in expansion and renewal.
However you slice it, customer success is the fine art of not neglecting customers after the sale in order to increase loyalty, retention and the bottom line. Do you have a success framework in place? How is it working for you?