Every successful business is focused on promoting customer satisfaction and optimizing customer experience. Every organization that offers a product or service needs to offer training and customer support. However, too many fall short of supporting customer success.
There is a substantive difference between customer support and customer success. Customer support is following up on the sale, ensuring that installation or implementation is handled smoothly, answering customer questions, providing instructions, and basically fulfilling the promises made by the sales team. Customer support is a check box for any type of sale; without adequate support, there is a good chance you will lose that customer.
But what is customer success? Where customer support is reactive, customer success is proactive. Customer success goes beyond just delivering your product and getting it up and running. Customer success is an extension of solution selling, working with the customer to help them achieve their business goals. Customer success is a collaborative strategy that applies relationship-building to identify and realize outcomes that are beneficial to buyer and seller.
So what is customer success? Customer success is your best strategy to maximize customer satisfaction, make yourself an invaluable customer partner, and minimize sales churn. Now the question becomes, How do you promote customer success?
What Is Customer Success Management?
To get the most from a customer success strategy, it needs to stand alone, separate from the sales and marketing functions. Customer success management goes beyond customer acquisition. It goes beyond customer support. In fact, customer success is a new role that encompasses elements from marketing, sales, training, support, and professional services, all in one.
Often, customer success teams start out as “churn fighters,” stepping in to provide triage to save accounts in danger of leaving. Over time, customer triage becomes more focused on ensuring customer success from the outset. This requires working alongside the customer to understand their obstacles, their points of pain, and collaborating on potential solutions.
Truly effective customer success teams work with sales and marketing to identify high-value leads and opportunities. They support onboarding and training to ensure the customer is fully engaged and that solutions align with business needs. They provide post-sales support to upsell and cross-sell and continue to architect solutions that fill in the gaps. The ultimate goal is to work with the customer at every step to ensure that the customer experience is frictionless and consistent, and that you are perceived more as a strategic partner than as just a vendor.
Customer Success Is Its Own Discipline
The mission of the customer success team is to demonstrate value to the customer and increase the perceived value of the company through customer onboarding, experience management, revitalizing and renewing, and revenue expansion. It is more than just fulfillment. It works with customers to engender success, gathering data along the way so the customer success team can move from reactive response to providing proactive value.
Customer Onboarding: The first contact after the customer has signed will be with the success team, who will help install, integrate, and activate the product. Since this is a collaborative process, onboarding can take hours, days, or months—whatever is required to understand business goals and demonstrate ongoing value. It is important to set customer expectations during this stage. It’s not unusual to have a product manager assigned on both sides.
Training and education are an integral part of onboarding. However, training goes beyond just explaining which button to push; it’s demonstrating product or service adoption and applying the product or service in the context of the customer’s needs to show them how to get the most value. Typically, training can include on-site consultation, teleconferences, video classrooms, and on-demand support—whatever customer success requires. This part is all about solution enablement.
Experience Management: Every customer interaction is an opportunity to gather data, so the customer success manager is responsible for accumulating feedback on the product and the company. The customer success manager serves as customer liaison, building the relationship with the customer to advocate on their behalf and represent their needs within the organization. They should be the first to manage customer complaints and take charge of problem resolution.
With a customer success team in place, your customer churn should drop precipitously. The customer success team’s main job is to ensure customer success, so if there is a problem, the team should be ready to address it. Of course, things happen, and customers lose faith. That’s when those relationships built up over time have real value. If your customer success manager has been cultivating a “win-win” with the customer, the customer is more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt to fix the problem before they decide to go elsewhere.
Revitalize & Renew: Building trust by helping the customer achieve their business goals includes introducing new ideas/solutions. The customer success manager is responsible for keeping customers apprised of new features and functions, and new products and services. Working closely with the customer, the success manager can help them by selling more seats, providing more solutions, selling an upgrade, or addressing other needs. The customer success manager is in the best position to upsell and cross-sell, thus deepening the customer relationship.
Revenue Expansion: As you continue to work with the customer, metrics will emerge that demonstrate the value of the relationship. By demonstrating data-driven revenue expansion you can actually show the customer how you are having a positive impact on their top line revenues. Once you present the facts and figures that prove the ROI, you upsell more goods and services. Using data to show revenue expansion opens the door to the right conversation at renewal time, and it demonstrates that you understand the customer’s goals.
As you can see, the customer success manager wears many hats, often at the same time. However, as customer liaison, their role is vital to your ongoing success. The customer success team brings essential intelligence regarding customer needs and provides the insight needed to continually improve the customer experience. The customer success team also is in the best position to maximize customer satisfaction and minimize turnover. A good customer success team can make all the difference when it comes to competitive solution selling.