As customer success teams know all too well, relationship types can be positive or negative, distant or intimate, and intense or weak, communicative or noncommunicative, and so on. Your CSM team has customers with various needs that may even change on a daily or weekly basis.
Before companies can improve how they engage with customers – both existing and prospective ones – they need to understand their customers, but most importantly, need to understand their behavior patterns. What if the customer isn’t happy – how will your CSM know? What do they really think about your product or service? Would they tell your CSM or an executive if they weren’t happy?
Customer success teams should monitor the following three factors of each customer relationship carefully in order to determine if a relationship gap could exist between what appears to be true and what actually is true:
- The Customer – What do they think about the product? While it may seem to be the most obvious sign, often times the straightforward questions of “what do you think of the product or service?” or “how could we improve upon your experience with our company?” go unasked. A CSM might assume that if a customer is responding to them and is engaged in the relationship, they are happy with the product or service. Make sure you truly understand where the customer stands with the value and ROI of your product/service.
- Mind the Gap: Just because a customer responds quickly and has a good relationship with the CSM doesn’t mean that they are necessarily happy with the product or service. For example: the customer may have KPIs or goals directly tied to the success of your product or service in their organization or department, so the customer will respond and will be engaged, because their own success depends on it. But are there aspects of the product or service that could be improved? Without asking the customer (or multiple stakeholders across the company), this could be a missed opportunity that could create relationship risk—a gap.
- Product Usage – Are they using the product or service? How much? Monitoring product usage is a strategy customer success teams use to gauge product engagement, stickiness, and indication of value. These usage metrics are incredibly helpful indicators of how the relationship is going. Product usage is an incredible indicator of not only how effective your product or service is to the customer, but also how “sticky” your product is to the customer organization. For instance, if a customer is using your product daily and has hundreds of users engaged in frequent activity, then it’s more difficult for them to transition vendors.
- Mind the Gap: While product usage paints a great story of engagement, it doesn’t always tell the whole story. What if your product or service is absolutely fundamental to the company’s success? If it is, then they really have no choice but to use it. For example, a CRM is critical to a sales team. If your company sells a CRM product, your customers will use it – period. But what is the rest of the story? How much value is the product driving?
- The CSM – The CSM’s relationship with the customer? CSMs that are in-tune with customers are able to ask straightforward questions because they have built a rapport of trust with their customer. In turn, when a customer has a problem or needs assistance, they look to the CSM for guidance or help. The CSM’s personal relationship with the customer – both the day-to-day contacts as well as other stakeholders – can either be incredibly beneficial to understanding the customer needs, or can be misleading if the relationship isn’t strong.
- Mind the Gap: While a CSM with strong customer rapport and a solid foundation across the entire organization is able to ask straightforward questions, what about CSMs they don’t have that relationship? Will customers be honest in their reply or will they be wary of how the CSM will respond? Has the customer and the CSM been working together long enough that trust exists between both parties?
Want to learn more? Check out the full read and learn to create a Relationship Gap Model that takes these three factors and places them on a scale of happiness (pictured above). The goal is that your CSM team works to eliminate the gaps that may occur between the perceived happiness of your clients, your product, and CSMs.
Learning from Masters of Customer Sucess
All relationships are based on trust. In business, when you commit to a client, you give your word—and in return, you gain their trust and confidence. This trust and confidence are the end-all and be-all of customer relationship management. Everything that is done with and for the customer aims to earn their trust, to prove that your company is a reliable and worthy partner towards growth.
Service-oriented companies like Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses know the value of trust and measure this concretely via client retention. With so many providers of subscription-based services and products, the possibility of losing your client to a competitor is higher than ever. And – as we all know – these businesses are tackling this problem via customer success.
So what does customer success done right look like? This article answers that question with ten examples of companies that are mastering customer success, highlighting their unique approaches that we can all learn from. Here are three of our favorites:
- Unbounce – The secret of Unbounce’s strong client retention is forming a single-minded Customer Success team. The team works based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for every stage of the process. With these KPIs in mind, each member imbibes the culture of achieving success and develops more creative solutions to problems. Ryan Engley, Director of Customer Success at Unbounce, says it is also important for the whole company to appreciate the aim of the business and understand the value they bring to consumers. Making everyone a Customer Success advocate means your client will get 5-star customer service every time.
- Insightly – A CRM software provider Insightly knows its way around customer relationships. Applying Customer Success, the company uses extra care in onboarding a client—dedicating a specialist to assist each client after the subscription. The Insightly Customer Success Specialist is appointed to help clients and answer every query and request. Insightly uses free trials and uploads instructional materials to encourage leads to take a chance with their service. Lynn Tsoflias, VP of customer success at Insightly, recommends preparing engaging content for all kinds of customers—from webinars, presentations, to manuals, and even regular correspondence via email. Tsoflias also emphasizes the need to maintain good communication lines with clients. “People want to be asked and they want to be heard. Taking the time to listen to them and make that phone ring back goes a long way.”
- CoBloom – CoBloom proves its worth to clients by emphasizing the benefits of engaging with them. The main selling point of CoBloom is the promotion of smart growth—business growth without the costs of trial and error and other startup mistakes. CoBloom offers free trial and assessment to hook potential clients. In case a lead fails to become a client, SaaS Growth Specialist Emily Smith advises looking at it as a learning experience. “Talk to lost opportunities – customers who churned or never converted after a free trial. This will help you identify your customers’ success factors, their top priorities. If you don’t understand what’s important to your customers, you can’t be sure if you’re helping them to succeed.”
We definitely recommend checking out the full list – lots of great approaches to learn from!
Checking in on B2B Trend Predictions
Believe it or not, we are more than halfway through 2016. Where did the time go?!
But now that on the downhill part of 2016, we can check in on how accurate some of the 2015 predictions for B2Bs trends were and how those trends are impacting Customer Success.
- Driven by data – For success teams, focusing on data-driven decisions might mean more emphasis on data-driven support, particularly when it comes to SaaS companies. With the right tools, success teams can get insight into which customers are planning to cancel, which customers need help, and which customers are potential advocates. But data doesn’t always have to come through an app. Having ongoing conversations with other teams within the company, such as sales, marketing and dev can give Success teams essential information on what customers expect of the product and services.
- Outbound Returns – Inbound marketing is still having its time in the sun, but more marketing and sales teams are turning to account-based marketing and outbound sales tactics to achieve results. Before a company’s ideal customer signs the agreement, marketing and sales teams would have gathered essential information about the company, key contacts, and the challenges faced by the team at the target company. Once the prospect becomes a customer, this information needs to be accessible to the Success team. From a support perspective, ‘account-based marketing’ becomes account-based management, which is a fancy way of saying that support is tailored to each account – your customers’ goals, history, key metrics, and deadlines. In the Success world, outbound is not new: app updates, upgrade opportunities, account notices – while not strictly outbound sales, these are a few ways that Customer Success teams have been practicing outbound since Customer Success became a thing. What may have changed slightly is where more opportunities for sales or account-based marketing fall in line with Customer Success.
- Enabling the Sales Team – Sales enablement has expanded in recent years and now even involves customer success. The customer success team can play an immense role in supporting the sales team; they can help train new sales team members on products and services, they can own the company’s knowledge base, they can provide the sales team with data about the company’s customer base and they can call out and develop cases studies, giving sales current customers who can act as references and examples of success.
Word to the Wise
This week’s wisdom comes from a recent episode of This Old New Business, a weekly business podcast with Jeff Korhan and Chris Brogan. In this episode – which we highly recommend listening to in its entirety – talks about the Owners Mindset and how to get programmed for customer success. As Brogan puts it, our core duty is to serve. So while he digs into the five steps that move you into the Owners Mindset, it all really boils down to simply being helpful. When you make that your core mission, then execution of the business or job or whatever naturally works:
When you Customer success happens when people get what they want from your business. It’s not just increasing customer satisfaction, but taking responsibility for connecting, consistently communicating and nurturing relationships to build trust.