Customer Success Defined
Customer Success is a strategy to maximize customer retention and create opportunities for revenue expansion within the customer base. It is not simply an organizational structure, process, team, or job description. Customer Success is predicated on the understanding that a significant portion of revenue and growth comes from existing customer relationships and that for technology vendors to grow relationship value their customers must be able to apply and succeed with the products they have purchased. Customer Success encompasses practices for engaging, serving, retaining, and expanding customer relationships. The primary measures of Customer Success are retention and growth of recurring revenue streams and expansion of customers’ relationship value.
Is Customer Success Right for Your Business?
Customer Success is a critical methodology for companies that depend on recurring revenues from license, maintenance, and other service subscriptions. Customer Success is not however just for companies that sell products as-a-Service. Companies that sell perpetual software licenses, equipment and devices can benefit from Customer Success to drive product adoption and to assure maintenance contract renewals.
How to Succeed with Customer Success
Customer Success does not just happen – you need a plan. The foundation for an effective Customer Success initiative is a clearly defined strategy. The Success strategy must: Define what you expect to accomplish; Justify why it makes good business sense; Articulate the resources and changes required to execute; and explain how Success performance will be measured. Define your strategy, develop the plan, and gain champions and sponsors.
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Customer Success Operating Model
What it is
Why you need it
How ServiceXRG Can Help You
Customer Success Practices
Develop Value Proposition
The value proposition describes the relationship between the price and benefits of the services a customer receives. To be compelling, the benefits must exceed the cost. Service benefits may be intangible – insurance against risk, or tangible – a commitment of specific resources or attainment of a specific outcome. Although difficult, it is imperative to quantify the value of all service benefits so that they can be compared to the price. A compelling value proposition is fundamental for successful sales and renewal activities.
Support and Success offerings define the basis of the relationship with a customer. A well-defined portfolio will meet the needs of customers by offering programs aligned to meet diverse needs and sensitivities. When customers can purchase the level of assistance for a price they believe to be reasonable, the relationship is off to a good start.
Sell / Close
The Sales team often creates the first impression of a product or service. The mission of the Sales team is to establish new relationships and close new business. Sales may be done through partners or as part of a direct sales team. Help those responsible for selling and closing new business to correctly position the services available to help customer adopt and achieve their desired outcomes.
Assure that expectations set by Sales are consistent with the entitlements and capabilities of post-sales services. Assure that there is a smooth hand-off from Sales, to post-sales teams including Professional Services, Training, Customer Success and Support.
Communicate with all new customers through automated or guided methods. Assure that customers have access and ability to use products. Help customers setup access to service resources and let them know what services they are entitled to. Tell them the best way to get help and set expectations about the level of service they can expect. Onboarding customers is an important step in establishing a productive relationship.
Establish how your customers define success with your products. By understanding what your customers expect it is possible to align resources to help customer achieve their desired outcomes. It is possible that customer expectations will only “scratch” the surface of what your product can do, or what they should do with it. Asking customers what they want to accomplish should be supplemented by showing them what is possible. Help customers define and achieve desired outcomes by developing success plans or journey maps.
Setting expectations and enforcing entitlements requires a proper balance between helping customers adopt and apply products and being able to say no. Customer are not automatically entitled to all the Support and Customer Success resources they can consume. It is important to have well defined Support and Success programs as a basis for setting realistic customer expectations. Alignment of customer needs with the appropriate service resources is a critical first step in establishing the relationship. Support and Customer Success programs define service levels and scope of coverage. Effective customer engagement demands that you clearly set and maintain realistic expectations with customers through all stages of the relationship.
Each customer interaction offers insight into the challenges customers face with products. In some cases, products fail to function as intended, in other situations a product is difficult to use. Regardless of the reason, both defects and usability issues create service demand, inhibit adoption, and slow successful outcomes. Through careful tracking and analysis, it is possible to determine the most critical issues that that must be fixed.
Entitlement defines what service levels and resources customers can access based on the Support or Success program level they purchase. By effectively managing entitlements, Support and Success teams can assure delivery of promised services and minimize the likelihood that customers do not get more than they have paid for. Under-delivery of services can put customer relationships at risk, over-delivery of services can diminish the value of higher-end service offerings. Establish and enforce fair entitlement practices.
You must never wait for the customer to call, the next issues to arrive, nor remain silent about answers to known issues. For new customers, don’t make them guess how to get productive and achieve results. Engage them to offer skills development and training resources, best practices, code samples and other resources to jumpstart their projects. Leverage monitoring and diagnostic tools and outbound alerts to notify customers when issues are imminent, or you detect that they are off course. Effective proactive services do not need to be costly, just relevant, and timely.
The most effective way to service customers is to make them self-sufficient. No customer wants to have to rely on services, they want to be able to use and apply products and resolve issues on their own. More than two-thirds of customers indicate that the first action they take when the need help is to search the web for an answer. Customers are predisposed to help themselves, take advantage of this and enable customers to be successful and self-sufficient.
Helping customers use and apply products is essential to sustaining customer relationships. If customers cannot use your product they may learn that they can do without them or find alternatives that are easier to use. It is no longer acceptable to assume customers can use a product or a service. Help customers engage with your products by eliminating barriers to use. Inhibitors may include lost passwords, lack of skills, setup challenges, or lack of inspiration to apply what you offer. Working with every customer can be cost prohibitive so explore methods to apply automated “tech-touch” approaches combined with high-touch personal adoption techniques.
Manage and Resolve Issues
Case management is the costliest and most time-consuming activity for a Support organization. The efficiency by which Support manages cases will have a profound impact on the cost of service delivery and the satisfaction customers express about their service and overall product ownership experience.
The ultimate measure of Support success is its ability to resolve issues to the satisfaction of customers cost effectively. Customer satisfaction with case resolution is influenced by the effectiveness of the solution offered and the time it takes to provide a response. Some cases can be completely resolved at first customer contact, while resolution of other cases may span days or weeks. To sustain customer satisfaction Support must deliver a satisfactory answer and assure that realistic customer expectations have been set and maintained.
Customer relationships requires an ongoing dialogue. The dialogue may consist of customer access to self-help materials, participation in communities or direct interaction with Success team members. Although it is less costly to have many inactive customers, a customer relationship ceases to exist when the dialogue stops. Make certain the customers adopt and succeed with the products the products they own.
Customer satisfaction assessment can tell you far more than if a customer is going to continue to do business with you. It can help you to identify service quality, product quality or policy issues. There are a wide variety of satisfaction assessment methods available for use, determining which one(s) to use depends upon what you want to learn and what actions you will take with this information.
Customers can be satisfied with many aspects of their relationship with you, yet they may not be able to achieve the outcomes they expect. To develop a comprehensive view of how healthy your customer relationships are, evaluate how well your customers can use and apply your products.
Customers that seldom use your products and services or use only a subset of what they are entitled to are likely to question the value of the relationship. Use prescriptive programs such as onboarding scripts, adoption plans, success plans and journey maps to chart progress relative to customer expectations.
For contracts not set to renew automatically, failing to ask customers to renew their subscription or service contract is among the top reasons for non-renewal and the number one reason for late renewals. More accurately stated, companies sometimes ask the wrong person for the renewal. Renewal processes are typically in place and renewal notifications are sent out, they just do not always get to the right person. What should be a relatively simple process is far more complex. Pay careful attention to the process of asking the right person for the renewal.
Grow Relationship Value
It is essential to work towards the highest possible subscription renewal rate, but don’t miss the opportunity to expand the value of existing relationship. There will always be customers that are reluctant to renew services and subscriptions, there is also a population of customers that need more. Evaluate customer needs, and products and service usage patterns to identify opportunities for added services. Propose an expanded relationship based on opportunities to help customers achieve or extend benefits. Leverage success plans, journey maps and support plans to help customers understand how an extended relationship can deliver value.
It is unrealistic to expect that all service contracts can be renewed, but it is realistic to expect to understand the reasons for cancelation. Implement a policy to capture customers’ reasons for contract cancelations using surveys and interviews.