Regardless of the type or size of your company, it’s safe to say that your success in the modern business world relies on delivering a top-notch customer experience at all stages of the ‘customer journey’. At its heart, this involves engaging proactively, thoughtfully and regularly with customers to ensure your business keeps its promises, has its finger on the pulse of their changing needs and objectives, and ultimately retains them as a happy customer.Achieving these goals consistently – in a structured and responsive way – can prove a major challenge, especially in businesses where functional remits are ingrained and often lead to a disorganised and disjointed approach to customer outreach. This is why innovative companies are setting up Customer Success (CS) teams, whose role transcends any one function and provides the much-needed backbone to customer experience management.
So what are the core elements of this function? Here are my top five recommendations, based on leading Maximizer’s EMEA Customer Success team over the last 3 years.
Rethink your on-boarding process
Your opportunity to shape your customer experience starts with their initial purchase of your product or service, or on-boarding as we call it. If a customer perceives a disparity between the high expectations set by the sales team and the reality of their first few weeks after the deal is signed, this can sour the relationship before it’s even begun.
Our CS team has responsibility for managing the first three months of the customer journey. You could say that we ‘police’ the delivery of our customers’ chosen service package, taking over contact from sales and then monitoring our service and technical team’s activity to ensure everything is on track. Improving our oversight has actually helped us implement stricter delivery timelines and get users up and running more quickly than before.
Once delivery targets have been met, our role turns to supporting our customers with useful information and tips on getting the most from their CRM. We’ve found that a regular flow of this type of practical content is instrumental in driving adoption of our solution.
An overarching technology solution is vital here to manage the onboarding process effectively. We use our own software’s Customer Service module to retain full visibility at each stage of our customers’ journey and on-boarding programme, to streamline tasks, set up automatic workflow triggers and to flag up any bottlenecks.
Add value through regular reviews
Within our business, we identified that three months is the critical point to gauge initial customer satisfaction levels and to ensure that the solution is meeting its objectives on a tactical and strategic level. Your teams will know what timescale works for your business.
In order to transform this from a straightforward feedback session into a genuinely valuable two-way dialogue, we developed a programme of Value Reviews – an in-depth telephone account review that my team arranges once the service package has been delivered.
These reviews are proving highly beneficial from both parties’ perspectives. Not only do they provide value-add in terms of customer experience, they also allow us to understand more about our customers’ businesses, growth plans and ambitions. In turn, we can pinpoint additional ways in which they could be applying our solution to derive greater value from their investment. This may result in further discussion with our sales team to arrange supplementary training, services or extending their number of users.
Some customers have made technical feature suggestions, which are invaluable to keep our product development team tightly aligned with real customer needs.
Be proactive with GDPR compliance
As we all know, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) necessitated a major overhaul of the way customer data is captured, stored and processed. With its dual emphasis on ensuring your data is accurate and that customers in your database really do want to hear from you, GDPR has accelerated the shift towards transparent, inbound sales and marketing practices, as opposed to unsolicited, ‘pushed’ techniques like cold-calling.
A well-functioning CS team can contribute to creating a culture of customer engagement that is ideal for the GDPR era. The type of regular, open and personalised communication that we undertake in the on-boarding and value review programme, for instance, helps us keep contacts up-to-date and fosters strong, trust-based relationships where the customer is by definition ‘opted in’. The team’s very principle is to bridge internal divides and improve collaboration, which on a practical level calls for everybody to have access to the same centralised, real-time data repository. This certainly exposes any data inaccuracies or inconsistencies, and brings new-found transparency and accountability to data management.
Act on satisfaction surveys results
Customer satisfaction surveys still represent an important way of listening to your customers on a regular basis. Although they are designed to complement Value Reviews, they hold particular value in their own right for those customers who may not have time for fully-fledged telephone appointments or may prefer to give feedback in written format.
Don’t fall into the trap of conducting satisfaction surveys for the sake of it. It’s not just about showing customers that you listen, but showing that you are analysing the results and acting on them. We find it useful to track trends year-on-year. For example, we’ve been able to identify the top business objectives and benefits that companies are realising from their CRM investment, and also gauge adoption levels of key features and functions. This all helps us to benchmark our customers’ CRM maturity, produce informed best practice guidance for successful CRM implementation and deliver ongoing value to support their business growth.
Get social with your customers
It’s clear that today’s prospects – in both the B2C and B2B worlds – pay far greater heed to referrals, peer review websites and the digital ‘word of mouth’ than any information supplied or promises made by your sales team. It’s therefore imperative to formalise your process for encouraging customers to share their success stories with you, so you are able to produce a regular flow of customer-centric content that can be transformed into many formats including case studies, testimonials or videos for your website and social media.
Given our customer intimacy, the CS team has become instrumental in leading this process – finding (and creating) those highly engaged customers who are willing to become our brand ambassadors. You may have noticed that our team is very active on social media, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, sharing snapshots of our daily customer interactions. This initiative is proving very successful – after all, who doesn’t love telling others about a great experience? It ticks all the boxes for immediacy, personalisation and authenticity. This initial activity of promoting our customers often leads to further opportunities for testimonials and collaboration with case studies and blogs.
Customer Success is an emerging discipline and evolving rapidly in the digital age. But it’s already evident that investing in the success of your customers drives your own success, creates real commercial gains and delivers valuable competitive differentiation.