Let’s start with some introspection- Have you deep-dived into customer success as a concept and not just as a team or department?
Customer success isn’t about hiring a team and leaving them to field calls from customers who have a query or a problem – that’s simply a customer support team; not one that makes a customer successful.
The idea of customer success has moved far beyond issue redressal decades ago and has evolved into an industry of its own with a proactive, loyalty-targeted approach. And thanks to the COVID-centric turn of events in 2020, customer success has taken several steps forward into the era of digitization.
What is Customer Success?
Customer success is all about ensuring that your customers are having a great experience using your product/service and are deriving maximum benefit from it. This in turn will help you build loyalty and, ultimately, boost your bottom line.
With intense competition in most industries today and the high demand we have for gratification in our day to day lives, customers today have a much lower threshold for waiting and compromising than before.
They expect perfection in quality, swiftness in response and proactiveness in support.
That means that rather than waiting for them to reach out to you with a problem, a CS executive gets in touch with them to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Because not all customers will express dissatisfaction, proactive outreach is the only way to ensure that your product/service is meeting expectations and that you’re likely to see continued business from the customer.
This way, by boosting customer happiness, you boost your customer loyalty and revenue.
How Has Customer Success Changed Due to the Pandemic?
The pandemic has acted as a trigger and accelerator for evolving consumer behavior in the digital era.
Consider the banking sector – before 2020, you’d be hard-pressed to find 9 out of 10 people using a chatbot or self-service tools. Or the manufacturing sector, where in-person meetings and check-ins were the norm for a customer success executive.
Due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a kind of permanent change that wouldn’t have occurred for years.
Customers of all types have readily embraced online ordering, chatbots for support, and self-service apps & resources – a change that’s permanent and has brought us years ahead of the progress that was expected to be seen in the next few years.
Why is Customer Success Important and What to Expect from Your CS Team?
Though you may not realize it, the role of a customer success team starts as soon as a sale is made – not when a customer experiences a problem or calls in for help. In many large organizations, initial customer success (for a pre-determined period) is now a part of the salesperson’s role.
This ensures that the sales team not only brings in sales numbers but ensures the new customers are happy enough to stick around, because their incentives depend on it.
In fact, customer success is pivotal into every part of the organization. The feedback or inputs from a customer success team is invaluable to the product team, marketing team and sales team.
Here are some instances where you need to make sure you’re engaging your customer success team-
1. Right After a Sale Is Made
To onboard the new customer, ensure they know they’re being looked after and are enjoying the experience, and provide them with the guidance and training needed.
2. Every Time You Make a Product or Service Update
To keep customers informed and help them gain product knowledge – supplemented with guides, training and content if required.
3. When You Identify a Delighted Customer
To turn the delight into loyalty and request a testimonial for your marketing efforts.
4. When Your Customers Aren’t Using Your Product to Experience Maximum Impact
To educate them and empower them to make the most of your product/service, so they can in turn realize more value from your product/service.
5. When You Identify Further Potential Revenue From a Customer
To upsell/cross-sell them on other products/services from your offerings, so as to increase the revenue and their overall lifetime value to your company.
Once the inputs from the customer success team are successfully fed into your product and marketing strategies, you’ll find your organization moving in a much more customer-focused direction. Always a great place to be in and from a long-term perspective, full of potential for growth.
How to Structure Customer Success Team
Setting up a customer success strategy is an exercise in aligning your company’s goals with customers’ preferences or requirements, and making sure that the customer emerges delighted.
8 Step Guide to Successful Customer Success Implementation
Step 1- Get a Firm Understanding of Your Customers
You need to fully understand your customers’ needs from you in terms of customer success – what do they need from you, to be fully nurtured and delighted? Identify exactly what your customers need – for a small business, that’s as easy as picking up the phone or sending out an email.
“Put the customer first in the equation. It is ultimately the customer’s success that counts as your success.”
Step 2- Specify Goals and Objectives
Every strategy needs goals, objectives and a roadmap to achieving them. To identify the right goals, take all the data you have on your customers’ expectations, and match them with your company’s business objectives.
The overlapping areas are where you know you can extract the most as a customer success team. Your roadmap should include goals split over a matter of months, quarters or for the year. For different ways to achieve your goals, read on!
Step 3- Set up a Customer Success Team
More on that below!
Step 4- Keep Customers Informed
In today’s world, customers want to be informed and empowered – no matter which industry. Establish a plan for how you can impart knowledge to your customers as a part of your customer success strategy.
In the service industry, this can simply be by building a deeper rapport with each customer or by being upfront with details. In the technology industry, it could be a thorough onboarding process or round-the-clock support.
When it comes to products, it could be transparency and genuineness in product information. The more customers feel informed, the more they feel empowered and respected by your company.
Step 5- Keep Your Brand Top of Mind
Not all products/services are the kind that are noticed upfront every day. In the manufacturing industry, the brand of the tools used isn’t always at the front and center of the users’ minds.
In a services company, the tool that employees use to clock in their time isn’t always a brand that they pay attention to.
One of the goals of customer success is to ensure that customers constantly associate a feeling of delight with your brand – this can’t happen if they don’t have your brand at the top of their mind. Keep in mind, as a B2B company, you have two audiences to consider in this regard – your buyers and your users.
Step 6- Share Valuable Information with Other Departments
As we mentioned earlier, passing information on to other departments in your company – such as marketing, product development and business development – will help you build a stronger revenue base.
For example, with your inputs on what customers are finding delight in, the marketing team can create stronger advertising and marketing collaterals. They can even support you with collaterals to help you in educating customers.
The product development team can use the insights to create more customer-centric products, so customer success teams find it easier to maintain delight and increase loyalty. And business development teams can use the insights to chase the right kind of leads, and improve their conversion numbers without wasting resources.
Step 7- Get the Right Tools for Customer Success
Tools and platforms make everything easier and more time efficient today. Customer success tools include those that help you collect feedback, communicate with customers and (especially important today) allow customers to help themselves with self-service functionalities.
Most importantly, the right tools will also help you analyze the different parameters of customer success.
Step 8- Analyze the Success of Your Customer Success Efforts
Customer lifetime value, average order values, upselling & cross-selling values and, of course, revenue, are all indicators of the fruitfulness of the customer success teams’ efforts. Not to mention indicators such as positive reviews, referrals, and a positive impact on brand value or perception.
Different tools – from social listening tools to feedback collection tools, sentiment analysis, a Net Promoter Score (NPS) and more – can help make this seemingly daunting task quite easy.
For small businesses with a limited customer base, our Senior Manager – Customer Success, Tejas Mehta, suggests-
“Have a large number of feedbacks or surveys around the year. Knowing what customers think is and should be the trigger for everything that you do.”
Best Practices to Setting Up A Customer Success Team
As you already know, customer success is a big responsibility in every business today. It’s definitely one that warrants dedicated resources looking after customers’ needs full time.
We wouldn’t recommend tagging these responsibilities onto anyone else’s role, simply because not doing justice to the customer success role will leave a direct impact on your revenue.
Best Practice 1- Don’t Just Look for Calling Experience
The best customer success executives will be strategic partners to your customers – that rules out executives with minimal calling or inside sales experience.
Best Practice 2- Look for Growth-Oriented People
Customer success is a surprisingly agile field, because what customers need can very often change with the times and trends. Employees with a growth mindset will grow with the organization and the needs of customers.
Best Practice 3- Look for All-Rounders
Your customer success executives are going to need to conduct onboardings, trainings, make calls and pull together resources to keep customers happy – this requires a diverse set of skills and a willingness to go beyond.
Best Practice 4- Know Exactly What You Expect from the Team
Because customer success is a role that’s agile, evolving and involves a certain amount of relationship building, it’s easy for customer success employees to feel confused. When employees don’t know what’s expected of them, they don’t know how to deliver.
Best Practice 5- Create a Baseline of Nurturing and Trust
Customer success executives need to expend a lot of time and energy in proactively forming relationships, building trust and nurturing delight in the customers assigned to them. To be able to put in that kind of heartfelt dedication on behalf of your company, they need to feel it from you first.
When setting up a team, build this rapport at the outset – right from the interviews.
How to Align Your Customer Success Processes
What is a Process?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a process as ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end’.
Customer success has one overarching end goal – to create long-term delight among customers. For a customer success process, then, every action and every activity has to put the needs and the benefits of the customers first.
The Customer Experience Process
Step 1- Create a Great Buying Experience
Customer success starts right from the buying experience. Sales process aside, let’s look at how different industries handle the actual purchase – the bigger the ticket, the more elaborate the process.
Think about how when you buy a residence, luxury properties make a big show of the hand over process. It’s the same with all cars because cars are an aspirational purchase too.
As the price of the items reduces, so does the effort. You can still, however, create a great buying experience with a product packaging and product design that delights.
Step 2- Offer Thorough Onboarding/Orientation
In industries such as manufacturing, technology, etc., the exchange of money is not the end of the buying process – an onboarding or orientation process is required to get customers and their users acquainted with the product.
The more thorough this process, the better your customers will be able to use and enjoy your product – the easier it is to delight them. This is also the step where a customer success executive is first assigned to a customer.
Step 3- Set up Regular Check-Ins With Each Customer
Each customer service executive must establish a daily/weekly check-in with their customers, based on the requirement of your product and industry.
This check-in can be a call, an email or as simple as sending across educational collaterals to keep them engaged with your brand and your product.
Step 4- Adapt Your Offering as Needed
As we said earlier, customer success is an agile area – customer needs and expectations keep changing based on the external environment and it’s down to your customer success executive to keep their finger on the pulse.
Based on the viability, the level of autonomy the executive has and the approval process, customers can quickly be offered adaptations in the offering or the contractual agreement to keep business productive for both them and you.
Step 5- Set up Renewals and Upselling Opportunities
In order to derive maximum revenue from a customer, you need repetitive business and, where possible, increased business.
Customer retention should be one of the end goals of the process for every customer success executive, with every step so far aimed at making this possible.
Kylas Pro Tip- When it comes to the renewal of contracts and upselling, remember to leverage all the learnings of that particular customer to create a smooth selling experience.
As Tejas puts it-
“Treat every customer as a separate entity. You cannot have the same approach when working across multiple customers”
The Internal Process
Step 1- Outline Each Action Point for Every Stakeholder
So, you have a strategy in hand and you know what you need to do to set it in motion – it’s time to break that down into actionable tasks. For example, if onboarding is part of the customer success team’s responsibility, what all does that include?
Create an onboarding process document with guidelines for each part of the process. Then, because onboarding a customer requires it, add in the collaterals and link each of them to the guideline document to make them easily accessible.
Similarly, when it comes to sharing customer insights with the rest of the organization, create a workflow document and also integrate that workflow into any communication tools you may have.
Every stakeholder involved in the process – customer success executives, their manager, any collaborating teams – should be considered when creating these action points and guidelines.
Step 2- Set up SLAs Among Teams
This is not too much of a problem if you have a lean team, but ideal if you find that no one’s quite ready to take complete accountability. Internal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) help you maintain a standardized level of quality and a high level of accountability.
When it comes to running campaigns, marketing and sales teams can have SLAs set up among themselves as to the quality of the leads, the division of responsibilities, and the timelines that are expected of them.
Similarly, the customer success team can have SLAs set up regarding their responsibilities, the timelines when collaborating with other teams and the expectations in terms of procedures that are set forward for them.
Step 3- Create a Reference Library
You’ll have several templates that help customer success executives collect the right information, submit standardized reports, and more.
Add these into an accessible folder along with any guidelines and help docs (such as brand guidelines, for example), which are all updated regularly to reflect business-level changes.
Because the customer success team basically defines the experience all customers have with your brand, the more formally standardized the experience the better.
Setting up your customer success strategy, processes and team might seem like a daunting task, and it will take a while but strap yourself in – it’s the most important thing you can do for your company today.
As we settle into a new normal, you should also spend some energy look ahead and thinking about self-help tactics (such as resources, videos and chatbots), virtual success teams and internal collaboration tools.
Ultimately, every decision you take – even those that streamline internal customer success processes – reflect clearly on the experience you’re offering to your most important asset- your customers.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! We’d be happy to help you out with more tips and guidelines from Tejas.