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Keeping customers happy while urging them to buy more is no easy task. The customer management role comes with its fair share of ups and downs. Most of us who have spent multiple years and decades in this role understand the psychology, the discipline, the rigor, the attitude, the framework, and the team set up to engage successfully with customers. But how do you run an organization responsible for retaining customers when your team strength is limited or comprises an experience range from novice to senior?
This situation is especially acute when companies are introducing new business models and new products and services, a process that requires continuous follow-ups to validate and expand. Add to that the complexity of engaging with several end-users to ensure they stay engaged and come back to ask for more. IT companies are offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products where retention is a core concern, given that customers have the flexibility to turn off usage at any time or after a limited time. Even for products that serve an internal user community at large enterprises, annual budgets are updated based on perceived usage and impact. So, internal customer management is as relevant as external customer management for the professional growth of the parties involved in serving internal customers. In today’s Covid impacted world, where labor is hard to find and where the ability to interact with others in person is minimal, the need for a digital platform is becoming critical for customer or account management.
Now, companies have deployed CRM (customer relationship management), support desk, email campaign, and survey tools to manage some of these needs. Let’s review how they are performing today.
- CRM systems manage open sales opportunities
- Support desk software tracks logged issues and product bugs
- Email campaign software sends specifically composed emails to a selected end-user audience for a specific purpose, such as to advise end-users about a new product version, update, issue, or company developments
- Survey tools collect feedback
The challenge with these piecemeal steps is the lack of an integrated system with a holistic view to create a seamless link across these products. The team that picks up the implementation work post-sale typically never uses a CRM system and manages the customer interaction via miscellaneous MS Office products or project management tools. Support management manually reviews issues or bug trends in other reporting tools such as Power BI. Product management teams track enhancement requests in a separate system, such as in one of the Atlassian products. Product usage metrics, buried in the companies’ digital platforms, are pulled out and analyzed manually in third-party business intelligence tools. Due to these disparate arrangements, senior management constantly struggles to see the top-level end-user subscriber view to decide the next steps. High-level account executives struggle to see the action items associated with key customer issues when talking with customers. Customer success professionals manually engage with end-users individually or by launching mass email campaigns with standardized content.
Customer success platforms are emerging as the ‘knight in shining armor’ and helping businesses create more effective and integrated operational and communication systems, with the customer experience at its core! They redefine the basics of customer success, the objectives, and the value proposition communicated at the initial sale pitch. Return on investment (ROI) models are built and tracked throughout the implementation phase and beyond. Impact metrics relevant to the customers’ businesses are estimated and presented to customer contacts for confirmation. Customer success professionals track usage, health, performance, user sentiment, perception, escalations, and everything needed to predict user behavior in one system. With detailed knowledge of the sizeable end-user base – their demographics, expectations, perceptions, and state of their product knowledge – customer success systems can send targeted communications to end-users. As a reminder, most companies don’t configure CRM systems to capture this level of detail.
While this is all interesting, companies don’t have the time to stand up another technology undertaking. So instead, they lean on customer success platform vendors to take on the heavy lifting like 1) connecting these systems, 2) add the business intelligence to process company product data, and 3) deploy automation to send prebuilt insights directly to the company executives’ email inboxes with actionable steps. In addition, they expect the platform vendor to digitally engage with end-users to congratulate them on feature usage, with relevant tips and tricks and subtle upsell suggestions for higher-end paid features. Finally, companies expect the customer success platform vendor to analyze customer retention risk in real-time and suggest remediation measures.
Pivoting over to the customer experience aspect, companies want a standardized customer onboarding process that is time tested to drive consistent customer satisfaction and customer delight experience with all customers. According to recent research by Forrester, for some industries, organizations can boost their revenue by up to $1 billion annually through improved client satisfaction. This observation applies to smaller brands as well at more minor scales. The secret is to identify the most important elements impacting client satisfaction and using them to define and refine your customer management strategies. These essential elements need to be enforced in every customer interaction to repeat and improve customer experience.
As providers of such a platform, we have had several conversations with customer success professionals from companies that have tried to leverage a CRM system, a call center platform, or a home-grown eclectic product mix to repurpose it as a customer success platform. Others have tried products from our competition. A few professionals brush aside the concept as unnecessary. Others push the conversation out to a later stage when they have grown enough. A few have taken the next step to incorporate these ideas to drive business growth. The last group is stimulating a lot of creative thinking and innovation in this space. We think that enterprising companies that set ambitious customer expansion and retention goals should adopt a customer success platform to:
- Enhance product and service design
- Draft effective communication and marketing strategies
- Create winning innovations and solutions
- Drive consumer loyalty
As the global economies struggle to recuperate in the aftermath of the pandemic with limited labor, factors like customer loyalty and customer satisfaction need automation, and third parties help to drive business success and long-term growth. Enterprising companies should take advantage of these capabilities, differentiate themselves, and dominate their respective sectors with a renewed emphasis on monitoring and improving customer satisfaction. Executives driving this initiative will tap new business from current accounts and numerous reference stories for new accounts.
The above article is authored by Piyush Agrawal, CEO and Founder Latviv Inc.