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Over the past few years, especially during the pandemic, businesses worldwide have been waking up to the potential of customer relationships and the significance of measuring customer success. Like how the ROI for marketing determined the success of a campaign, ROI on customer success has evolved as a reliable method for assessing customer satisfaction, loyalty, and assurance on repeat business – parameters that are incredibly vital in the current volatile and competitive market scenario.
Now, conventionally, the customer success managers (CSM) interact and collaborate with customers, often taking the help of tools like CRM. However, most CSMs have reported spending 12+ hour workdays, given the significant effort needed to arrange meetings, plan, collect data, prepare, execute, and handle customer complaints and escalations. On top of that, senior management demands never seem to stop:
- Would you please train this new staff coming on board next week? How can we quickly get them to understand and follow our customer success philosophy?
- We need to add a few more tracking columns to our weekly spreadsheet.
- What can we do to revive the customer who stopped paying last year?
You get the idea. The above list is just a tiny sample!
Historically, legacy technologies, including knowledge base repositories, disparate project management solutions, analytics platforms, survey tools, and CRM solutions, have supported the CSM function. While these solutions serve their purpose, CSMs struggle to look for consolidated information during meetings with their managers or prepare for business review meetings with customers.
As the first step, it is essential to capture key data points from these various solutions into a platform that helps communicate stories during internal strategy meetings, external business review meetings with customers, and company progress meetings with investors.
Let’s cover a few CSM operations managed in a technology platform to understand advanced automation possibilities:
- Periodic business case articulation to customer sponsor: During quarterly business reviews, CSMs apprise customers of the value provided by the vendor’s solutions.
- Customer success function ROI (Return on Investment): CSM appraisals are primarily based on customer retention, upsell, and cross-sell numbers against company-provided targets. CS platform integrates with billing systems to track the latest status of open invoices, renewal dates, collected amounts, and other financial metrics to compute the customer success function’s bottom-line value.
- Handling escalations: Escalations are part of CSM’s lives. The CS platform maintains a detailed audit trail of essential emails, meeting notes, tasks, usage metrics, and other relevant project information.
- Complete understanding of involved customer personnel: Customer’s motivation behind every vendor-supported project is the sum of the individual customer stakeholder’s ̶ sponsors, champions, influencers, end-users, project managers ̶ motivations. With thorough documentation, it becomes easy for new stakeholders and management to understand customer personalities during project reassignments and escalations.
- Tracking advocacy events: With a detailed log of reference calls handled by customer contacts, testimonials, participation in joint case studies, anonymous comments, reviews, and speaking events, sales and marketing can ensure no customer or contact is over-utilized.
- Customer satisfaction, customer experience, and health monitoring: A CS solution manages NPS (Net Promoter Score), CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Survey), phone calls, and in-person visits to gauge customers’ experience with vendors’ products, employees, and processes.
- Customer journey: The whole experience of each customer stakeholder, who has interacted with the vendor, right from when vendors market their product or firm to their current relationship with their organization, is recorded and analyzed for constant improvement.
- New hire and ongoing CSM training: Companies deploy new hire orientation best practice questionnaires, risk assessment training, and checklists to ensure new personnel is entirely familiar with the vendor’s customer management philosophy.
- Customer onboarding and project consistency: Onboarding starts with the first kickoff call after a contract is signed and continues until all relevant end-users sign up and successfully use the vendor’s solutions.
- Outcome, milestones, and playbooks: Milestones and desired outcomes collectively ascertain the value generated for customer initiatives.
- Events and alerts: Project lifecycle events and warnings such as utilization, performance, health, sponsor departure, funding constraints need a repository to avoid losing track of these items.
- Project risk management: CSM leadership track a thorough understanding of risks and mitigation strategies across all resource operations.
- Product experience and optimization: While vendors host their platform’s usage metrics, their platforms do not visualize these metrics. The number of users active at a given time, by feature, or module are just a few of the many visualization requirements that require a consolidated view.
- Project testing, quality, and audit: CSMs execute high-level testing of customer deliverables before sending or showing them to customers. A CS platform with built-in testing and quality module makes it convenient to perform standardized quality test procedures.
- Success story writeups for marketing and sales: CS resources generate innovative ideas and solutions as they interact with their customers. IF MANAGED WELL, a CS platform can become an engine for composing case studies and newer business growth ideas for sales and marketing departments.
The Next Step
A good CS solution starts with a robust library of content tied to each use case above and walks CSMs through their adoption. Once the foundation is in place, a business intelligence layer automates prescriptive behavior built on successes and learning. For example, a few fortune 500 software companies have taken the more advanced step of a digital customer success approach with minimal personal interaction. The industry is gradually getting there. This article will at least help you understand what to automate.
The above article is authored by Piyush Agrawal, Founder of Latviv Inc.