If, Inspired Employees + Customer Value = Business Results, how can you ensure Customer Value is delivered consistently?
To Be Effective, You Must Act with Purpose
To be effective long-term, Customer Value must be your purpose; doing it because you should, or because everyone else is, would be folly. You must always be trying to raise and protect the potential of your customers.
Customer Value as a philosophy cannot be just an “add-on” with a short-term intention of improving retention, driving account expansion, or increasing customer advocacy. It must be long-term, indefinite, and very intentionally aligned to each customer’s actual goals and objectives.
You could, of course, try to do things that have short-term benefits in these areas, but this likely will not lead to true Customer Value, as this would mean that you would not be putting the customers’ long-term success behind the driving factor of the initiative.
Customer Value is about ensuring your customers achieve their value*. When you genuinely help your customers achieve that ever-evolving goal or target (their purpose for doing business with you), Retention, Expansion, and Advocacy will happen organically through the trust you have developed and instilled with them.
*Value or, in some circles, the customers’ Desired Outcome – This is very much a transformative concept that essentially describes what the customer needs to achieve (realisation of first-time Value or FTV) and how they need to achieve it (Appropriate Experience).
This isn’t just semantics; keeping their value* or target in mind will ensure you work around making the customer successful and not just trying to avoid the dreaded churn (trying to save them!) or driving retention (get the renewal at all costs).
If your purpose as a professional or company is the raising and protecting of your customers’ potential and their ultimate success – then that’s what you MUST work towards and optimise around. The sky’s the limit!
Everyone is in Customer Success
You’ve heard the old saying “everyone is in sales”, right? Well, the same is true in Customer Success. No Sh*t Sherlock – I hear you, I hear you, so please, hear me and work with me here.
It’s simple and easy to chuck things over the fence and point to us as the ones in “Customer Success”, but if the customer’s success is our purpose as a company, then everyone should realise that they play a part in ensuring the customers achieve their value.
Sure, Customer Success owns the retention rates, the churn rates, engagement metrics and ultimately how much value* each customer can achieve within and from your product or services, but you cannot do this alone. Sales, Marketing, Product & Development, need to work with you to understand what is causing your customers friction.
The CS teams will empower and enable this cross-functional support to run at its best; Sales need to work with you to tailor your offering and ensure a good fit. Marketing needs to work with you on content offerings and messaging. Finance and Operations need to hear how they can improve their online offerings and payment gateways.
CS has been and will continue to be the voice of the customer more than any other. They are championing both the customer to your business and vice-versa – raising and protecting everyone’s potential.
A great question to ask everyone in your organisation is, “how do you contribute to the value* of our customers?” Everyone should know what this is, from product to sales and from marketing to HR… if you aren’t clear on how each person contributes to the value of the customer, how can we say Customer Success is our purpose?
Wait, so what is Customer Success exactly?
It’s not just you that might be asking that question, I get asked about it a lot as I’m sure all CSM’s (Customer Success Managers) do, and it can be tricky to answer company to company, industry to industry. I will do my best to answer that in more detail below.
Jeff Weiner at LinkedIn has a great way of defining why Customer Success is needed.
“We need Customer Success more than ever, due to the sheer pace of delivery and change to technology products and services in today’s age of technology.” – Jeff Weiner.
If you can keep this simple definition of Customer Success in mind, everything else below will make sense. If you fail to continue with that core principle in mind, nothing else I say will make any sense to you.
Rather than the fixed mindset that it ONLY relates to “just with our product” – the focus should always be more on a growth mindset and all of your customer’s interactions with you and your business. This starts at the earliest touchpoint, from target customer for marketing and sales, moving through closing and then onboarding, and continuing through their entire lifecycle with you, whether that’s monthly, annually, or multi-year Customer Success must be a mindset of everyone in the business from day 1.
Well, that’s great, and all, but isn’t this just account management 101 – I hear you ask?
No, and here’s why, and why it is so essential; We need to prioritise the roles you hire, the tools you acquire and ultimately, the money you invest. Doing whatever you can, spending whatever you can spend, to acquiring customers – whether they’re a good fit long-term or not is not a valid growth strategy.
Your investors, board, and leadership team are all looking for rapid, ideally exponential, and efficient growth. And YES, you can and will realise all three of those because you hopefully have great people who deliver world-class experiences and results for your customer base and your business.
There is no more efficient growth model than growth within and from your existing customer base. Did you know that the cost of acquiring a new customer today is anywhere from 5 times to beyond 10 times that of retaining a customer!?
This is EXPENSIVE and reiterates the need to correctly diagnose and sell to the people you can impact the most, not just selling to every Tom, Dick & Harry to hit a number.
The reality is, that expansion and renewal are part of your customer’s success and, of course, your very own success. It’s a success you both must share if you are to realise your shared potential – an increase in $$$. For your customers to achieve their ever-evolving value*, they’ll need to stay past a renewal, and they’ll very likely need to consume more of your products or services, so therefore we say Expansion and Renewal are part of the customer’s success.
A combination of effective orchestration (managing expectations and teeing-up expansion opportunities early in the lifecycle), operationalisation, and proactive intervention is required to achieve success. Customers that achieve a Success Milestone with a logical expansion opportunity and demonstrate a healthy pulse will take the upsell when correctly diagnosed, and that’s presented well to them.
All the keys you need to unleash the power of this growth are in your go-to-market team and how they partner together for a shared goal.
This is where I want to spend some time on HOW. How do we align our GTM roles across a business to better realise this opportunity in an account?
- Leaders who plan together succeed together. Strategy and goal setting should be done in unison. Once the business is clear about its top-level aspirations and desires, CS, Sales and Marketing should partner in their shared GTM Strategy by being clear on their own Why, How, and What to exceed or meet these together.
- The most obvious is to help your teams with their communication. Set up a regular weekly or fortnightly cadence of meetings between the GTM teams and pairings working across individual accounts. This will ensure they’re having great conversations about the clients in the pipeline from both a sales perspective, an ongoing renewal position, and comprehensive insight into customers that will come on through an onboarding program into CS.
- Think about how your teams are hired and or upskilled from a commercial or sales perspective. How are they looking for those expanded opportunities? In some teams, renewals and expansions are handled by CS, but in other areas, it goes back to sales. So really work on aligning the sales and CS teams to have similar skill sets to empower these critical front-line teams to meet your company goals and objectives.
- Align the messaging that teams are presenting to customers – are they all in line with the overall value proposition of your business? The pain points of the customers? Are sales and CS using consistent language in their conversations with their clients to create a great experience?
- Finally, of course, is the handover – do you have a clear and consistent handover point and process from sales to customer success? Where CS is going to start onboarding and driving the adoption and value with the client. And is it clear what sales have agreed with the client before CS take them on board and ensures that they deliver against those promises?
DON’T FORGET; there needs to be only one “owner” of the account and the commercial relationship with the customer. This person typically holds the revenue number, and in larger organisations, may be deemed an Account Director or Manager. But in scaling in businesses, this could and should be the Customer Success Manager.
What Customer Success is Not:
The definition of Customer success is laid out here. However, there’s still a chance that you have a misconception or misunderstanding about Customer Success that could keep you from fully embracing this transformative concept.
So please stay with me as I would like to make sure any preconceived notions you may still have about Customer Success aren’t standing in the way of understanding something this powerful.
- Customer Success is not magic – yes, CSMs are all magical by nature in what they do, but we don’t practice the Dark Arts. Think Gryffindor and Not Slytherin – minus the actual magic.
- Customer Success is not just a department or team. Your CS teams should be collaborating across the whole business from Marketing, Sales, and Product to the senior Leadership group and working together as a global collective that lives and practices a way of thinking and acting.
- Customer Success is Not Only Account Management – BUT CS is ALSO far more sophisticated and empathetic than Account Managers. They are Empathetic, Compassionate Altruistic, and customer-focused with growth and success for all our goals.
- Customer Success is Not Customer Support – they will always support your customers and each other, but they are very much supporting everyone’s overall success.
- Customer Success is not a Churn Mitigation or Saving Customers initiative or focus – if a customer is at this stage, they are likely already gone. Your mission is to stop them from ever being at risk. Be proactive in your plans and approach to all problems, and build processes and tools to help you identify all potential issues before they indeed become an issue.
- Customer Success is Not “Checking in” with Customers – it is working hand in hand with your customers to design a success plan over the first days, weeks, months, and beyond. A plan that delivers value* and desired outcomes to your customers.
- Customer Success is Not Customer Handholding or Babysitting – that’s not value for a customer, nor is it value for you. Value is having educated the customer to realise and extract their version of value* from your product or service.
- Customer Success is Not just Product Usage – it’s genuinely engaging with their platform, and their information. Raising and realisation of their potential and ability to move at pace is vital.
- Customer Success is Not Happiness, Delight, or Satisfaction – those are nice, but ultimately are not a measure of overall success. If CS don’t deliver value or what the customer desires, then they have failed. Cupcakes are always great, though, aren’t they??!! Right??!!
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments and how your business approaches Customer Value as they may differ from our thoughts above.To find out more about how Ellivate can help you grow your go-to-market strategy and deliver customer value, please contact us. We would be happy to chat with you about this topic and answer any questions you might have.