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For any business focused on unlocking its full growth potential, it’s clear in today’s ever-more competitive and loyalty-averse environment that your customer must be placed firmly at the heart of all strategic decision-making and operations.
However, what the modern tech-savvy, digital-first buyer wants from their interactions with your organisation has fundamentally changed in recent years.
Traditional buying journeys and expectations have become obsolete. Consumers are now more proactive, choosing to self-educate on products or services (for instance on social media or via peer review sites such as G2 Crowd) rather than be spoon-fed information by sales reps.
Your Customers’ Success Dictates Your Success
Companies who are committed to keeping their finger on the pulse of changing customer behaviour must become adept at collecting and analysing their customer data, ideally using business intelligence software such as CRM.
Many companies are choosing to create Customer Success (CS) teams to take ownership of customer-facing and data-driven processes, and ensure consistent service standards are maintained across the organisation. Indeed research from one-hundred businesses participating in a recent study showed that nearly three-quarters had a clearly defined Customer Success strategy.
So with more and more businesses acknowledging the importance of CS to develop long-term, profitable relationships with their customers, what can you do to ensure the success of your own team?
Based on our experience of setting up and developing our CS function over the last couple of years, here are four top tips for shaping your team’s responsibilities with confidence.
1. Rethink your onboarding process
Customer onboarding involves guiding prospective buyers in their initial interactions with your business. It’s all about ensuring that you deliver on what you have offered them so that they become longstanding customers. How you manage this onboarding phase sets the tone for all future customer interactions, so it’s crucial that you get it right.
Research has shown that customers who are not fully engaged with your business within the first 90 days won’t stay onboard for long; your window of opportunity is relatively small so investment in customer experience will pay off.
This is where your Customer Success team can come into play. We’ve given ours responsibility to manage these first three months of the customer journey and to ensure that initial purchases are followed up with outstanding post-sales customer service, leading to happy customers and repeat business.
We’ve even found that by scrutinising onboarding we unearthed significant opportunities to ramp up the speed and efficiency of our solution delivery and get new customers up and running quicker.
In our case, we use our own CRM system to track and closely monitor the customer journey, from the initial sale through to service delivery, pre-empting any disruptions to this early-stage customer experience and to automatically trigger our 90-day CRM successful adoption program.
2. Add value with regular reviews
Social media has amplified consumers’ voices and made it much easier for them to express negative – as well as positive – experiences in the public domain. Remember, over 80% of consumers seek peer referrals before making a purchase. Can you afford to risk falling foul of poor reviews by failing to deliver good customer experience?
In order to minimise this risk you need to engage with your customers and give them opportunities to share their honest experiences with you. Listening to their observations will define not only how you interact with them in future but also how your product or service delivery might need to be adapted to better meet their needs.
So when is the best time post-purchase to initiate feedback requests? Seeking in-depth feedback too early runs the risk that the customer is not far enough along their journey to feel fully engaged with your organisation and provide meaningful insights.
At Maximizer, we have found that the ideal time for evaluating initial customer satisfaction levels, return-on-investment and identifying areas for enhancement is three months after purchase.
In other words, at the end of the initial onboarding phase…
At this point our CS team holds comprehensive telephone Value Reviews with our customers. This close management of the feedback process not only keeps our CX on track but gives us vital business intelligence to ensure we are delivering on our promises, helping our customers to identify additional training or service requirements, and even, in some cases, ideas for developing new features in our solution.
By investing time and money in seeking opinions, customers feel valued, engaged with our organisation and are more likely to share their positive experiences in the digital world.
3. Don’t neglect satisfaction surveys
There has been much debate in recent years about the effectiveness of customer satisfaction surveys. But we find they still represent an excellent way to gain the feedback you need to gauge whether your products and customer engagement levels are meeting expectations and to pinpoint where improvements need to be made.
The majority (66%) of adults feel that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience. This makes it vital to show your customers that you care about their opinions and are committed to engaging with them by whatever channel they prefer. We have to recognise that some customers simply do not have time for reviews over the phone but may prefer to fill out written surveys online at their leisure.
Regardless of how you collect your feedback, it’s important to analyse the data and put the findings to good use. They can give a unique, customer-centric insight into your product or solution’s true value.
For instance, in the first year of our CS team, we were able to use our anonymised survey data to produce a Benchmark report investigating the precise way that SMEs are extracting strategic and operational value from their CRM solutions. We found that 84% named ‘process efficiency’ as their top business objective, with ‘centralisation of customer data’ pinpointed as the operational lynchpin to delivering this.
It also emerged that there was a wide range of maturity in CRM usage.
While many companies are achieving basic operational and productivity benefits, a pioneering third have adopted CRM more holistically, as the central data hub across all company functions, and are succeeding in making every customer touchpoint more intelligence-rich and effective.
This snapshot of the behaviour and needs of our customers gave us a clear view of how we could help them achieve greater benefits and overall returns from their CRM investment, for instance through further training and educational content.
4. Extend CS activity to indirect customers
In the software industry, it’s common for vendors (such as ourselves) to partner with intermediaries who sell our solutions into specific markets, perhaps focused on a geographical region, vertical sector or company size. Known as the channel, this network of partners is crucial to help software vendors increase their overall customer base. We have a dedicated network of over 50 Certified Solution Providers across the world.
From the outset of our CS initiative, we knew that we wanted to extend Value Reviews to both direct and indirect customers. So we made it a priority to engage with the channel as closely as possible and get them fully on board.
They have certainly seen the value in giving their customers (the end users of our solution) the opportunity to share feedback directly with us; in fact, perhaps part of the reason that indirect customers are so open with our CS team is precisely because we aren’t their everyday point of contact!
We now involve as many indirect customers in the feedback process as direct customers. This has proven very useful in obtaining further insight into customer needs, solution usage in different markets (both from a technical and commercial point of view) and satisfaction levels, all of which we then share with the respective partner.
This input has helped them gauge and improve their own customer experience – which of course benefits all parties.
Customer Success breeds business success
It is fast becoming accepted that excellence in Customer Success is a sure-fire way of maximising your company’s revenue and creating ongoing profitability. Our experience has shown that the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction, insight, engagement and partner collaboration far outweigh any initial outlay involved in changing working practices and setting up the CS team.
CS teams are here to stay, and will undoubtedly play a central role in the future success of our customers and our industry as a whole.
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