To say customer success is having its moment in the sun would throw shade on just how much of a difference it makes for digital service firms.
A study published this past January by Forrester Consulting on behalf of customer success provider Gainsight showed nothing but blue skies for the sector. Forrester researchers discovered that seven in 10 companies with CS initiatives increased customer retention, while 91 percent of those without such programs said their customers struggle with challenges that could be mitigated with CS.
Gainsight CEO Nick Mehta argues that the primary reason for the popularity of CS is its focus on the customer experience. “The success of businesses providing digital services is inextricably linked to the success of their customers — that clearly puts customers in the driver seat,” Mehta wrote in a press release. “That means companies need to proactively ensure customers are getting the experience and value they expect, while identifying issues and at-risk customers before the customer even knows there’s a problem.”
Bright Bets for Customer Success
Don’t think, though, that customer success is just a defensive strategy. CS can help your company achieve some of its most wanted sales, marketing, and product goals:
1. Build a bench of customer advocates.
Don’t tell your marketing team, but even their best campaigns can’t touch the business value of customer advocacy. Word-of-mouth recommendations drive somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions, likely because 92 percent of consumers trust the product recommendations of their friends and family members.
To create customer advocates, Point of Reference CEO David Sroka suggests a CS function with three components: experienced relationship managers, a culture of service, and employees empowered to break company policy when it improves customer satisfaction. Such a CS team can identify and recruit advocates, maintain an advocate database, and manage how advocates access the company’s internal resources.
2. Cut down your time to value.
When Typeform’s team looked into why customers churn, it soon identified the primary reason: They’re simply not seeing enough value. Assuming the problem isn’t the product itself, value gaps typically occur when customers aren’t educated on how to achieve what they want from the product.
Thankfully, the time-to-value issue has a singular solution: better onboarding. “Customers who achieve initial value during onboarding are more likely to become long-term customers,” George Szundi of Natero explains, “while those who lose interest, get confused, or don’t receive early results will undoubtedly churn.” To maximize the CS team’s time, develop one-sheeters specific to common product use cases. Then, host weekly Q&A sessions to scalably cover questions those documents might have missed.
3. Create win-wins with upsells.
Upsells are one of the easiest ways to earn new revenue, but they can turn off customers when approached the wrong way. Done right, the authors of “Marketing Metrics” claim, existing customers resell at a rate of 60 to 70 percent. For comparison, the probability of selling to a new customer is 5 to 20 percent.
So how can you make upsells more natural? Sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer’s advice epitomizes the mission of customer success: Help customers win. Gitomer points out that if you can help a customer feel like an upsell is a win for her, she’ll deliver a win for you as well. Something as simple as offering a discount on an add-on product, for instance, can give customers a sense of special treatment while helping you maximize their lifetime value.
4. Craft your ideal customer base.
It’s no secret that customer segmentation is a smart business strategy. Merely by dividing email campaigns according to customer interest, for example, marketers can increase their click-through rate by 74 percent. What many marketers forget about segmentation, though, is that it must be an ongoing effort.
Customer success is, or should be, a segmentary gold mine. Pay attention to patterns: Do customers from a certain industry tend to spend more? Is a certain use case associated with greater retention? Share those findings with sales team members so they can focus on leads that look like your company’s ideal customer.
5. Make products more customer-centric.
At too many companies, product development is stakeholder-driven. When the boss wants a new feature added, it’s built because, well, the boss wanted it. The issue with that method is that the user’s needs are rarely, if ever, represented.
Although some companies use empathy mapping to get inside their customers’ heads, Receptive’s head of content, Joe Daniels, argues that the better answer is for CS to collect customer feedback. Instead of guessing at users’ attitudes and behaviors, companies that steer product development via the CS function ensure they meet actual customers’ needs. Daniels suggests there are three pieces of information CS teams supporting product developers should collect: what the customer wants to achieve, why she can’t achieve it, and what workarounds she might be using.
Just as there’s no one “right” marketing strategy, there’s no single CS strategy that shines brighter than the rest. To the contrary, as long as you take the temperature on your company’s needs and forecast appropriately, you’ll find there’s almost no storm CS can’t weather.