Customer Focus: The Strategic Growth in the Subscription Economy

4 min read
26 May

In this interview, Rav Dhaliwal shares the importance of a “meaningful brand experience” and how he has helped organizations design and implement change strategies which drive real business value.

From a customer’s expectations to brand collaboration

“Customer Success isn’t just about building rapport with customers, it’s about keeping continually attuned and aligned to their goals so the (business) value of your solution is fully realised as quickly as possible”.

This is one of the key messages from my conversation with Rav Dhaliwal, a well known Executive in Europe who has built and led CS teams at hyper growth companies like Slack, Zendesk and Yammer.

Part of that attunement according to Rav comes from not only understanding your customer’s objectives but from marrying those insights with relevant customer data to help inform your decision making and CS activities.

Data like daily active usage, feature adoption rates, the number of integrations being used are just some examples of the invaluable data points available to CS teams that, when combined with an understanding of the customer’s objectives not only help shape CS engagement activities but can also correlate their effectiveness.

By combining insights and relevant data in this way, Rav says you are less likely to make assumptions about what activities are useful for customers and are more likely to undertake meaningful and targeted activities that lead to valuable and positive outcomes for both you and them.

Some of the useful things Rav suggested when thinking about gaining greater insights about your customers are:

Once you have gained insight in to the customer’s objectives and understood which data points are most relevant, it then becomes much easier to focus on the right metrics and activities to demonstrate success for the customer and for your business.

As Rav pointed out in our conversation, “businesses often have a lot of very useful data about their customers, but in a hectic, and sometimes chaotic fast growing environment, making sense of it all and applying the rights parts of it at the right time can be difficult and sometimes overwhelming.

As a result, it’s easy to think being busy means we’re adding value to our customers".

Ultimately, this is all about ensuring you are doing the right things at the right time so you are constantly delivering on the “promise of your brand”.

I asked Rav how important it is that a customer feels you are delivering on the promise of your brand and the possible repercussions if they perceive you have not delivered, to which Rav replied -

“To paraphrase one of my mentors Bill Macaitis, a customer’s view of your brand is the sum total of every experience they have with your brand.”

So, even if you are having regular meaningful discussions with your customers on key issues or business challenges, if you are ultimately not delivering what they are expecting or delivering activities that aren’t adding any business value to them, then you are no longer keeping your brand’s promise and the failure to keep (or deliver) your brand’s promise is a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

Helping customers through change

Another key takeaway from my conversation with Rav was the notion that an increasingly large part of CS is about helping customers through changing the way they work.

One way to think about the purchase, deployment and usage of a product or service is that what we are actually doing is introducing a change in the way our customer is doing their day to day work.

Change can be difficult for customers, and a failure to plan for it properly can result in customers not realising the full business value of your product or service (or even worse not using it at all).

Focusing on CS activities that help them minimize the pain of the change is therefore increasingly important.

Whilst “change management” is a detailed and in depth subject, Rav laid out some basic high level considerations for implementing a successful strategy with customers.

These should help deliver business value quickly and keep that all important promise of your brand:

  • Be clear that what you deliver has a positive impact on the customer’s bottom line.
  • Have a shared understanding of success, and list the milestones on the path towards that desired outcome. Then design an engagement model that meet those success milestones
  • Bridge any gaps that hinder progress with the right leadership support (both internally and at the customer)
  • For each customer segment, create a plan that includes communication, onboarding, education, and post launch support to ensure that in different stages of their journey with you customers have what they need.
  • Ensure you have internal alignment to make sure any assets, resources or technology needed to make the customer successful are in place and available.

Establishing the Right Engagement Model

Whether it’s the B2B or B2C market, new technology has made it much easier (and quicker) for businesses to be disrupted by emerging competitors.

The complexity of modern business, coupled with the speed at which it changes is unprecedented. What this means is our ability to effectively service and resource different types of customers in an efficient and scalable way becomes increasingly important to maintaining our competitive advantage.

Rav shared some high level thinking about how CS might want to think about segmenting its customers and how those customers might best be resourced:

One of Rav’s tips was to keep in mind that customer segments will likely change over time (“as your business evolves, so will your customers’ requirements”), so it’s important to re-evaluate periodically that the segments still make sense.

The Makeup of a Successful Organization

I rounded off my conversation with some questions that tapped in to Rav’s significant experience of building successful CS organisations.

“Every company is a unique” said Rav, “but they have one thing in common that drives success and that is hiring the right people. It’s pretty easy to hire fast, but “hiring well” is hard and often time consuming. If it’s a choice between both, then my advice would be to put in the extra effort and focus on hiring well. In my experience it’s the key to long term success for any organisation”.

Being a truly customer-centric organisation - one that really lives up to the promise of its brand, is also another facet that Rav identified that helps to attract top talent. Some other patterns of successful CS organisations that Rav identified are:

  • Vision and mission aligned to long term customer value
  • Executive and leadership support for CS
  • Metrics and processes in place to prove value
  • A collaborative, empathetic and fun culture
  • Customer-centric and results oriented people (CSMs!)

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