In the past, sales and marketing were key drivers of growth and revenue, while CS remained in the background. Today, everyone values the growth that CS provides and enables.
In this interview, Chilik Hochberg, former VP CS at Cognigoo and today Principal Customers Evangelist at NetApp (after a successful acquisition) talks about why Customer Success should be at the center of operation, culture enablement, trust, transparency, growth, and brand experience.
Hochberg believes, “Brand experience is relevant when you place it in the context of the customer journey.” The downside of this is that if the customer's expectations are not met and fulfilled, the customer journey may come to a halt. That is why as a service organization, our success lies in our ability to provide quality service that not only meets our stated promises but meets and then exceeds customer expectations.
Growing the human side of the business. “It’s necessary to grow your business and build meaningful relationships with customers”, says Hochberg. Once you put your customers at the heart of your company, you’ll be able to serve them in ways that will only benefit you.
Any organization who establishes its mission and vision around this business mindset and philosophy (CS) does not only find themselves successful in improving their business bottom line but also improves the value of their relationship with their customers.
Hochberg notes; Customer Success fills a gap not covered by the roles of Sales Account Management, Professional Services, and Support.
He explains that all of these teams (SAM, PS, Support) have different customer-facing functions and responsibilities: from handling customer feedback to product improvements and collaboration with a cross-functional team, all focused primarily on metrics that are mostly reactive in nature, and align with delivering business results mostly for the company, not with the customer.
The missing piece, Hochberg points out, is customer outcomes and (a well-rounded) customer experience. Today’s organizations want to know how they can improve their business impact, and the new embryonic measurements are through the health of customers: how often they are involved, engaged, and active when using the service/platform.
Put simply, if you buy something, you want something in return; hence, the CS delivery of the successful outcome or achieving the (business) results customers want proves that value exchange is possible.
These include the following activities: improving the training and onboarding process, becoming proactive in collaborating, motivating, and inspiring customers with best practices, as well as helping to deliver on what the brand promises were. For these reasons, CS becomes a differentiator and competitive advantage (for the business). In the SaaS business model, every business has a different process and growth strategy, but ultimately they win or lose with their ability to keep and grow customers.
When we get down to the very core of CS, they represent what a brand or company does; they provide the human vitality of the business by partnering with the client to ensure their success and in doing are rewarded by revenue growth.
Value in the relationships. If two companies are offering the same solutions, Hochberg says, it comes down to the organization that customers want to do business with.
"Assuming value and price are the same, then customers ultimately base their decision on who they want to work with, who they feel will better guide them through the process. Remember, we buy based on an emotional connection and select the organization that makes us feel confident in our ability to succeed."
Imagine if customers were coming to your website, and it would take 5 minutes to find out what they needed to know. In this example, the customer experience is painful, it requires a lot of effort. If an organization does not provide a good experience easily, customers will not bind itself in maintaining or continuing the relationships.
Similarly, the goal of CS is not just to help customers achieve their goals or business outcomes. It is also helping them see the value of the relationship.
Keeping customers engaged and motivated. The biggest impediments (why relationships fail) occur for different reasons along the customer's journey. Hochberg says it is the job of CS to prevent these issues and take the following steps to deliver a healthy journey.
(1) Ensure that customers understand how the program/product can help them achieve their desired results and ensure that emotional connection.
(2) Implementation or onboarding doesn't feel complicated, is organized effectively, and results in the customer feeling it was a low effort.
(3) Onboarding is executed well; customers begin to use or adopt the service or product. It's important to follow-up with education, training, and certification.
(4) Customers realize the value of the solution. Situations of the results being what they anticipated or aligned with what they need.
Enabling these circumstances, the customer achieves what they are supposed to achieve at each stage of the journey and what the brand has promised.
Hochberg points out, “It is important to start with clear business goals and expectations. What are we trying to achieve (both of us)? How important are these goals to the success of the business? How are our products and services differentiated in our ability to achieve them? What is the value we can provide early in the relationship?”
Some (business) outcomes can take a long time before they can be seen or recognized. As a CS business leader, Hochberg notes, it is our responsibility to motivate our clients and align our overall growth strategy to their success. As with any relationship, having pointed conversations and clear understanding is a must.
Since CS is focused on the commercial side (renewal and expansion), the operational side of the business will be working vigorously to monitor the health of the customer’s journey and the outcomes to see how they impact revenue.
Success then is a journey (between organizations and customers). It is not going to be easy to shift the organization, but once done right, it is bound to last. It will happen if everyone in the organization becomes involved with the client's success and contributes to the growth of the organization.