CS is starting to be misunderstood as just a functional role in the organization. I fear CS may end up as just a board metric for measuring a vendors’ health, and less about delivering the actual value and the results that customers expect from the organization.
Background and Career
Chase-Corwin has been in the CS field for more than 20 years. He started in sales operations and then transitioned to Account Management. He has worked for companies like Iron Mountain, Hewlett Packard, and Rapid 7, where he built and managed CS teams.
In January 2019, he joined ETQ as VP of CS where he led and built the CS program from scratch. In his role, he is captivated by the relationship between the vendor and the client. He notes, “It is all about helping the client to achieve the best experience possible while maximizing the utmost value from their investment.
A modern business framework
If a business hopes to remain successful in a competitive market, they must create solutions where customers are going to be insanely loyal. In other words, your SaaS product or service becomes integral to your customer’s success when it solves their business needs or addresses their pain-points.
However, earning customers’ trust in today’s business landscape takes a lot of time and multiple touch points. Organizations must have an individual relationship with each customer that is founded on partnership rather than financial gain.
Today’s customers have been doing their research by gathering feedback from their peers and friends. With the changes in the marketplace, CS has been in the pressure seat to help the customers find value in the product or service as early as possible and throughout the entire lifecycle.
Chase-Corwin notes while the (business) model itself is easy to understand, sustaining (or keeping) the brand advantage is more difficult to achieve. Competing companies provide similar services and are all looking to find a way to stand out, which constantly raises the bar for their peers.
This puts tremendous pressure to constantly differentiate the experience that your customers receive in a way that can they can articulate. If customers can’t express and quantify the value that your brand provides to them, you fall in with the rest of the pack and fail to stand out.
Too many companies fail to recognize the extent of organizational investment required to deliver a strong CS program. Often, as they grow and mature, they think of the Customer Success team as the only magic pill needed to keep their relationships with their customers strong and healthy.
But Chase-Corwin believes that a CS program does not just represent a functional team within an organization. It is the result of a coordinated, cross-functional, and holistic strategy that is laser-focused on customers achieving their desired outcomes.
He continues, "everyone says that they want their customers to be successful, yet are they centering their company strategy and goals on delivering that? When tough decisions need to be made about investments, what drives their thinking? Will they strengthen the customer experience, or cut corners”?
Each interaction with the customer has the opportunity to shape and foster their loyalty. Why? It is because the success in the relationship comes back to the Golden Rule - “treat your customers the way that you would like to be treated”.
Elevating overall experience
A lack of CS in the organization is a negative differentiator. It is unusual for companies nowadays to be without the core elements of CS. However, true CS programs are not just your tech support or client services team being rebranded.
Chase-Corwin quickly points out that meeting customers’ expectations and elevating overall experience is the tall order of the day, and may require the redesign of existing approaches and team structure.
Similarly, when selling products, it is less about the provision of features, it is more about the use cases your solution intends to address, and how the customer will realize positive business benefit accordingly.
Remember, nurturing a loyal relationship is not about helping the customers understand what features you have, it is about understanding what they are trying to accomplish, and then matching to the ways your solution can help them.
Long-term relationships are established if the vendor can align with the customer’s business objectives, demonstrate best practices from other successful customers, and help them to achieve that vision.
The CS emphasis needs to be on delivering an improved experience while ensuring that (product) value is recognized. Why? Because customers want to have both - the value of a meaningful experience provided by their vendor and an organization that is able to deliver a product that integrates with the overall brand experience.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
Before the SaaS business model, traditional customers were used to buying value. However, vendors and suppliers alike were having a hard time articulating what the experience of their customers would be.
As we moved on and progressed into the 4th Industrial age, organizations are now figuring out how to flip that. Today's organizations have evolved to better support businesses and satisfy customer needs.
When you think about your customers’ success - think of it in terms of how your solution addresses their business challenges and what value they have obtained when they use your product/solution.
Chase-Corwin says, if your customers can articulate the value proposition of your tool/solution and the positive impact it has on their business, then it is a good indicator that these customers have gained something more than just the original transactional purpose.
Your first goal is to help them achieve their stated outcomes and then evolve along with them and their ever-changing requirements.
Remember, the value is in the eye of the beholder. There are customers out there who’d like to get the cheapest option, and to them, that’s the value. They’re willing to sacrifice some of the benefits of the products to stay within budget.
From the customer's standpoint, that may be perfectly fine, because, in the SaaS economy, they can almost always choose to go to another vendor to meet their primary requirements, whether they prioritize features or cost.
However, from the vendor’s standpoint, our goal is to deliver the value we promised them, regardless of the dollar amount invested in it. Therefore, elevating the conversation to defining - in the customer’s words - the actual value of the product is critical.
It boils down to a deep understanding of why customers selected you, what challenges they are looking to solve and how they are going to use your solution to accomplish that, and the positive business impacts your solution has on their business bottom line.