In this interview, Alan Rudolph, SVP, Global Technical CS at Apttus, talks about the science (process involved) and art (success mindset) behind Customer Success.
It is a science because it requires a structured process or framework to develop healthy and sustainable relationships. It is an art because it requires human creativity and passion in helping customers achieve their business outcomes (or desired results).
Background and Career
Alan has spent most of his career in consulting, outsourcing, and managing SaaS companies, particularly in the enterprise (B2B) applications.
I asked Alan about his thoughts on CS. He said customer success (CS) is about customer satisfaction, making an impact in customer's organization, and driving business value. Building a meaningful relationship (or deeper connection) with your customers is very important. It is key to learning your customer's needs and positioning the value of the solution.
Having this type of relationship (1) allows organizations to define business outcomes, (2) cultivate and encourage trustworthy relationships, and (3) renewals become straight forward.
From a success perspective, we need to make sure customers use our solutions effectively to drive for the business outcomes they believe in and think they can achieve.
Levers of success
Gone are the days when successful relationships [were] measured on financial metrics. Instead, the keys to success are about the impact and positive changes your product/solution makes on the customer operating environment.
There are four critical components of organizational management and customer success.
People - We need to understand who is doing what, what the role of everyone is within the organization. We need to be organized and efficient in terms of addressing business outcomes.
Process - How do we build business outcomes with customers? Do we need to use more than one playbook? How do we interact with customers? How often do we meet with the customers?
Technology - We need automation. We need a systematic approach to drive business outcomes.
Data - All decisions must be data-driven. We need to make sure we have all the tools, and dashboards to effectively make decisions.
Our job is to ensure the customer is well-positioned for success. When customers thrive, the organization succeeds. That is because helping customers thrive requires constant communication at every stage, from the time they know how to use the product until they become successful in using it.
With the sheer volume of competitors, it becomes increasingly necessary for CS organizations to ensure customers are successful, and they are getting the maximum value from the solution/service. CS is a practical mindset that is essential, especially in times of [global] crisis.
Even in the pre-Covid world, we are limited in how many conversations we have with our customers. Although we have the opportunity to meet customers (face to face), it requires significant time and a lot of travel.
Now, to be effective (post-Covid), organizations should start segmenting their customer base using different variables - like size, complexity, depth of product, renewal date, or expansion opportunity.
Once we develop the segmentation, we need to define the periodic basis when we are going to meet with customers. Alan believes that success lies in the ongoing dialogue. Whatever medium we use, such as Zoom or virtual meet-ups, customer engagement or interaction should be consistent, targeted, and purposeful.
Organizations should also analyze how much time they need to spend with their customers. The higher the time (utilization), the better.
Business value is inseparable
When customers engage with the companies, the customer success journey needs to be clearly defined. It should start when this customer has become a lead. Setting expectations is important and necessary, especially during the sales process. Why? Because the customer is validating if there is a good fit and shared interest.
Once the customer sees the value and signs up, as a business provider, it is time for us to manage this expectation and ensure it stays on their journey.
In the success journey perspective, it is both necessary for the customers to gain value from the product and having an optimal customer experience. One can't go without the other; both are inseparable.
Customer journey: a reflection of customers success
Each stage of the customer journey is different. Why? Because it guides us on how we should interact and engage with our customers. It is a total reflection of their success. They dictate how their journey will be and what it will take to be successful.
Although each of these journeys is different, it is evolving. One caveat, it needs to answer if we are meeting their business outcomes.
Example: Implementation is not onboarding. Or, training is not the same as onboarding. It requires different touchpoints, emphasis, and targeted approaches; however, we can't separate their success (or business outcomes) just because they are at different journey stages.
Understanding this is a must. It is not just a function needed to deploy. But a critical and significant thought process to ensure customers are successful, delighted, and driving value within their organization.
✓ Customer Success is a science (process involved) and art (success mindset) of delivering meaningful outcomes and a holistic approach to managing customer relationships.
✓ Building a meaningful relationship (or deeper connection) with your customers is very important. It is key to learning your customer's needs and positioning the value of the solution.
✓ The keys to success are about the impact and positive changes your product/solution makes on the customer operating environment.
✓ When customers engage with the companies, the customer success journey needs to be clearly defined. It should start when this customer has become a lead.
✓ Each stage of the customer journey is different. Although each of these journeys is different, it is evolving. It needs to answer if we are meeting their business outcomes.
✓ Once the customer sees the value and signs up, as a business provider, it is time for us to manage this expectation and ensure it stays on their journey.