In this interview, Jeanne Hopkins, Chief Marketing Officer at Lola.com, talks about why it is necessary to build a brand experience based on the individual needs and why CSMs must enable the right outcomes to the different persona they're working (with).
Background and Career
Hopkins spent most of her career in Sales and Marketing management, so much of the focus is on the customer side of things. She shares, my past roles were focused on customer marketing and making sure that we are communicating effectively.
In her prior role at Ipswitch (now Progress), she notes, the lack of concentration on customer success became apparent that you need to deal with disparate silos within the company, especially if you have different products you are going to market and sell.
It causes a lot of confusion when you are talking to a customer, she warns, before announcing any price increase, changing business agreements, or developing new packaging, these must be planned and thought out well.
When she joined Lola.com, she points out that a year ago, they had a handful of customers; now, they have hundreds of customers and thousands of users. As that expansion happened, she asked Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola, if she could have the CS team be a part of her marketing team.
Hopkins says, for the CSMs to be of great value, they need to have access to the website, content management systems, email support - to drive meaningful customer engagement.
I felt that is the only way for CSMs to be effectively managing their role is to be part of the marketing team. If CS is part of another team in the organization, they wouldn't know what they didn't know.
So, being part of the marketing team, everybody pitches the same: from the content team, marketing operations, the website team, so in everything we do, is focused on making customers successful.
Since we are a startup and evolving, everything we're trying to do must have high value and tight alignment in everything we're trying to solve (for).
CS is always selling!
Hopkins points out we are lucky enough since our first CSM has over ten years of experience in the travel industry. Plus, he has a lot of sales experience, and he was an initial part of the Lola sales organization. Our second CSM also came from a sales organization. It is one way to show (or attest) that CS is always selling.
When it comes to renewal, upgrade, or whatever you're trying to do with the product, you're always selling and reminding that customers they made the right decision in buying Lola. It is a different sales process when you're selling them directly from going to X to Y. But when they're part of your organization, you remind them that they have made the best possible decision.
Our focus right now is more on onboarding and being able to show the time to value, as quickly as possible. Since we have hundreds of customers (now), we're trying to automate this functionality without losing the personal touch or personal aspect of who we are.
I needed team members that are not just going to drill down or to solving every customer issue or concern. But to be able to take that information (gathered), amplify it, and report it back to the engineering team so that the gap between the product itself and the expectations set by the customers are closely aligned.
What is the stake of investing in the CS?
Many software companies, depending on how old the company may be, have a different approach to how they serve their customer base.
Some of the many things to consider when understanding customer objectives and their possible outcomes:
If you look at Toast, as an example, a point of sale solution for restaurants and e-commerce business: They have over 600 people on their CS teams, and the reason they do, they are trying to make the restaurants successful by teaching them about sales, marketing techniques, not just the use of their software. They have a lot of methodologies to touch their customers.
The bottom line is providing customers with a well-rounded experience and helping them NOT only when they need us the most, but in collaborating with them to make the product and service better overall.
Customer Marketing at today's business realm
When you start looking at the segmentation of your customers, think of your customers as your employees. Remember, your employees are your most important audience. They are the core of everything you do. If you do not communicate effectively with your employees, then your customers themselves are not going to get the same message.
Hopkins points out, work at the very core of your organization, who you are as the company has to start with it. It predicated on where you are in the growth of your company. If done right, you will get referrals, testimonials, and reviews, and your customers will help you build your community.
Similarly, Hopkins observed that many customer success organizations are embedded (or involved) in customer support. She says that is not the right place for that. Tech support is an entirely different function with Customer Success.
Hopkins says, CS is the combination of all things in your company - it is a little bit of sales, marketing, product support, and professional services. Why, because you are trying to show (or deliver) high-value outcomes and product value in every phase of the customer journey. Hence, these roles are interrelated (or interwoven) - not a separate identity.
CS as a competitive differentiator?
Certainly - but you have to make sure that you have the right team put together. This team must ensure and guarantee that the time and product value - is delivered early on and in every touchpoint. Remember, satisfied customers are more than willing to give you reference accounts.
In the SaaS business - the only way you are going to grow is reducing churn, not just adding new logos. Hopkins pointed out; scaling growth is about setting the right expectations, demonstrating the product value, and reviewing the success plan regularly and throughout the relationship.
I wrote two books on CS. These books can help you if you are looking for new ideas about CS. Here are the early reviews from industry experts and CS leaders: https://bit.ly/2Cl8LBH