There are more ways to deliver value to your customers than ever before. With the current business landscape, it is not just limited to one.
In this interview, Maurizio Canton, VP CS at TIBCO, talks about why organizations should deliver the [business] value customers expect and agree on. Organizations can do this when they understand how their customers are performing and what success means to them.
Maurizio believes organizations will have an unfair advantage over their competitors if this business framework (Customer Success Excellence) has been established to engage customers holistically.
Background and Career
Maurizio spent 17 years at IBM as a Customer Support Engineer. He left IBM and joined Candle Corporation in '98 as a Solution Architect. A few years later, he joined TIBCO as a Senior Sales Consultant. He soon became the Technical Director at Redhat. He returned to TIBCO in 2014 as CTO (Chief Technical Officer), now serving as the VP of Customer Success.
"I've been working on the customer side for most of my life. From solving a problem to implementing a solution, to developing or creating a new offer/product", Maurizio says. Everything is focused on delivering the solution's value, and the success customers can get/obtain from the solution. Organizations understand failure to deliver on the brand promise; they essentially fail to meet or exceed their customer expectations.
In today's competitive business environment, customer success (CS) plays a significant role. For two reasons, Maurizio points out. (1) Since competitors are becoming agile, they need a team who can predict a customer's likelihood to churn or continue to stay on and grow (2) They need fresh insight and are always looking for better ways of serving their customers. Without CS, businesses are at risk of maintaining and sustaining their competitive advantage.
With the SaaS business model's rise, it creates a new system (mindset) for existing and new businesses to rethink how they do business with their existing (and potential) customers. The SaaS economy has brought many changes to the organization. From brand commitment to meaningful interaction to delivering (or defining) value based on customer's needs and challenges.
Maurizio says, "Business relationships must be established in these two pillars: (1) The benefits your product provides and solves and (2) How intuitive your brand experience is; otherwise, customers will not see/recognize the actual value of the partnership.
Delivering the required value
In recent years, unique product capabilities have been a leading indicator of business strength and financial stability. Organizations invest time and effort into developing unique products because this is the only way to create strong business partnerships. Competitors will be left unaware that they cannot compete in that regard.
Maurizio points out that even product capabilities are no longer a competitive differentiation unless your product is unique and the only market solution. Instead, the business should go beyond the traditional mindset or approach where customers have been the pivotal driver of growth and success.
"We implemented a CS Excellence framework in our organization to achieve two things: (1) Define a world-class customer-aligned engagement process, (2) Led every customer engagement by strategic planning," explains Maurizio.
The CS Excellence framework covers two parts of our business strategy. (1) Value-based selling. It creates the best customer experience focused on strategic account planning and incorporating customer insights into achieving its required success.
This joint planning helps us prove and deliver the value of our solution. As partners, we take their perspective to deploy, prioritize, and make sure everything we talk about goes as planned and expected.
(2) Value-realization. It refers to the output/outcome of the account strategy we have combined. It assesses capability maturity and strategic alignment to provide actionable recommendations towards maximizing their investments' business value.
Some talking points include: Does the solution/tool deliver the success they want to achieve? Have we achieved and delivered our brand promise? Or, where are we in terms of meeting their business goals/outcomes? Have we missed it or achieved it?
These proof points are useful because they allow us to evaluate and identify the roadblock that causes us NOT to deliver the (desired) outcome we agreed on and planned together.
Similarly, this framework helps us to be more proactive. It aligns our efforts to ensure that success is written on paper. It is still communicated and acknowledged in a tangible form where it can be expressed through product usage/adoption, high user engagement, useful product reviews, referrals, and recommendations.
Why did relationships fail?
There are several reasons why the relationship goes awry. Maurizio pointed to some of them. (1) If organizations are not responsive to their customers' needs and changing needs, (2) Brand promises are not delivered as planned and expected (3) Product fits. This happens if the salesperson fails to capture the use case of the business. Customers have different business needs/requirements that are not satisfied by the solution (4) The customer experience is bumpy and painful.
Remember, these issues have always come to light as customers continually measure their success in all business areas and how their chosen vendors/organizations intend to achieve their desired goals/objectives. Organizations need to respond appropriately and positively when handling these issues. By doing so, organizations can spot opportunities and know which customers will advocate their product.
From a relationship point of view, customers want complete transparency, commitment to their success, trust in your team, and leadership to achieve their success with their help and support.
How should organizations do this effectively?
Maurizio emphasized that organizations need to capture the sentiments and feedback of their customers in every possible way. This can be done in the form of a survey, a 1: 1 meeting, or developing an engagement model where customers will respond positively.
At TIBCO, we do this through a scoring system based on the number of engagements and interactions (from different cross-functional teams), tickets raised (open and closed), customers' willingness to provide testimonials and feedback, and they agreed to speak at one of our conferences.
Another way we do this, Maurizio explains, is by using our solution to understand the gap, talk to them on how we can improve or refine our product offering or business process (asking pointed questions on how we work with them in achieving their goals/objectives, the impact of our solution, and the value we provide during each interaction).
Success is subjective, but customer feedback is objective. Hence, it helps us find the best solution to their problems by listening to their requests and product changes. The better our offering, and it satisfies and meets our customer's needs and challenges, the more our business will grow. To top it off, success is the value and the business growth that our customers realize from their journey and investment in our people and technology.