Organizations wanting to stay ahead of the curve must focus on delivering an excellent customer experience and impart value at every interaction. Doing so allows you to retain your highest value customers.
In this interview, Daniel Farkas, Vice President, EMEA Sales at Box, talks about the importance of having a shared mindset [in building a CS organization] and winning customer’s trust and business by prioritizing [or enabling] their success.
Daniel joined Box in 2013 to build the CS organization in the EMEA region. His role has expanded since then from managing a CS team to leading the global Renewals function and presently, as VP of Sales in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa).
Prior to joining Box, Daniel led the Enterprise Content Management team at Accenture, where he was helping customers transform their functions and processes to digital.
“Customer Success team can’t win without the following blueprint”, Daniel shares. (1) Domain expertise. It is a clear and good understanding of the system or the platform you’re selling or supporting. (2) Understanding the core concept of great service and how the culture of an organization impacts or influences the overall business goal. How it also serves as a guiding philosophy for each team (different groups inside the organization) to work together in providing and delivering (great) service.
(3) Giving your customers the best experience and to do it often.
Organizations understand that Sales and CS have a different purpose [inside the organization]. The sales team is upstream, at the beginning of the customer’s journey. As a functional role, they bring new logos or business to the organization. Hence, you can easily measure their success or contribution based on the pipeline generated, new logos (and revenue) or expansion revenue landed, and renewal earned.
On the other hand, CS sits downstream, is impacted by many events that happened during the sales cycle. Think of it: How will you measure CSMs contribution or impact if there are so many metrics that organizations tend to put in place? Deployment rates, adoption, activity, renewal rates, NPS scores, and the list goes on.
Daniel points out, “It is NOT easy (but that doesn’t mean there’s no way of doing it). Remember, there are many moving parts happening in the organization that CS organizations can’t control (e.g. mergers or acquisitions of their customers, new stakeholders, change of strategy or direction).
However, to ensure the success between these two teams, Daniel suggested: “Organizations should always keep the individual purpose [of these two teams] intact or unbroken.”
In other words, let the sales team focus on what they do best: selling. While the CS team must focus on monitoring the health of their customers, and imparting value at every interaction they have with their customers.
When hiring, don’t neglect or disregard someone’s attitude. Daniel explains, “that’s the most important piece I’m considering apart from the lens of their prior experience”.
CS is a dynamic and multi-faceted function. In other words, those who’ll come into this position must have an attitude or mindset of learning endlessly.
Everyday interactions give CSMs an opportunity to learn about their customers, the different approaches and processes inside the [your] organization, the changes made in the product they support and the market they operate in.
Since this is a dynamic world, if anyone comes and says, I’ve been a CSM for 10 years or more and think they will be successful simply on the basis of their prior experience, then that’s the wrong mindset and the path for failure. Experience is important, but intellectual curiosity, grit and agility will matter even more in the long term.
“That’s why when hiring for a CS role, keep attitude as part of the key requirements”. Remember, attitude first and skills second. As a whole, the success of a person is determined by their attitude, it is not a table stake, it is required.
At Box, the customer success team consists of a Professional Services (Consulting) team, Customer Success Management team, Scaled Customer Experience, Renewal and Product Support.
In building out a CS organization, the very first thing any organization must do is to take a holistic assessment and honest view of why they need the CS. Everyone in the organization must understand the value of this team, especially the top leadership - CEO, COO and CFO.
The key takeaway: Understanding the gap between the other teams (Sales, Marketing, Support, Renewals) can provide better hindsight why CS needs to be part of the three-legged stool. Remember, regardless of how small or big a team is, there’s an outsized impact on their individual success. Organizations can achieve big returns if they understand what those factors are and focus on getting them right.
Here are some key metrics CS organizations can associate with their CS plans and growth programs. They’re probably monitoring a lot of these things but the key point is “how they measure its individual successes”. As the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets managed”.
1) NPS (Measures your account propensity). This metric can be measured and used in different areas of your organization such as support, service team, product team, and the customer service team. This metric not only measures the sentiments of your customers throughout their customer’s journey but the likelihood of attracting new customers, and potentially, becoming an advocate.
2) Gross retention, net retention, and churn.
a) Churn represents the number of customers or $ amount of business you lose every year. CSMs’ job is to avoid or reduce it by deploying use cases and aligning metrics related to customer’s [business] needs and goals.
b) Gross retention score. The metric tells how much business you have left at the end of the year from the business you had on the first day of the year and it excludes upsells. So let’s say you had $1m under management, out of which $100k of business churned. Your gross retention rate would be 90%.
c) Net retention score is similar to gross retention rate, but it considers upsells on the existing customer base. So to use previous example, we started with $1m under management, $100k churned, but we generated $200k of upsells on the rest of the customer base. This means we ended up with $1.1m of business on the last day of the year, which makes it a 110% net retention.
3) Portfolio planning. This refers to certain areas of business or accounts that require immediate attention. It can be as simple as increasing the renewal rate and allocating resources for high-value accounts or customers.
The key takeaway: Many organisations focus all of their CS effort measuring Customer Satisfaction. That is an important, albeit not an all encompassing metric. Customer value is key and that is what keeps customers engaged and loyal. This needs to be delivered both during scaled engagements (self-serve, website, email campaigns, customer marketing), as well as during high touch.