Gone are the days when customer expectations were easy, simple, and manageable. Modern customers are now in control and leading the change. They are no longer just waiting for the company to approach or contact them.
Customers today have better resources to access and quickly compare and analyze the competitor's products or services internally and externally. They also won’t hesitate to leave reviews.
In this interview, Kari Ardalan, Regional Vice President, Scaled Success at Zendesk, shares some practical strategies that organizations can take to ensure customer needs and challenges are met and clearly articulated.
I started in sales and realized that I was good at value-based selling. This skill is focused more on establishing and reinforcing why your product or service is valuable against a customer's needs and challenges.
When I joined Deltek as part of Member Advisory Services, that started my formal customer success (CS) foundation. It is a skill-based portfolio role, where you manage a comprehensive book of business through webinars and site visits.
When I moved to SAP, I was a Lead, Platinum CS. This role is a combination of technical and CS roles. Other tasks such as implementation, support, and driving product adoption are also part of this role.
After SAP, I joined and led the public sector of CS at Box. I went on to manage the East Strategic Enterprise team and built their scaled team. I became more involved and engaged in leadership assignments, projects, and initiatives. It includes roadmap planning and managing the team's headcount, strategic conversation, account ratios, pivoting the customer journey, and scaling the CS operations.
For the last two years prior to Zendesk, I was at Workday helping them scale CS all the way to the high-touch model and redefining customer experiences. It is more of a strategy and operations role.
With Zendesk, I oversee teams across APAC, EMEA, LATAM, and America. My focus is to enhance the customer experience and scale CS field engagement on a global level.
I spend a lot of time with each person, having 1:1 meetings, really understanding their career aspirations, and how we can enhance or improve their skills. My leadership style is transparent and casual, allowing my direct reports to feel comfortable coming to me for career advice and development conversations.
Since not every role is one size fits all, we need to develop the skills and talents of our employees not only to meet the needs of our organization but also to ensure their career growth. Having a flexible career path and understanding how to build internal and external connections is very important.
When you understand the needs of your employees, organization, and company, you can build out a team model that supports all three.
From a field perspective, you need to look at it in terms of portfolio size, Annual Recurring Revenue, engagement score (the level of customer effort), and you need to align it with a sales rep, region, industry, or vertical.
Once you have all the information, you can start mapping where those territories fall and see if they are balanced. Then you add it to the headcount planning. Through this, it will allow you to allocate the right resources and measure the team's performance.
For me, having a clear vision is key to success. Many people think of scale, as a term to manage lower ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) accounts when in reality, it is transforming the entire go-to-market model to enable productivity.
For a company to truly scale, you have to stop throwing headcount at problems and start to look at how to make your day-to-day operations more efficient and manageable. It comes through leveraging data, automation, self-service to extend the reach and influence of your Customer Success Managers (CSMs) and allow them to be more strategic in managing their accounts.
Today my team at Zendesk utilizes meaningful indicators to enable dynamic account management to reach a customer at the right time with the right call to action. We are constantly iterating on this vision and testing leverage points of what can remain automated vs. high-touch 1:1 meetings.
First and foremost, team KPIs are customer interactions. Based on productivity levels, we should be seeing a minimum number of interactions each week that they should meet.
Customer-facing time should not be replaced solely by webinars and automation, so you have to have a healthy mix. The customer experience should always be at the top of mind and focus, so we measure CSAT scores after every meeting and make sure we are maintaining a high score.
Like many other companies, we do measure Gross Revenue Retention and churn and contraction to team targets. We also measure Objectives & Key Results that funnel down to my employees' day-to-day work.
There are a few things organizations must do correctly. Here are some practical strategies that organizations can take to ensure customer needs and challenges are met and clearly articulated against them.
We need to look at customer use cases and the value it provides. If we can tie use cases and business value to product features, we can improve overall adoption. By encouraging customers to consider these use cases, we will achieve two main benefits.
First, it helps improve customer's confidence in our understanding of their situation, which in turn increases their confidence in our ability to deliver a meaningful solution.
Second, we will discover information that will help us articulate how vital our service or the value of our solution is to what they do, which will help position the value it will provide. It will not only encourage a product or feature adoption, but we will also provide the necessary support and services relevant to their success.
There is a lack of awareness of the go-to-market motion around data, scale, and operations. In today's world, we cannot afford to have siloed teams within the organization. We must strive to unite these siloed teams for us to deliver the success we want to achieve.
I have observed that less matured companies rarely invest in the overall customer experience, primarily because of that siloed operation or mindset. We must think about how we get our initiative done in the most efficient and user-friendly passion. Any time we think of a better way of serving and delivering success to our customers is an opportunity to earn their trust and loyalty.