Driving Growth Through Customer Success

6 min read
09 Mar

In this interview, Emilia D’Anzica, a Customer Success and Account Management partner at Winning by Design, shares her insights on driving growth across the organization (from a cost center to a growth driver).

A SaaS organization is measured as a repeatable growth model. It means that their customer needs to successfully use their platform/service for more than a year. 

Ask yourself, how can you make an impact to the point that customers can’t imagine running a business without you? When companies stop making success about themselves and shift their focus on the customer as a partner instead of an account, there is also a change in how services are delivered.

Customer Success: Growth as a Process, Not an Event

Every organization is looking for a perfect recipe for the growth of their company. With the SaaS business model’s rise, companies will claim to structure their strategy around “customer success.” In other words, customer’s experience and agreed business outcomes are the guiding philosophy of this new business model.

Therefore, every customer who signs up for a product/service should succeed and become lifetime customers. The organization delivered its brand promises, and the business impact is worth the long-term investment. Emilia pointed out, “a business relationship starts when the customer commits with a partnership with the company.”

However, the brand experience can start much earlier when they seek to resolve a business challenge or pain point. Why? Because potential customers don’t know exactly what they want but know they need to resolve an issue.

How they experience your brand through the voice of other customers, friends, colleagues, social media, and your marketing efforts will impact what leads them to the first click on your website.

Yet, the impact of the platform/service and the relationship hasn’t been fully measured (or realized) based on these conditions:

  1. What will the brand experience look like once the customers have fully utilized and adopted the software/platform?
  2. What are the challenges and issues that might come up? How will it be solved?
  3. How should customers measure the relationships if the brand promise hasn’t been kept?
  4. What kind of values and principles do they live by?
  5. What happens to our data if we break ties?
  6. What does the product development workflow look like? Or, how are they going to keep up when innovation and product shifts are required?
  7. What’s the impact on the overall business strategy, especially in the long term goal?

It’s important to be focused on these questions and when it is time to hand off the newly minted ‘customer,’ insist the sales manager connect with the customer manager with a proper handoff.

He/she should know the answer to these questions, what was the business impact the customer is seeking, and what decision criteria led them to select our product over others?

Document and hand off this critical information to the customer success manager. They will need it to start the relationship with the customer.

Once the contract has been signed and closed – the business impact has been acknowledged, and there is a clear decision criterion around why your product and not other vendors.

“I think that’s where the companies are struggling.” They failed (early on in the relationship) to capture the most critical metrics essential to the customers. However, if they do right, they can proactively design or manage customer’s expectations that enable them to leverage the available technology to refine programs and operationalize the customer experiences towards success and preferred outcomes.

You know how the saying goes – catch a woman a fish and feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish, and you feed her for a lifetime. The same applies to driving growth in the organization.

Customer Success at the Age of Explorers (Millennials - the new generation!)

If you are ignoring the modern decision maker, you are losing out on new revenue. A relationship is a currency in the subscription economy.

Today’s modern employees, millennials, are taking over the workforce. Much has been said about this generation, but “relationship is the epitome of the business growth,” regardless of who sits on the buying power.

Simply put, relationships define who expresses and speaks about any given experience.

On this new generation of the explorer - millennials have a different outlook and how they’d like to engage and consume content, services, and platforms.

Capturing the VOM (Voice of Millennials) is a key guide in product development and customer experience. “Relationships are the epitome of business growth,” regardless of who has the buying power.

Emilia further points out, for this group of decision-makers, since they’re adept at technology, the most feasible approach is to incorporate digital adoption technology (real-time, application self-service) to enable users and realize the impact (or value) faster and without ever having to contact support.

Customer’s Feedback: Meaningful Driver for Change

“While it’s true that products seek to solve a problem,” not all customers know exactly what they want at the beginning of their buyer journey. It is the modern sales person’s job to educate them.

The most effective way to build trust and unlock opportunities – even if the conversation starts with a problem – understands the gap and the purpose of “why the challenge exists” and what they’d like to accomplish and achieve through a given application or service.

If your genuine interest is in helping them, Emilia recommends, “start by asking the simple question, how can I help?” These four words will open a conversation without sounding like you want to sell them something before you have even heard their pain points.”

“How can I help?” These four words will open a conversation without sounding like you want to sell them something before you have even heard their pain points.

Continuous customer feedback becomes a key strategy that enables an organization to look into the future by assessing its business strategy and matching it to its customers’ current needs.It is a constant evaluation of opportunities against the current overarching growth objectives.

Building a product without customer feedback, A/B testing is questionable.

Emilia suggests having a diverse advisory board participating and experiencing the new product and customer strategies. A rotating member from your Engineering and Product team should actively participate, contributing, and religiously reviewing customers’ feedback.

Having a customer feedback loop as part of the business framework also empowers other business groups like the Sales or Marketing department to help build a content plan.

Similarly, having a customer business impact review is important to host on an agreed-upon cadence for two reasons: to look back on customer adoption, usage, and project failures and successes, but also to look forward and build opportunities to work together on new high-impact plans, to deepen the partnership.

The customer journey starts with a pain point they are seeking to fill. What happens after the customer commits to a partnership is what will determine the future of your company. That’s customer success.

About Emilia D'Anzica:

Partner, CSM & AM, Founder of Customer Growth Advisors (acquired by Winning By Design), she partners with companies seeking to build and optimize their enablement programs.

She focuses on aligning teams and technologies across the customer success journey, from onboarding to renewals and expansion strategies.

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