Sustaining Viable Relationships By Turning Customer’s Insight into Vision

6 min read
18 May

In this interview, Daniel Rose, VP of WW CS at Imply, talks about the importance of human interaction in business relationships: for without it, sustainability, growth, and success are not easy to achieve.

Taking on a new identity

It is easy to think we know our customers from all the meetings, phone calls, and reports we read about them. To deeply understand how people use our products, we need to go to where they work, where they play, and where they live (bonus points if we get invited home for dinner).

My conversation with Daniel started how business engages or takes part in the (varying degrees of) changes taking place in the world of SaaS business.

Change means taking a new identity, Daniel urged. It is not something business does because it delights customers; instead, it is something they do to build a sustainable business (relationships) where customers are contributors and willingly open themselves up to a new possibility and opportunity.

People are less likely to accept change when change leads to ambiguity or if the forthcoming looks undesirable. I asked Daniel; what could be the reason why business looks at change so hard? How did CS help businesses realize that the needed change is required?

Daniel said everything in CS is centered - on developing and sustaining (long term) relationships. In other words, you need to understand the challenges limiting your customer and what motivates (your) champions. 

Remember, everyone is motivated for different reasons or aspirations. Few would be for personal or product success, peer recognition, career development, and the impact of their effort. 

Working from the correct human context is key in ensuring momentum and customer satisfaction. Hence, seeing the problem from the customer perspective opens up two things. (1) Opportunities business can bring (or provide), (2) Challenging the assumptions about who our customers are, what they need, and why they buy our product/solution.

Without this customer focus and human motivation, all interactions (with the customers) are purely transactional — and transactional business approach does not make a lasting impression, neither promotes nor encourages loyalty.

The focus organization should set their eyes on

Organizations focused should not be on the improvement of the product alone. It should also include the value customers are achieving and will achieve while using the software or product

CS makes customers successful by helping them understand the necessity of change while at the same time, improving their overall experience.

Here are the common challenges (or constraints) why businesses are holding back from making changes:

  1. They do not perceive the problem as a problem
  2. Increased selection and competition
  3. Limited resources (right people, talents, time, budget)
  4. Market volatility
  5. Lack of motivation
  6. Lack of support from the upper management

The shift of focus from product centricity to the customer reason (for buying the product); is the essential theme of transformation in the subscription business. Having this business process (client-centric), CS can give an honest assessment and aligned how customers are already behaving instead of assuming they will adopt a new behavior.

Great products require human empathy!

We, at Imply, made a decisive decision to invest in Customer Success earlier than most companies. I was one of the initial employees tasked to create a plan to ensure the (best) possible experience for our customer base.

Our company understands that building champions and referenceable customers are the criteria for business success. As a very technical product, providing a world-class experience in every touchpoint is required to inspire confidence in our customer base.

Developing team goals based on clear objectives

Imply is the 4th CS team that Daniel has built over the last 10-11 years. Before CS became popular in the software realm, he had the chance to create a customer success team after reading what some pioneers at Salesforce and other customer-centric organizations. It is where the CSS was born (Customer Success Squad).

When I created the Customer Success squad, I felt like I built a team of superheroes whose role grew not just saving the existing customers but allowed them to nurture or build a pipeline for sales to sell more.

Putting a team together, I recommend:

  • Define why they need it. Does the business is looking to increase sales, reduce churn, or improving retention?
  • Figure out what you want to achieve (business value, expansion, growth, more users).
  • How are you going to measure the effectiveness of the team?
  • Which metrics need to watch closely and implement?

Here are the most important metrics they can consider:

  1. Unique users (refers to # of submitted support tickets OR # of issues escalated by single users)
  2. CSAT and NPS scores
  3. Knowledgebase and tracking how much it empowers customers to solve problems themselves. It is not just you dope the content, but you assigned someone responsible for helping customers where to go and where to find the support they needed.
  4. Retention and churn

Defining the key metrics help CSMs understand how to structure their cadences, how often they should communicate to customers, and with the rest of the team.

The magic bullet

In business, we all communicate differently, and everybody comes from different backgrounds and ways of doing things. One of the secret lessons that I have learned in my career is that you need help and alliance across every department to be successful.

To get the buy-in, you have to explain – your whys and hows?

For your marketing team, you are going to be the central repository of all information about your customers. For sales, you are going to be there to help them (a) Provide insight on how to deal with the customers and (b) Help them closing the deals. 

For support, you are going to be the one that is leading the way for alpha and beta, and take the customer's feedback and functionality, and report it with leading insights.For engineering, you are going to be the people standing in front of customers and provide updates as often as necessary. Your job as a CSM or CS Leader is to make everybody's job easier. 

In the majority of our customer relationships, we see internal evangelism on behalf of our champions. We consistently are getting introductions to other teams within existing customers and into new companies that want to emulate what their data should or look like, and how to find success in modern data architectures.

The magic bullet? It all starts with the trust that we are building from within our organizations and our customers. Without these human relationships, growth and success are not feasible.

I appreciated Daniel's insight and, looking forward to interviewing him in future conversations.

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