Today’s competitive marketplace means businesses have to be more proactive than ever to stay in the race. Organizations have to make a choice. They can either actively manage their customer relationships, or treat them like they always have, and risk losing them over time to the competition. The most successful companies today treat their customers as their biggest assets, and manage them all accordingly, even the little ones. The first step towards being a more customer centric organization is to have a dedicated customer acquisition process, with a clear strategy for your team to achieve. If you haven’t set this up in your organization, check out this course in how to make a cost effective customer focused strategy.
Having a focus on customers is even more important for SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. Its within these businesses that the role of the customer success manager was born. Normally, there are two main focuses in a SaaS business, bringing new revenue into the pipeline, and minimizing any customers falling out the bottom. The revenue streams are usually well taken care of, traditionally with large and effective sales teams that are very good at their job – selling. If you need to focus on developing your own revenue stream of customers, this course will teach you everything you need to know to turn your business into a ‘customer factory’ and bring in new customers every week. The problem with the traditional approach though, is that everyone is always focused on new revenue, and usually there isn’t anyone managing the customers to ensure they’re not falling out the bottom. In business, this is called the ‘churn rate,’ and reducing this is the key to long term success.
Depending on your specific business model, the customer success manager may have different roles. There are two variants that are the most common. In some instances the customer success manager is part of the implementation team, and ensures that new customers are on-boarded correctly. In others they have a much higher level role and oversee the customer relationships in the long term. But within both of these, the core of their role is to address the issue of sustainable growth and future profitability, by helping your customers to use your products and be as successful and productive as possible. When you can help your customers build value in their own business, your company becomes a strategic partner, and a valued asset to that same customer. This is the way that will allow your business to have long term success.
Unfortunately, most organizations only ever form customer success teams to solve a particular problem. Perhaps there are a number of customers having similar issues with your software, or a certain customer needs extra attention to salvage their relationship. What you need to do is ensure it doesn’t just stop there.
Use the learning and information you gather to help move your business from being in “firefighting” mode, and get proactive in meeting your customers needs. From an operational standpoint, you need the customer success team to be helping with product design to ensure the business is creating what the customers actually need, as well as pairing with marketing to help the business find the right leads. Customer success teams work closely with sales to land the deals, and support the on-boarding and training processes so that customers get the value they expect, and are fully engaged. It’s through the smart use of data that the customer success team can help make a customer’s experience with the company fantastic.
Once you get the team together, get focused on:
The Customer’s Success
Get involved with the entire life cycle of the customer, from the time you first sign them up, and throughout the entire period of their subscription. You should also work to develop best practices, efficient processes and blueprints for success so your customers can fully utilize your products. If you’re still working on landing your first customer for your software, that’s ok. Sign up for this course because it’s going to help you immensely when you’re just getting started. The entire goal is to help you secure your first client!
Listening to the Customers
One of the key points of successful sales is identifying the key success factors for your customers, and communicating how your product effectively meets their needs. This also builds into the marketing plan you need to create, as well as the product road map. The customer success team must gather feedback from all customers, through interviews, surveys and focus studies to ensure your company keeps customers satisfied. Check out this course if this is a new concept for you, as it teaches entrepreneurs how to listen to their customers and gain competitive insight in their industry.
Build a Community Around Your Service
Involve all of the divisions of your company, and create a portal for your customers to interact within, which also contains all relevant product information they can use to better understand your services. A good customer success manager will also encourage networking and interaction between customers, and will collaborate with the marketing teams to run customer focused events. These are two ways you can help boost your customer retention, but if you’re interested in learning more, this recent post covers some novel ideas that you can use in your business, today.
Providing Top-Level Visibility
Within the customer pipeline of a SaaS business, there is typically a dashboard that gives top executives a snapshot of the overall wellbeing of the customer base. It’s the job of the customer success manager to refine and develop this process, so your business can easily identify customers that are at risk. From this dashboard, it’s also their responsibility to establish a routine that allows accounts to be managed successfully.
Understand Product Usage
One of the main indicators in the performance dashboard is the usage rates of your software. Customer success managers track this in weekly reports that show a range of statistics like the amount of users logged in, and the time spent in the application. When these levels drop, you must reach out to your customers and discover what is forming the obstacle.
Work with the Entire Organization
It’s the job of the customer success team to assist the customer to work with all the different departments within an organization. Your key contacts need to be found within every department, from the sales management teams, to operations as well as high level executives. Knowing some great people in the IT department is also a plus, so you can help your customers no matter the problem. Your aim is to achieve these objectives:
- Create the goals and success factors for deployment as well as a plan to successfully carry them out.
- Have regular status calls with customers to review the deployment status.
- Based on the specifics of a particular customer, either move them further down the deployment pipeline, or jump in to help solve any issues.
A key part of the customer success team’s role is ensuring clients are on-boarded as seamlessly as possible. This includes product training, as well as managing new customer implementations. By taking the lead on the on-boarding process, customer success teams gain valuable insight firsthand from the actual users of the company’s software. They also have the chance to network and develop relationships with customers, which can be a very useful source of information regarding new product development.
If your software company doesn’t have a customer success team, you may have something similar just under a different name. Because of the importance of managing your existing clients, as well as ensuring your future competitiveness, most organizations will be very conscious of their churn rate, as well as managing their long term strategy. If you really have nothing of the sort, you’re business is in for a shock – as you see client after client disappearing to the competition.
Starting a customer success initiative isn’t rocket science, all you need to do is find a pain point. A critical problem customers have with your service, and form a small project team that is dedicated to working to get it resolved. When you do, you can use your success to push for a larger initiative to begin. Despite what you may think about top management, they are just as concerned for the future of the company as you are, and you’re all on the same team. So start by helping your customers achieve success, and the rest will all follow.