Customer Success – It Takes Two Totango – Interview with Guy Nirpaz

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Two TotangoInterview By Sue Nabeth Moore – Customer Success Evangelist, France

Sue: Why is customer success becoming so important when it is often perceived as an activity which has always been done but was not given the label “customer success”?

Guy: Customer success is often associated with traditional activities such as account management, professional services or support but the activity of customer success is linked to the maturity of the recurring revenue model. Companies with a recurring revenue model such as SaaS depend on their ability to retain and grow. The role of customer success is becoming just as critical as that of sales. Customers prefer now to have the choice of renewing their contract or not with a company. The role of customer success is therefore to do everything to make sure that the customer just keeps coming back.

Sue: Customer success seems more mature in certain regions and sectors. What are your thoughts for the expansion of this role?

Guy: Totango was initially created in Israel in 2010 as a response to ensure life-time value to the Telco industry, a sector heavily dependant on the recurring revenue model where churn prevention is critical.

In terms of geography, the need for customer success is everywhere. 40% of Totango business for example is outside of the USA, mainly in Europe but also in Australia, India and Brazil. Totango has been collecting and sharing best practices and creating events to evangelize customer success. We have noticed that the customer success machine has started to develop just by the number of participants. Our first Totango event in the USA in 2013 attracted 100 participants, the 2nd one in 2014 attracted 400, and the 3rd one in 2015 attracted 1000 people. This is a huge success for CS actors to network, participate in the interactive seminars and workshops and learn from their peers. Over 75% told us they’d be back! We’re excited to start the Totango road show this first quarter 2016 in USA and Israel.

Sue: What do you consider to be an ideal profile for a CS Manager ?

Guy: OK well let’s start by defining what they need to do. Basically their goal is to retain and grow customers. To achieve these 2 main outcomes, we need to look at the drivers and values. The 5 main drivers are:

1) On-boarding

2) Nurturing

3) Renewal

4) Up selling/Up-grading

5) Escalation

On-boarding is critical to success. It is often complex and fluid process and organizational and project management skills are required.

Depending on the size of the company, there are different CS organizations and roles. In smaller companies, the CSM is usually responsible for all 5 drivers, at least to begin with. As a company grows, the drivers are often split into CS management roles where CSMs are specialized, e.g. for on boarding, renewals, up selling and cross-selling.

The CSM drives and articulates business value at all times. Value indicators are measured on the business outcomes expected. It’s not about the product itself but about the business gains generated. Business curiosity and a talent for solving issues is also key. Engagement is essential in order to identify gaps for achieving this value.

The real challenge is how to articulate the customer success activity and engagement in a scalable way.

Sue: What for you are the main challenges for a company wishing to start a customer success activity?

Guy: First of all the CS activity must be aligned with the main objectives of the company – to maximize renewals and up sell. This should be done in a very pragmatic way to ensure profitability and growth. If the fire-fighter model is still in operation and a company needs to spend for example 1$ to generate 1$ of renewal, then the CS role is not moving the needle forwards.

It is necessary to invest heavily in the previously mentioned 5 drivers (see above) and to keep tabs on the value that customers are gaining from the product. This is applicable for all customers.

Sue: There are more and more actors on the customer success software market, yourselves included of course. What guidelines can you give as to when a company should invest in such software?

Guy: Usually for smaller companies, the CEO begins the CS activity themself. As a general guideline, as soon as there are between 20 – 50 customers, it’s a good time to start and think about investing in CS software and for the following 2 reasons:

1) It’s great to build the activity and capitalize from best practices rather than repeat the same mistakes made before by other companies.

2) At a certain point, it can become very quickly unmanageable to be in control of all the 5 main levers. Customer success software helps to structure and alleviate the multiple tasks, allowing greater visibility on customer activity, risks and the company engagement.

My advise is to invest in customer success software as early as it is affordable.

Sue: So what is your elevator (or rather “lift” – sorry I’m British) pitch for Totango ?

Guy: Our key philosophy is to drive value to customers. It’s necessary to know how your company is driving value. To do that, you need to understand the way that customers are using your products. Once you’ve mastered that, you can better retain and grow your customers. We built Totango on this foundation.

I’ve never been a fan of the customer 360° view concept. This implies that you’re in the middle of a circle without really knowing in which direction to look first. I prefer to consider customer knowledge and consequent success with the following main areas:

1) Utilization

2) Adoption

3) Measurable business outcomes

4) Operational aspects

5) Feedback, e.g. NPS

Success is the result of the company’s engagement and understanding of their customer’s gained value but also of their customer’s ownership on what’s going on around your product.

It takes two Totango! Tango 2

Sue: What are the main profiles of Totango’s current customers?

Guy: There are 3 main world-wide categories:

1) Start ups and maturing SaaS companies

2) Medium to large companies

3) Verticals : telco, data providers and infrastructure

Sue: What are Totango’s ambitions for 2016?

Guy: Our first aim is to make Totango software easily accessible to all client focused actors: CSMs, VPs, CEOs…

We aim to have a new release per month and celebrated 8 new releases already in 2015.

We look forward to the Totango Customer Success Summit on March 21st and 22nd in San Francisco. Here we’ll meet and exchange with like-minded actors in a very convivial, productive and inspiring event.

Sue: If you had a crystal ball, describe what you would see for customer success in 5 years from now:

Guy: Customer success will be more mature and we will know how to do it better than today. It will evolve like the role of digital marketing has evolved over the last 7-8 years.

As customers innovate and their expectations increase, customer success will also gain in importance, becoming equally strategic and sustainable as the role of sales. Customer success will be more efficient and scaled, facilitated by faster programs and software.

For Totango, I can foresee continued amazing growth and thank all our customers for their advocacy and for finding great value from our customer success software.

Sue: Thanks Guy for the interview. I wish you continued success and look forward to seeing you at the next Totango road show, why not here in France!

Guy: Yes with great pleasure. Thank you Sue.

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Customer Success – A Darwinian Approach in 2016

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Cameleon

Those who have crossed my path will have probably already met my mascot chameleon which I have affectionately called “Adaptus Rex”. Don’t worry, he’s tame! More importantly, as a dinosaur descendant, he learned to survive environmental change! His capacity to modify colours has followed me through all life environments and challenges, adapting to the next state of evolution. Adaptus Rex has always been accompanied by my favourite Darwin quote:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.

Constantly inspired by this quote, consuming it without moderation, I have even placed it as a personal slogan on my LinkedIn profile!

The famous “survival of the fittest” (1) and its selection process is accelerated today in response to unprecedented environmental changes. In our natural world, the recent COP21 decisions here in Paris testify while in business, the technological digital transformation is taking us by storm. Whilst history has always shown us the progressive driving force of technology in transformation, digitalisation is creating an immediate impact and disruption. Each digital change brings a promise of progress or new experiences and which are accompanied by considerable learning curves, irrespective of our generation: baby boomers, Xers (like myself) and millennials. It’s simple. We either adapt, stay competitive and keep ahead or we don’t adapt with the risk of losing out!

In nature, the famous evolutionary story took place in my native northern England during the last major technological transformation: the industrial revolution. To ensure camouflage as a consequence of the sooty manufacturing towns, peppered moths (2), originally white, became predominantly black via a reproduction process. A recent example in response to current climatic change is the shift of snail shell colour from dark to light. Snails have developed lighter coloured shells (3) which have a lower body temperature to keep cooler in response to global warming. This phenomenon is noticeable here in France where snails are still a culinary delicacy, especially at this festive time !*

In business today, we’re lucky enough to be facing another incredible transformation, this time in human form. The digital revolution and the related technological innovations are forcing us human beings to challenge our behaviour, routines, processes and even our business models. Whilst we will not suddenly develop coloured shells and wings (well not in my lifetime anyway), this brings me to the emergence and vital importance of the role of customer success as a lever to facilitate our collective metamorphosis. In today’s professional environment we are constantly trying to keep pace with the impact of digitalised innovations: cloud, big data, IoT, predictive analytics, machine learning, 3D printing and mobility to name but a few.

Customer success emerged and evolved in the Silicon Valley as a logical response to the introduction of the cloud subscription economy. Cloud exposed painful gaps in how existing companies were interacting with their customers. These pain points were filled with the role of customer success to encourage customer engagement with solutions, continued added value and client longevity. As the SaaS model continues to grow with companies moving away from purchasing software upfront preferring to buy on demand, customer success promises a bright future ahead. Other B2B models have also been seduced by its strategic importance and are investing in customer success.

With the continuous flow of new digital technologies to our business environments, it seems that my favourite Darwin quote has never rung so true. Out of all the animal kingdom, though we humans are definitely not the strongest, we are perhaps the most intelligent (open to debate…) but when it comes to responding to change, we are generally slow or right down resistant. Let’s face it, staying in a known comfort zone is so much more tempting than stepping out into unknown and potentially risky territory.

The role of customer success is to partner their clients, helping them adapt to new and unknown situations where gains are promised. The aim is to either obtain better results than before or create new positive experiences which could never have been imagined without innovative technology. The real challenge of this adaptation process is not about the technology itself. It’s rather about how the technology and its promises fit harmoniously into the future organisation, processes and methodologies defined for achieving desired outcomes.

Like the peppered moths of my native England, we humans face the challenge of adapting in our digital fast paced environment. We need to “camouflage” the new technology and associated behaviour, blending it into our daily habitat so that it becomes the accepted “norm”, at least until the next one presents itself. It is essential for survival and for keeping ahead. It is perhaps because human beings are the most intelligent of creatures on earth (so we believe) that our response to change is more complex than our animal neighbours. We perhaps approach each new business context with too much thought, emotion and memory rather than acting on our instinct, like my friends Adaptus Rex, the peppered moth and the shell changing snail.*

Customer success is a passionate role to partner our fellow homo sapiens acclimatise to their new surroundings and rise to the challenges of a business world driven by technological innovation. Afterall, the word “success” derives from the latin “successus”, meaning “an advance, a good result, happy outcome.”

So in the dawn of 2016 with the human tradition to make resolutions (myself included) to change certain behaviours for improvement, there’s no better prospect for customer success to partner these desired outcomes, helping companies transform their performances through the challenges and gains of the digitalised environment.

“Adaptus Rex” and myself take this opportunity to wish you all great resolutions for change, new routines, adaptation and success in 2016.

*P.S. All my respect to snails. I did not eat any over the festive period!

References and further reading:

1) Explanations on “Survival of the fittest

2) The story of the peppered moths

3) How A Few Species are hacking climate change

 

 

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2016 : The Year to Boost Your Customer Success Strategy

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With the arrival of the 3.0 marketing era where each client becomes ambassador to the greatest possible number of people, every company must ensure that their customers reach the outcome expected from their investment (i). Indeed, a satisfied customer is the best possible ambassador of your product or service (ii).

From this need, new business strategies have developped: Customer Experience and Customer Success depending on context.

The Customer Success framework was created by SaaS software companies in the US – the first of them being Salesforce.com. With the advent of cloud, the software industry has changed in depth:

  • In the business model, from selling a box to a subscription-based relationship
  • In design, from a watefall approach to agile development
  • In the implementation, from a heavy installation to a light set up
  • In usage, from an owner front end to a more intuitive web interface
  • In product updates, now available on CD or immediately through the interface
  • etc.

Customer Success is dedicated to partnering customers within this new framework to facilitate the achievement of expected outcomes. As an emerging role, this mission of underlining added value includes the implementation, use and deployment and can be extended to the design and marketing and sales.

To take the example of Salesforce.com, which stood out by creating the logo “no software” and was the first to set the goal of customer success at the heart of its business objective. Today, their signature is “The Customer Success Platform” with a stated goal of nothing less than a “Customer for Life” ! Indeed, it is a whole approach and organisation which complements the solution with features and tools dedicated to this objective and assigned partners working in a very active community. Almost every editor has been inspired by and followed their model: clients for life.

Ultimately, whatever the outcome expected by their customers – e.g. for marketing to optimise its website or its omni-channel interaction or for sales to optimise their sales process, etc. each editor must announce and keep their promise. This will result in customers becoming naturally inclined to act as ambassadors for their product or service  🙂

Happy New Year !

To go further :

(i) 3 Technology Trends That Are Transforming The Customer Experience

(ii) The Ultimate Moment of Truth and The Art of Digital Engagement

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