Creating a Customer-Centric Culture To Successfully Lead and Implement Customer Success

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The success of your customer depends on the continued added value you create and the experience you deliver to them. Successful organizations are shifting from being product-centric to a customer-centric mindset and often adopting and delivering via a recurring revenue or subscription based business model. These models imply a long-term correlation between the added value gained and financial engagement of the customer. Indeed, the more value gained, the more likely the client is going to wish to continue and even increase the amount of their subscription investment. As quoted by Jason Lemkin:

“Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is”

After e-meeting each other on social media and appreciating our common passion for the customer centricity of things, we (Daniel Coullet and Sue Nabeth Moore) propose to share some thoughts around a customer success (CS) framework developed across the layers illustrated in the diagram below: C.S. – O.P.T.IN²:

OPT-IN²~Framework – Success Track Enterprise

The “C” and “S” are the strategic layers, meaning Customer centricity and Service alignment.  “CS” is also a common acronym for Customer Success.

O.P.T.IN²  refers to the CS objective of ensuring  customers wish to stay for good.  It is also an acronym which spells the operational chronological steps across which the defined CS strategy is operationalised:

 

O = Organisation, P = Process, T = Tools. For the “IN²”, in parallel to the former steps, there is an evolutive and agile initiative around INformation (data) as well as the on-going INtegration of the Organisation, Processes, Tools and INformation.

The above will be outlined across 3 articles, the first of which on the strategic foundations is below. The second will be on the operationalisation of CS and the third a concrete case study.

Many software companies in SaaS or subscription models today are doing their best to try and create customer success management organizations and are often reactively addressing the threat of churn. So let’s move forward by building a framework that will help us iterate to become a best-in-class company that proactively delivers continued great value and experience to customers.

What does it take to operationalize customer success so that you not only mitigate the threat (churn) but you also create the opportunity to fully align your organization to proactively partner your customer’s expected outcomes? In turn, this will then grow your business by increasing renewal and expansion, consequently reducing churn and fostering client advocates.

Strategic Foundations

We outline below what we consider to be two strategic pillars and some related best practices which create the foundations for a customer success organization to become successful : customer centricity and service alignment:

  1. Customer Centricity

In the age of the customer, the vendor-customer power has flipped. Before suppliers had the power to sell without being that concerned about the business outcomes of their customers’ investment. In the software world, this was particularly the case with the on-premise model. Now, with abundant knowledge and alternative solutions to solve pain points and the growth of subscription, customers  have the power to opt out more easily from their engagement – operationally, functionally, technically and financially. This means that company mindsets should move from being traditionally product focused to include customers as the key business driving force. As George Colony, Forrester CEO predicts, if a company is not customer-centric, they’ll simply be out of business between 5 – 10 years.

So, what are some of the key competencies and pre-requisites to become customer-centric? Indeed, there are divergent perceptions on the definition of customer-centricity but in the most simplistic terms, for us it means when the customers are partnered to achieve their expected business outcomes thanks to their investment in your solution and services:

A. Ensure a customer-centric vision top-down:

  1. Top management show buy-in, sponsorship and change management to empower a customer-centric strategic vision.
  2. Define the meaning of customer-centricity.
  3. Top management nurtures and promotes a customer-centric mindset across all the company organisation and cross-functional roles.
  4. Customer-centricity is also embedded as a mindset among internal “customers”. Cross functional roles partner as “internal customers” in the interest of their external customers. Each role knows the expected inputs and outputs of their respective contribution to internal and external customers.
  5. Customer-centricity is the company driving force which determines all behaviours, actions, reflexes and engagement with customers.

    Picture by curtesy of Kilpatrick Group
  6. Continuous adaptability is encouraged towards changing customer needs.
  7. Objectives and incentives around customer-centricity are aligned across the organisation and roles.

B. Know your customers:

  1. Understand your customer’s current needs and anticipate new ones.
  2. Understand different customer needs according to user profile (or persona) and their impacted stakeholders.
  3. Understand and empathise with customer domain challenges, contexts and pain points. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
  4. Anticipate and follow customer domain and market evolutions.
  5. Define and operationalise required client knowledge data (to be developed in our second article).

C. Foster customer experience (CX) principles:

  1. Define via internal collaboration a customer journey/ies and milestones from the customer point of view.
  2. Generate a frictionless customer experience (CX) across the customer journey via an adapted customer relationship.
  3. Align CX and CS principles to create the conditions for success. CX and CS are often treated as 2 distinct disciplines when in fact they complement and feed into each other.
  4. Align the above customer journey/ies with all your company organization, roles and responsibilities.

D. Define expected customer outcomes:

  1. Help customers express their vision of success and how your solution contributes.
  2. Help define and measure tangible business outcomes (per impacted profiles). 
  3. Ensure your solution, related services and engagement address the above (use cases).
  4. Communicate, partner and measure how your solution + services contribute to business outcomes.

E. Foster customer success principles:

  1. Define a clear mission statement (charter) for CS.
  2. Ensure all internal actors understand the role of CS as a strategic business pillar.
  3. Ensure each internal actor is empowered in their responsibility and contribution to CS.
  4. Align cross-functional incentives and compensation for CS.
  5. Determine appropriate and pertinent metrics/KPIs to measure CS in alignment with the strategy, e.g. adoption and performance metrics for customers and internal metrics for your company such as NPS, net retention rate, CLTV, churn rate, CSAT, time-to-value, etc…

2. Service Alignment

Ensure that the related services are aligned with the customer-centric strategy. While the use of the word “product” is still common place, e.g. “product to market fit”, “product development”, “product owner”, , “product run” etc…, we prefer to use the word “services” which holistically includes the product and the CX. In the business models of “X as a Service” for example, we consider that maintaining the previous wording and mindset of selling a physical “product” is rather a contradiction in terms. We prefer the term “service” and which englobes the product, the related services and adapted CX. The term “service” also infers that there are expected outcomes which will materialize as the services are consumed, as opposed to the word “product” implying just a means to an end.

A. Design the “Service”:

  1. Unite cross-functional teams to define the expected outcomes and experience at each stage of the customer journey per profile/persona.
  2. Design the product (UX), experience (CX) and services in parallel using a methodology such as Design Thinking to create harmonized value to the customers. In many cases, the experience and services are designed after the product which often creates a non-coherent CX and misalignment and friction between vendors and customers, putting customer success teams in a challenging position.
  3. Consider the CX like a “product” launch, using best practices and processes for software development such as design, quality assurance, and “service” owners,…

B. Design Service Engagement Models:

  1. Define engagement models per client segment needs with the appropriate number of touch points. Synchronize them between the digital, physical and product experience.
  2. Align the engagement models and touch points with your CX and CS principles.
  3. Align the engagement models with your internal key processes and related actors.
  4. Include the ability to measure adoption and performance directly in your product/services in alignment with the metrics defined in your strategy.
  5. Validate with customers their key moments of truth (MoT) during the customer journey which are crucial moments for CX.
  6. Instrument your customer feedback to continually understand if the design (outcomes and experience) are delivering what is expected.
  7. Adjust the above whenever necessary.

The above strategic foundations provide the base upon which the customer success organization can then be operationalised. While customer success is emerging in business as a strategic pillar of recurring revenue models such as SaaS, it is in fact applicable to any customer-centric company intent on generating win-win growth and profitability, irrespective of their business model. Indeed customer-centricity demands a proactive shift in culture and not just a reactive response to changes in business models. The product, the service and CX are all an intrinsic part of the success of the customer and together they will progressively become an inherent part of the storyboard for doing  “business as usual”.

In our next article, we’ll be pleased to share some further thoughts around the above  OPT-IN² framework which outlines more best practices in operationalizing proactive customer success with an agile mindset. This will be followed by a case study article.

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Business Mutualism: Customer eXperience and Customer Success Enrich Each Other for Business Health

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A series of articles by Sue Nabeth Moore and Helene Duneigre, October, 2017

Sue is a leader in Customer Success (CS) and is evangelizing it in France, Portugal and the rest of Europe.

Helene is militantly in favour of Customer Experience (CX) which she has promoted and organised for years.

Sue and Helene met in Paris and listened with curiosity to each other’s convictions and practices and found them to be very close, yet different and decided to write about it.

Here’s part 1 and introduction to our series of perspectives on the proximity, comparison and emergence of a business mutualism between CX and CS: 

Helene about CX Stories:

A few months ago, AmazonGo video became viral. They opened a store where thanks to an app in their smartphone, customers come, shop and leave without going through cash desks. There are not even any cash desks in the store by the way!

On April 10th 2017, a disturbing video, about United Airlines this time, got watched thousands of times across the world. It showed a traumatized 69-year-old customer who paid for his ticket and asked for nothing but to be be flown to his destination. He was dragged off the plane and injured as airport police got called by the aircraft staff and dealt with him like a criminal, only to make room for transferring partner airline staff.

On the one hand, we witness what may be the ultimate shopping experience: customer extreme convenience and user friendliness, enabled by sophisticated technology behind the scene.

On the other hand, we witness extreme – and difficult to believe – excess of strict adherence to process and total lack of human empathy by company staff. This, followed by a very poor speech from the CEO later in the day, demonstrating that when a fish rots, it rots from the head down.

These are both examples of customer experience. The best and the worst. Customer Experience is indeed all about how your customers individually perceive interactions with your brand, self-assess their satisfaction compared to their initial expectations, share their story with friends and network and eventually remember afterwards their related emotions.

Sue about CS stories in the making of…:

Being relatively new, the storyboard for CS in Europe is “in the making of” as companies investing in CS are keen to build their ROI business cases.

Whilst CS is currently often associated with SaaS, the first customer success teams saw the light of day with CRM software companies, somewhat frustrated with the poor adoption and relatively low obtained value. The first CS organisation was a non-SaaS company called Vantive in 1996, followed by Siebel on Demand in 2004 and then in 2005, Saleforce gave birth to their “Customers for Life”. If Salesforce is the best-known success-story for CS (80% of their current revenue being driven from their current client base), this emerging role is applicable to any recurring revenue model (SaaS or not) as well as any business wishing to distinguish themselves by making their customers want to stay longer, invest more and advocate on your behalf.

Sue to Helene: What is the definition of Customer Experience?

It is the sum result of how the customer perceives each of its interactions with the company during the whole journey of purchasing and then using its product or services over the duration of their relationship. This perception covers rational assessment as well as emotions. It is highly subjective and individualized.

Helene to Sue: What is the definition of Customer Success ?

Customer success is a company-wide mindset and approach to operationalize and generate win-win growth, for customers and consequently for suppliers. CS is preoccupied with achieving the evolving desired business outcomes of customers as their internal and external contexts change, presenting new challenges and opportunities via their interactions across the customer journey.  In the words of Lincoln Murphy:

“Customer success is when customers achieve their desired outcome through their interactions with your company”

CS therefore includes CX and aims to obtain customer desired outcomes via controlled operationalisation. In a recent Webinar with Dan Steinman, we explored the following equation relating CS, CX and CO (Customer Outcomes):

CS = CO + CX

Sue to Helene: Who should work on Customer Experience?

Well, when you think about business, you’ll agree that there are no parameters more important than customers. All companies thinking seriously about their long-term performance should be working on their CX.

Traditional companies may have forgotten the customer priority as they are too busy with internal and administrative challenges, regulations, strategy, financial reporting, stock exchange volatility and so many other topics. New entrants, be it already mature digital companies or fresh new start-ups, are focussed on customers as priority.  This is one key reason why they are dangerous to established business.

CX references often come today from Amazon, Apple, Uber, Airbnb.

If you look around, you can find your inspiration with lots of others. Nespresso, Maïf, Leroy-Merlin, Midas, Ventes-Privées…    are set leaders. Others are improving quickly and smartly: Air France and its digital services, SNCF Voyages, La Poste…

Helene to Sue: Who should be interested in implementing customer success and when?

All recurring revenue companies should be preoccupied with introducing a CS approach. Value is obtained by customers over time through a 3-step succession of adoption , performance and transformation. When customers measure positive ROI during the transformation stage, they will wish to remain loyal and invest more in order to grow more.

CS is not only applicable to software companies and is increasingly more practiced in other typical subscription sectors such as media, telecom and insurance but also in more industrial sectors where IoT and AI enable to measure customer consumption patterns and behaviours.

CS should be anticipated and implemented as soon as companies start acquiring paying customers. The acquisition and contract signature is just the beginning of the customer hands-on experience. The on-boarding stage is critical in ensuring the desire for the customer to adopt new ways of doing business and the consequent customer journey milestones and engagement are key to pave the way to success. If these success milestones are not deliberately traced and the customer journey is perceived as a haphazard mystery tour, then there is a big chance that the customer will lose track and go astray to other places.

Sue to Helene: Why would a company spend time and money in CX?

There are several reasons:

  1. Ensuring that customer experience is aligned with the brand promise and their expectation is the healthiest way to build loyalty. This also means it is cheaper and more profitable to recruit new customers.
  2. Sustained differentiated experience leads to growth and improved market share.
  3. Many surveys and research demonstrate that companies serious about CX are financially performing 5 to 20% better in their sector.
  4. CX strategy contributes to giving sense to employees.
  5. CX culture can even lead to new and more profitable business models, for example the subscription service model developed by Michelin for truck kilometre service, or else the management print service model adopted by the printing industry.

Helene to Sue: Which benefits can a company expect from working on CS?

The reasons you indicate for CX above are also applicable to CS and in addition:

  1. CS enables customers to grow as a result of facilitating the achievement of their desired outcomes.
  2. As a consequence of the above, CS allows suppliers to grow.
  3. CS allows to operationalise a customer-centric strategy based on driving results. This includes defining customer journeys based on segments, scaling customer engagement and aligning internal roles to meet desired customer outcomes.
  4. CS acts as a company financial catalyst. It allows the collection, analysis and actioning of pertinent customer data to control costs, forecast revenue and detect risks and opportunities.

Conclusion

In our current evolving business environment, CS and CX cohabit side by side mutually benefiting each other in a kind of business mutualism:

Mutualism Example
Samlung Fotos

the challenges of B2B are inspired by best-in-class B2C CX practices, while the B2C world is evolving their CX approaches into brilliant models and practices where the likes of Netflix and Fitbit have become CS/CX rock stars.

CS and CX share the common ground of customer loyalty and delivering pristine experiences and pertinent engagement across customer journeys.  Whilst CX is concerned with delivering an end-to-end positive emotional and rational experience to reach satisfaction and lock loyalty and love, CS extends that to include driving business outcomes and ROI – in a word – success!

Together both CX and CS create a win-win business situation:

“CX locks consumer/customer engagement and CS locks business outcomes”.

Coming soon… join us in our next perspectives on CS and CX.

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Mapping The Customer Journey with Engagement Models

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I’m honoured to have participated and co-hosted this Webinar on mapping the customer journey and engagement models with Gainsight’s Dan Steinman.

Ocean liner journey log book in 1904 (Le Havre – New York)

 

 

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