In my last post, I started writing about how Aristotle’s ancient insights are relevant even in this day and age and delved into the three main axes – data, process and people – that you need to consider while applying them to customer success automation. I covered the first axis earlier, and I will wrap up my thoughts on the other two in this post.
“Through discipline comes freedom.”
I touched upon some common processes as they relate to customer success in an earlier post. Having repeatable processes will ensure consistent, reliable and predictable results from your team. These processes will transform the notion of customer success from a concept or intent, into a discipline that is all pervasive. And this discipline will give you the freedom to set loftier targets to take your customer success operations to the next level.
In the context of process, there are broadly three kinds of areas that you need to cover. First, you need to define and rollout processes for common scenarios. Examples include new customer onboarding, periodic outreach to existing customers, follow up after support issues, follow up after upgrade/expansion, Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction surveys.
Second, you need to setup playbooks that instruct your team on how to handle common situations. Examples include playbooks on handling support issues (and often, irate customers), proactively dealing with product usage fluctuations, and dealing with customer activities on external channels.
In both the above cases, you will need to automate to the extent possible so that your organization as a whole gets into the habit of executing on them consistently, and you, as a manager, will have clear visibility into these processes on a day-to-day basis. The combination of automation and visibility will enable you to create a transparent organizations.
Third, you need to setup triggers, alerts and recommended actions. For example, you could setup an alert for you to react quickly when a customer logs a support issue. You could create an automated trigger to reach out to customers with a quick survey after the support issue is resolved. You could create an alert to notify you when your contact at a customer is changed. As a best practice, you may want to setup periodic outreach, as simple as NPS surveys.
To the uninitiated (and often to the initiated as well), customer success may seem to be a (dark) art. Mastering these processes is what will transform the art of customer success into an exacting science.
“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
Your people are your most valuable asset, and not only do you need to nurture them carefully, you also need to deploy them wisely. Done right, your team can be better as a whole than the individuals that comprise it.
As I have said before, your goal is to make them productive, predictive and proactive. So, what can you do to help your people? A lot as it turns out. But this is not a post on human resource management. So, I will limit myself to outlining three important principles as they relate to customer success.
First, you need to help your team members manage their day-to-day activities and basic reporting. No one will accept it, but the reality is that many, if not the majority, of customer success professionals are deluged with so much work that they have trouble focusing on what is important on a daily basis. They often lack the tools to keep track of what they do, and consequently, find it hard to report on what they did. To a lesser extent, they have trouble thinking beyond their immediate pressing priorities, and need help to move from a reactive, firefighting mode to a proactive, customer success mode.
Second, you need to give them the tools to engage effectively with your customers, and vice versa. Email is a good start, but by default, it is untethered from customer success and contains extraneous (in this context) noise. They need to have tools to chat with customers in real time. They need to be able to engage customers through surveys and polls. These are simple examples of engagement within the context of their customer success activities.
Third, you need to enable, nay goad, them to become proactive in interactions with their customers. They need to be constantly looking for opportunities to better serve their customers. They need to be thinking about converting customers into references and advocates. They need to be thinking about reaching out to customers for testimonials and other marketing-related assets. Ultimately, they need to be thinking about how they can grow the relationship, and the business, with the customer.
These three principles will help you build a pervasive “customer success attitude” in your organization. Note that people and process often go hand in hand. Your processes need to be designed for your team. These processes will then help you unleash the true potential of your team.
“That which is in locomotion must arrive at the halfway stage before it arrives at the goal.”
I know that was a lot to digest. I have tried to be as concise as I could, but each of these areas is worthy of a (or even many) deep dive(s). Maybe, I will even venture into these deep dives in future posts. But for now, let me conclude with three recommendations.
First, be iterative. As I stated earlier, a big bang approach will not be productive. Bring in a new data source. Rollout a new process. See the results. Then extend/expand on what you just did. Sometimes, things don’t work. In those cases, learn your lessons and move on.
Second, focus on new customers. This is as much a bow to the tactical reality of limited resources. You are better off focusing your customer success operations on new customers, where you can start on a clean slate. You can then apply your learnings to your entire customer base.
Third, don’t forget the Pareto principle. There always are 2-3 things you can do that will cover 80% of your current needs. Master those 2-3 things and reap the results. You can then move on to the next big thing.
Let me conclude by returning to where I started. Aristotle was not only a great philosopher, but also a great scientist. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he was the first genuine scientist in history … [and] every scientist is in his debt. In a similar vein, Customer Success should not just be an art. It should be a science… that every company depends on to succeed.