Defining Customer Success

My recent stint has been to define Customer Experience from within a Support and Services organization at a startup. I wrote the beginnings of my discovery here.

I had led Customer Success from within a Product organization in my prior life, about which I have written about here.

For one, I am always asked by people – friends, coworkers and family – What is customer experience? Is it User experience? User research? How is it different from Customer Success? This is a good one – What is Customer Success? Seems like it is less glorified support.

In part, my role was to define what it meant and how we were going to execute on it. I decided, I wanted to keep it achievable and small but also impactful. My rationale was to get small measurable quick results and further iterate on it. I plan to write about the metrics in another article – watch out for it. Teaser – I found that metrics differed here from what I was used to, but interesting all the same.

Here are the steps I defined to take the function forward —

Step 1 : Content, Content, Content, but make it good!

My first focus was to build online digital content (training videos and classes, knowledge base articles and webinars). Good content is everything. But creating a growth and adoption plan for that content was essential too.

While being in a product organization previously, it was really hard to get other Product managers’ and technical marketing engineers’ time, here, it was much easier to get support and services to pitch in, since we all reported into the same organization. Also, we had detailed information about escalations and such, so we could tailor content granularly to address commonly found issues. That was a win.

We not only generated content but also launched a certification program in record time. Support and Professional Services are usually the subject matter experts in post-release products since they get trained on it and are on the frontlines for the customer calls. Customer Experience is usually a post sale function too, so it worked out really well. Next step was to market the content.

We had a clear plan on a drip and nurture program for key personas, measuring the content adoption and plugging the same content into the “Welcome email”.

Step 2: Engaging Support Portal and Communities

In order to connect content and provide a holistic customer experience, we also redesigned the support portal where search was front and center. Our great content was dispersed and harder to find, so a contextual search engine which pulled data from a variety of different repositories was important. This requirement was not just for our customers but also our internal support engineers, so new engineer on-boarding could be addressed too.

The plan was to to build a community as a part of the support portal and foster discussions there by gamification. Making it a part of our overall support team goal, to contribute to the community pages was something I have not seen done well before. This would not have been possible if we had led the experience from a sales or a product organization. One more win in my book.

Step 3: Leading the Journey Map

I’d say our most valued asset was the creation of the technical journey map. I had all the resources I could lay my hands on a.k.a Professional services. Their high touch model, leads to an expertise that is hard to find elsewhere. This made it super easy to define that map. That journey map could easily be aligned to the new improved content we were creating.

While the above three steps are definitely key they are also “business as usual” for most companies.

Step 4: Defining the In-Product Experience

This next piece of the puzzle is what interested me the most about the position. Being a product manager at heart, defining how we were going to bring in support, services and content within the product was exciting. The ideology was – “Why should a user leave the product, to go to a different portal or even google to access what they need and when they need it?” This need for JIT(Just in time) help is covered to some extent with chatbots but not quite. What is completely missing is the coming together of all the resources to help a customer in one place – the product.

It is a win-win not just for support teams but also product, sales and marketing teams. It helps tie usage patterns and support metrics seamlessly. This is closely related to the product telemetry article here. I did not get to define it in my recent stint, but that would help tie that all together. Think about how easy upsell, cross-sell and expand would be if this were all tied together?

Bringing contextual journey map based help into the product also helps get direct feedback from the customer instead of getting the same from surveys or other portals. What better way to get Product feedback and NPS from within the product where the customer is most engaged?

This next part, most people forget about, but it is super important. This idea of integrating within the product also feeds into “scaling for the future” discussion. What happens if there are new products or acquisitions? Shouldn’t the experience be standard? By defining the standardized, integrated approach for content, support, services or community within product lines, you can provide your customers with a stellar unified experience.

I encourage you to check out this video where Maria Martinez (Chief Customer Experience Officer at Cisco) speaks about all the above. I only found out about this video recently, but it was a good validation of my thought process.

I still think there are positives and negatives to leading it from Product vs. Support. Personally, I do love the product aspect of it all.

In conclusion, it was a fun learning experience and I hope that someday I will lead Customer Success or Customer Experience from within a sales or a marketing organization, to see slightly different sides of the square.

Right now, I am discovering what my next gig will look like. The good news is that Technology, Product and Customer Success is super exciting. I would love know your thoughts in the comments section below.