In this interview, Brett Andersen, Director of Client Success at Degreed, shares the dynamic role of CS and provides clear-cut strategies to structure growth and to manage expectations and opportunities across the entire organization.

The best way to get our customers loyal to our brand is for us to be loyal to the promises that we make to our customers. That transpires if we’re extremely clear on what our brand promises are throughout the entire customer life cycle.

– Brett Andersen, Director of Client Success at Degreed

Demonstrating Integrity to Your Brand Promise

In the subscription economy, no organization grows by being a spectator or follower or by staying immersed in yesterday’s dilemmas. Today’s market environment has altered the definition of what it takes to be successful.

It has become clear over the last several years that the foundation of competitive advantage is rooted in the customer’s experience and how organizations are delivering on their brand promises throughout the customer’s journey.

Brett pointed out that, in SaaS businesses, success is defined by a twin advantage – two types of outcomes that are interdependent.

  1. (Customer Outcomes) – refers to the value and results customers realize from the product or services and how that value is delivered (i.e., the experience)
  2. (Company Outcomes) – refers to the value or results your business realizes by delivering on your brand promises to customers (e.g., revenue retention, revenue growth, brand recognition or advocacy)

Today’s market environment has altered the definition of what it takes to be successful.

At the end of the day, the success of your customers is the success of your business. Whatever the interactions the customer has with the business, they are expecting the utmost value they can receive and put in use.

While the product (or technology platform) helps the companies to innovate (or modernize their existing growth programs), in return, business impacts and competencies grow. This happens when the relationships (b/n the customer and the organization) are well established and celebrated

Knowing what the customers want and the reasons why they buy our product/service are the guiding charters of continuing and long-term relationships.

Similarly, in growing and sustaining customer relationships, companies must reconsider everything that touches the customer’s journey — and create experiences that go beyond the traditional approach.

 Advocacy: A Commitment to Serve and to Be Served

In order to create customer advocates, the focus on customers has to exist throughout our organization. The question is no longer who or which department owns it. Remember, the customer’s journey is not a single event but a continuous interaction whether it happens right in front of the business (online) or behind the business (offline).

Brett suggested, “If CSMs are so instrumental (to the success) in the post sales relationship, why not set up a Client Advocacy Program Manager that sits within the CS and other core business group?”

Client Advocacy Program Manager has the following responsibilities:

  1. Create a “feedback loop” that captures proof points, preferences, referrals, case studies, and testimonials
  2. Coordinate w/ the marketing team to put the branding and the messaging around the story that can be shared across the other teams
  3. (Process improvement) Ensure customer’s voice and sentiments are well heard in the organization through NPS, CSAT and other surveys

On the contrary – if the customer doesn’t engage and grow their footprint with our SaaS offering then business opportunities were lost to the competitors. Hence, customer advocacy becomes the pillars of your brand and success.

Remember, advocacy is not just promoting customer’s vision but translating that vision to a growth formula.

If the business is not yet ready for this new role (i.e. Client Advocacy Program Manager), CSMs are the best obvious choice.

They are already listening and proactively looking for wins and success stories and could partner with your Marketing team to capture and publish those stories.

Advocacy is not just promoting customer’s vision but translating that vision into a growth formula.

Few things to consider before (or when) asking feedback to the customers.

  1. Ask only the questions that you’ll use. What is the feedback all about?
  2. It should clarify the gap b/n the product and the customer’s desired outcome
  3. Make sure users actually use your product consistently before surveying
  4. Ask for a more detailed description of what they are trying to achieve
  5. For high-touch customers, meeting in-person is highly recommended

Embracing Change and Balancing Growth Mindset

The most consistent challenge I have seen in a few different organizations is how to be okay with choosing what not to do. It’s important to figure out and be deliberate about what are the few things that have an impact on the clients and focus on those things so well.

In start-up organizations, you have a lot of ambitious people who start doing a lot of things, and often in the process, they lose sight of the most important things and fail to finish what they have started.

The key is to stay focus on the clients’ needs, making sure that those vital few projects and goals are clearly communicated across the team and empowering them to say no if they are not part of those vital few.

I asked Brett, how he builds or structures his team differently. He told me that there are 5 different roles functioning in his Client Experience organization. Those are:

  1. Client Engagement (Implementation)
  2. Technical Solutions (does more on technical configurations, integrations, APIs)
  3. Client Success (CSMs)
  4. Learning Services (professional services for our corporate learning and development clients)
  5. Client Support

A New Breed of Customer Success

Customer success is not just about ensuring customer satisfaction but also making sure that the long-term vision of our business and technology platform is well-aligned to the long-term success of our customers.

In order for our customers to get successful, we must:

  1. Help customers realize the value is more than their investment
  2. Provide and deliver exceptional experiences
  3. Uphold the brand promises we communicate at the beginning of their journey with us
  4. Give the customers the voice they want to recognize and heard
  5. Remind them of their purpose and what they’re looking for out of the partnership

Growth Mindsets and Skillsets: Greater Purpose and Relevance

The growth of the company is largely influenced by how effective and efficient your CSMs. Successful CSMs have a few common traits that help them get successful, which eventually helps in the growth of the company.

Organizations need to tell the difference between mindsets and skillsets.

  • Mindsets are the default attitudes or perspectives that someone brings to situations
  • Skillsets are the combination of hard and soft skills and consist of different levels of ability, expertise, and mastery

In the same way, a sense of purpose is central to learning mindsets or skillsets. CSMs draw connections between the content of their work, their values, identity, and long-term goals.

Embrace common measures of learning mindsets or skill sets related for formative and diagnostic purposes, and adopt learning mindsets in high-stakes accountability systems

Here are the different learning models for developing growth mindsets and skillsets.

Takeaways

  • Advocacy is not exclusively owned by a single department
  • The key to be successful in business is to keep the customers you’ve already got
  • When delivering the best customer experience, it must be delivered based on the brand promises
  • Be very clear on mapping the customer’s journey. All touch points must be clearly defined and well-thought-out
  • Positive brand perception is achieved when business value is delivered, not just created
  • Professional development is the new science of learning mindsets and skill sets

This article was originally published here. 

Vincent Manlapaz, is a Customer Success Advocate at Strikedeck. He is passionate about Customer Success and is always willing to learn more!

Vincent Manlapaz

Customer Success, Strikedeck, a Medallia company