Businesses must always maintain a significant advantage that sets themselves apart from a competitor. The most important component of that advantage is achieving and delivering the outcome the customer wants and expects.
When we do this consistently, we not only improve the effectiveness of our brand name, but also drive our customers’ businesses to continued growth and success.
In this interview, Eran Fishov, VP Customer Success at AU10TIX, a global identity intelligence leader on a mission to obliterate fraud through automated technologies, talks about why CS is a commitment to customers, not just the value of service the brand can deliver or achieve. Eran asserts it is the foundation for having a meaningful and lasting relationship.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my customer success journey in a large corporate business that positions customer success in the old traditional role known as account management.
With this approach, the missing element is customer-centricity. That is because you are leading the accounts, not the customers. With a customer success approach, your efforts as vendors are laser-focused on customer goals and company objectives.
Hence, customer success not only means putting yourself in the customer’s shoes but putting them at the heart of your business. In other words, it is not just about telling your customer what to do or not to do. It is about fulfilling or keeping your promises.
Otherwise, we cannot establish or sustain healthy relationships, create champions as advocates, or improve the value of our product. In AU10TIX, one of the missions of the customer success team is to ensure that our customers’ voice is heard within the organization to show that we value their ideas and recommendations.
How does CS help create a customer-centric culture?
Customer centricity is an organizational mindset that places customers at the center of the business. Hence, building a customer-centric culture starts first with knowing your customers, not only the annual recurring revenue (ARR) they hold or when the renewal date is. You need to understand what drives their success metrics and how they measure it.
When you do that, you start building a relationship as a trusted advisor. Otherwise, customers may perceive you as someone who only attempts to sell them a product or a service. If you deliver what will drive them to success, it not only guarantees a long-term partnership, but it may expand at any time.
How do you ensure that customers achieve their desired success?
Over the past few years, most businesses have shifted to licensing and subscription models (known as software as a service, or SaaS). In this business model, customers’ trust and loyalty are the foundation of this successful partnership.
To maintain our commitment to our customers, we need to ensure that potential or recommended solutions to their business needs and challenges are carefully assessed, planned, and mapped out.
We can achieve this if we are focused, committed, engaged, and purposeful in everything we do. In a software subscription business, the value of our service must be meaningful, significant, and reliable; otherwise, we are not creating a positive impact that empowers our customers to achieve their desired success or outcomes.
What should be the primary focus of CS?
Customer success’ overall mission is to own the success of their customers, help them understand the full benefits of the software they purchased, demonstrate its value and what it can do, and deliver favorable business outcomes for each customer.
Organizations should approach customer success based on what they promise to deliver (the agreed outcome or solutions value) and how it will be delivered (transforming the customer experience) in each interaction.
Looking at it this way, the role of customer success becomes strategic and fundamental toward organizational success. Not only does it drive meaningful and purposeful change, but it also serves as a transformative force in the organization.
With this strategic value and purpose, CSMs should think and act like the CEO of their customers. That means they need to think through the best way they can make their customers successful.
What are the key considerations to ensure a successful CS strategy?
When you are a smaller company, the focus of CS is “dive and catch.” In other words, it focuses on what matters to customers and how CS can provide immediate success. That is how a smaller company operates and designs its CS strategy.
For mature companies, CS becomes a longer game. When you try to play a longer game, the biggest challenge is how do you ensure that the rest of the organization supports the overall CS goals. It is also necessary to understand what the top challenges to prioritize that could have a significant and lasting impact are.
The other thing that organizations need to get right is customer segmentation. Not only figuring out what they want the CS team to be, but for which cohort of customers. Businesses should undergo elaborate customer segmentations.
By doing this segmentation, a business can design a CS model and service commitment for each customer segment. We cannot just treat all of our customers equally or in the same manner. It does not work that way most of the time. Hence, investing wisely in building the most adequate CS model helps manage the risk and maximizes the lifetime value of the customer.
How should businesses help improve CS performance and its overall impact?
The CS team is your first internal customer. They often use the product more than the customers. Hence, they know all the quirks of the platform. To align them with your overall goal, you must also give your employees the same experience as your customers.
Bring CS in the loop as early as reasonably possible when new features are about to be released. Work closely with them to quickly fix any potential issues preventing product adoption.
In terms of hiring, organizations should also look for someone who understands or knows how a customer uses the product, someone who can solve customer challenges, and has a passion for educating customers on best practices and recommended use cases.
Otherwise, if CSMs do not understand their customers’ technical environment or how the product integrates into its environment, they can’t help drive adoption.
In AU10TIX, for example, for any technical matter that is brought up by a customer and requires an enhancement request to the product, the CSM is required to clarify the business objectives to ensure that the new features can drive adoption and increase the business value that customers can gain from the product.
For organizations to be effective, they can hire technical adoption managers whose sole duty is to study the product, its structure, and how it will help customers succeed using the software/product.
Consequently, they can hire renewals managers to facilitate or go after the renewal process. The bottom line is to balance technical skills and be capable of engaging in high-level value conversations with customers.
Any last thoughts that you would like to share on how to enhance customer success service value?
Successful organizations understand that CS is about achieving customers’ desired outcomes and improving their brand experience. To give excellent service is a technical move. It is about having a clear understanding of how we can achieve the success the customer wants and expects. It also means helping them align their business efforts to meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
At AU10TIX, we focus on setting the right expectations with the customers from the very beginning. We set clear success metrics and measure business KPIs during the onboarding phase and we keep tracking the business KPIs during periodic business reviews and throughout the entire customer lifetime, so we are aligned with the customer, both on the technical and the business side, which helps us ensure that we meet their needs and expectations from our first interaction and continuously.