“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.”
Antoine Saint-Exupery, French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator
Data is a beautiful thing. When you process raw data you start seeing interesting information – trends and insights – that you were looking for, and in some cases, didnt even know existed. But when you go a level deeper, see the dots in the data, connect them, AND start acting proactively on them – that is when the insights turn into ingenuity.
In my last post, I wrote about a Data Engine that is at the core of a good Customer Success Automation (CSA) platform. But a Data Engine ultimately produces a metaphorical pile of rocks, albeit one that is neatly categorized, labeled and arranged on the shelves for easy lookup and retrieval. It is here that the true magic of a CSA platform comes into play, turning that information into a veritable goldmine of insights into customers, and instructions on how to make the best of it.
In short, a Customer Success Automation platform needs to fulfill three key principles – Productive, Predictive, and Proactive.
But before I go into what each means, I would like to delve into a recent historical parallel that I had the privilege to be a part of – Marketing Automation.
History Repeats: Lessons From Marketing Automation
When I co-founded Leadformix, one of the leading Marketing Automation products in the market today, the domain had not yet been defined. Marketers everywhere were in need of a solution that enabled them to:
- Efficiently execute on their priorities, including automating the most common workflows such as nurture programs.
- Get a 360-degree view of the prospect, including their activity on the website and other online channels and social media, responses to email outreach, and more.
- Track the results of their activities down to contribution to the pipeline.
They needed something that let them become more productive, measure their own progress, and ultimately, make them look like heroes.
Customer success professionals today are in a similar situation. Data about the customer is abundant. Yet it is neither intuitive nor actionable. At worst, the data is fragmented into inaccessible siloes. These professionals need a solution that helps them do their job better. They need something that makes them look like heroes.
Enter Customer Success Automation.
The First Principle: Productive
“You don’t earn loyalty in a day. You earn loyalty day-by-day.”
Jeffrey Gitomer, Author and Professional Speaker
To begin with, a CSA platform needs to make customer success professionals by automating every aspect of their day-to-day lives.
New trial customer? Send them all your on-boarding resources on time. Check in with them periodically to see how they are doing. Send them surveys to measure their feedback. On-boarding a new customer? Monitor progress and check in periodically with the customer. Monitor the process to make sure relevant milestones are being hit. Post go-live, keep in touch at regular intervals. Reach out to see if there is anything you can do for them. See if there is anything they might be willing to do for you – press release, success story, referrals, and more. These are two common examples but the list goes on.
But it’s not just about triggers, reminders and workflows. Customer success professionals need to be able to see a consolidated view of the data. They need to be able to measure the results of their actions. And, they need to be able to report on it. A CSA platform must therefore offer a robust set of functionality that is tuned to meeting these needs.
The key point to note here is that these are routine actions that need to be performed in every company, in every customer success organization. They are programmatic, and by simplifying these tasks and automating them where possible, customer success professionals can see a dramatic improvement in their productivity.
The Second Principle: Predictive
“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
Jerry Gregoire, ex-CIO, Dell
Customer data is usually rich in insights and predictive of future behavior if you can bring it together and look at it in its entirety. For example, a drop off in product usage is a predictor of churn. An increase in negative sentiment in support tickets, especially as the contract is due for renewal is a predictor of churn. An increase in the number of users and sessions is indicative of value derived and could be a predictor of a future up sell. A positive Net Promoter Score could portend an up sell opportunity.
But not all data is intrinsic to the vendor’s product. Mergers and acquisitions could predict future churn, or expansion. External market trends that alter the value proposition of the vendor’s solution could predict future responses from the customer. Personnel changes at the customer could highlight risk factors.
Regardless of whether the data is intrinsic to the product or customer, the reality is that it is often available, albeit not easily. The Data Engine consolidates and processes the data into a form the clearly reveals the flags that are predictive of future behavior. The CSA platform then needs to bubble up these data points to the customer success professionals so that they can take appropriate action.
The Third Principle: Proactive
“The difference between “try” and “triumph” is just a little “umph.””
Marvin Phillips, Author
I believe CSA solutions will differentiate from each other on this principle. It is not sufficient that the solutions bubble up data points or other interesting insights into the current state of the relationship – it needs to recommend proactive outreach from the customer success professionals, and automate that where possible.
For example, a “Customer Health Score” is an interesting data point. Changes in this score are even more interesting. But it would be far more useful for the system to analyze changes, highlight the underlying factors causing it, and most importantly, make recommendations for what can be done well ahead of time. In this example, the information is there but the dots need to be connected and appropriate actions identified.
This is where the winners will separate themselves from the also-rans. This is how the best customer success organizations will rise above the fray. This is how companies can master churn and achieve Negative Churn.
From Zero to Genius
“Intelligence recognizes what has happened. Genius recognizes what will happen.”
John Ciardi, American poet, translator, and etymologist
Customer success professionals today need tools that help them attain excellence in their jobs today AND give them a leg up on what needs to happen tomorrow. This is where raw data goes from information to insight to ingenuity, and eventually, to innovation. By adhering to the three principles – productive, predictive, proactive – a CSA platform can deliver on this key objective and help them deliver a superior customer experience. A superior customer experience translates into better business outcomes. It is a virtuous cycle in which everyone turns out to be a winner.
I will wrap up by saying this: You don’t have to be a genius to be excellent. But becoming excellent can make you look like a genius.