Customer success is often misunderstood as just a functional role in the organization. If it ends up only as a board metric for measuring vendor health, it becomes less about delivering actual value and results that customers expect from the organization.
In this interview, Parker Chase-Corwin, Senior Director of Customer Success & Support at Paytronix, talks about the importance of mastering customer loyalty and providing a differentiated brand service through customer success.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
I have been in the CS field for more than 20 years. I started in sales operations and then transitioned to account management, and joined the early ranks of the customer success movement. I have built and managed CS teams at several companies like Iron Mountain, Hewlett Packard, Rapid 7, and ETQ.
Most recently, I joined Paytronix in Sept 2020, where I was hired to help evolve our customer engagement strategy, in part by building and leading a new Customer Success Management program from the ground up. This position has been particularly interesting to me in that Paytronix offers a loyalty platform for the hospitality industry.
I have always been a student of loyalty in B2B scenarios, and this has given me a chance to layer in B2C learnings about how the relationship between the vendor and the client informs their ultimate loyalty. Customer success for me is all about earning loyalty by helping the client achieve the best experience possible while maximizing the utmost value from their investment.
How does customer success contribute to the modern business framework?
If a business hopes to remain successful in a competitive market, it must create solutions where customers will be insanely loyal. In other words, your SaaS product or service becomes integral to the customer’s success when it solves their business needs or addresses their pain points.
Earning customer trust takes a lot of time and multiple touchpoints. Organizations must have an individual relationship with each customer that is established on mutual partnership rather than financial gain.
Customers today have been doing their research by gathering feedback from their peers and friends. With the changes in the marketplace, CS has been in the pressure seat to help customers find value in the product or service as early as possible and throughout the entire lifecycle.
While the SaaS business model is easy to understand, sustaining (or keeping) the brand advantage is more difficult to achieve. Why? Because competing companies provide similar services and are all looking to find a way to stand out, which continually raises the bar for their peers. It puts tremendous pressure to continually differentiate the experience that your customers receive in a way they can articulate. If customers cannot express and quantify your solution or product value, you fall in with the rest of the pack and fail to stand out.
Why should an organization view CS as a strategic function in the organization?
Too many companies fail to recognize the extent of organizational investment required to deliver a strong CS program. They often think of the CS team as the only magic pill needed to keep their relationships strong and healthy.
It is necessary to understand that the CS program does not just represent a functional team within an organization. It results from a coordinated, cross-functional, and holistic strategy focused on helping customers achieve their desired outcomes.
All businesses want their customers to be successful, yet are they truly centering their company strategy and goals on delivering that? When tough decisions are needed to be made about investments, what drives their thinking? Will they strengthen the customer experience or cut corners?
As we get a better feel of our customers and position our products and services to align or fit with their business needs and challenges, each interaction has the opportunity to shape and foster their loyalty. Why? It is because the success in the relationship comes back to the Golden Rule (treat your customers the way you would like to be treated [or served]).
Why is elevating the overall customer experience significant or necessary in the current business landscape?
A lack of CS in the organization is a negative differentiator. It is unusual for companies nowadays to be without the core elements of CS. However, dedicated CS programs cannot just be tech support or client services teams getting rebranded.
Meeting customer expectations and elevating the overall experience is the tall order of the day and may require redesigning existing approaches and team structure. Similarly, when selling products, don’t make it about the provisioning of features. Focus on the use cases your solution intends to address and how the customer will realize positive business benefits accordingly.
Long-term relationships are well-established if the vendor can align with the customer’s business objectives, demonstrate best practices from other successful customers, and help them achieve that vision.
Nurturing a loyal relationship is not about helping the customers understand what features you have. It is about understanding what they are trying to accomplish and then matching the ways your solution can help them. Customers want to have both a meaningful experience and a product that integrates well with their overall brand experience.
How can CS improve and build a unified vision about what customer experience is?
I think the key is in mapping out the customer journey from beginning to end. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s enormously powerful for folks to witness the cause and effect of friction points, and how certain actions and decisions at one stage in the journey can have an effect on something downstream and seemingly unrelated.
This exercise can be a scary endeavour for companies to take on. For one, it’s a lot of work to coordinate stakeholders from every stage of the customer lifecycle and dig in on all the activities that play out. But more than that, it’s hard to look for your flaws and actively seek to correct them — especially when there are so many other priorities that everyone is working on. Doing customer journey mapping requires executive commitment and prioritization.
Experience is the culmination of all interactions — not just select ones. In that regard, a true CS program can’t be executed in a vacuum. It has to be embraced by all departments, or the weak experience links will constantly put downward pressure on the rest of the relationship.
Any last words you would like to share on how to elevate customer experience and loyalty?
Regardless of which strategy you choose, it needs to deliver an improved experience while ensuring that the value of the product is recognized.
It boils down to a deep understanding of why customers selected you, what challenges they are looking to solve, and how they will use your solution to accomplish that.
In other words, if customers can articulate the value of your solution and the positive impact on their business, then they have gained something beyond the original transactional purpose.