In this interview, Jeanne Hopkins, Chief Marketing Officer at Lola.com, talks about why it is necessary to build a brand experience based on the individual needs and why CSMs must enable the right outcomes to the different persona they’re working with.

The rationale of putting CS in the marketing team is to drive alignment and close that gap between the sales process of setting expectations with the customer and what is the product able to deliver for that customer.一Jeanne Hopkins, Chief Marketing Officer at Lola.com
Background and Career

Hopkins spent most of her career in Sales and Marketing management, so much of the focus is on the customer side of things. She shares, “My past roles were focused on customer marketing and making sure that we’re communicating effectively.”

In her prior role at Ipswitch (now Progress), she notes, “The lack of concentration on customer success became apparent that you need to deal with disparate silos within the company, especially if you have different products you’re going to market and sell.

“This causes a lot of confusion when you’re talking to a customer, she warns, before announcing any price increase, changing business agreements or developing new packaging, these must be planned and thought out well.”

When she joined Lola.com, she points out that a year ago, they had a handful of customers; now, they have hundreds of customers and thousands of users. As that expansion happened, she asked Mike Volpe CEO of Lola, if she could have the CS team be a part of her marketing team.

Hopkins says, in order for the CSMs to be of great value, they need to have access to the website, content management systems, email support, to drive meaningful customer engagement.

“I felt that’s the only way for CSMs to be effectively managing their role is to be part of the marketing team. If CS is part of another team in the organization, they wouldn’t know what they didn’t know.”

So, being part of the marketing team, everybody pitches the same: from the content team, marketing operations, the website team, so in everything we do, “is focused on making customers successful”.

Since we are a startup and evolving, everything we’re trying to do must have high value and tight alignment in everything we’re trying to solve for.

CS is always selling

Hopkins points out, we are lucky enough since our first CSM has over ten years of experience in the travel industry. Plus, he has a lot of sales experience, and he was originally part of the Lola sales organization. Our second CSM also came from a sales organization, and it is a good way to show (or attest) that CS is always selling.

When it comes to renewal, upgrade, or whatever you’re trying to do with the product, you’re always selling and reminding that customers they made the right decision in buying Lola. It is a different sales process when you’re selling them directly from going to X to Y. But when they’re part of your organization you remind them that they have made the best possible decision.

Our focus right now Hopkins notes, “is more on onboarding and being able to show the time to value, as quickly as possible”. Since we have hundreds of customers now, we’re trying to automate this functionality without losing the personal touch or personal aspect of who we are.

She continues, I needed team members, that are not going to drill down or to solving every customer’s issue or concern but to be able to take that information, amplify it and report it back to the engineering team so that the gap between the product itself and the expectations set by the customers are closely aligned.

What’s the stake of investing in the CS?

Many software companies, depending on how old the company may be, have a different approach to how they serve their customer base.

Some of the many things to consider when understanding customer’s objectives and their possible outcomes:

1. Where are your customers in their customer cycle?
2. The maturity of your product and its complexity.
3. What exactly are you trying to do to make the customer successful?
4. How could you help your customers in terms of communicating with their end-users?
5. What would you like your customers to see or achieve?
6. What kind of product upgrades would they like?
7. What’s a feature that’s missing?
8. What are the things you’re hearing (and learning) from your customers?

If you look at Toast, for example, a point of sale solution for restaurants and e-commerce, they have over 600 people on their CS teams and the reason they do, they’re trying to make the restaurants successful by teaching them about sales, marketing techniques, not just the use of their software. They have a lot of methodologies to touch their customers.

The bottom line is providing customers with a well-rounded experience and helping them NOT only when they need us the most, but in collaborating with them in an effort to make the product and service better overall.

Customer Marketing at today’s business realm

In a newer organization, when you start looking at the segmentation of your customers, think of your customers as your employees. Remember, your employees are your most important audience. They are the core of everything you do. If you don’t communicate effectively with your employees, then your customers themselves are not going to get the same message.

Hopkins points out, work at the very core of your organization, who you are as the company has to start at the core as a business. It is predicated on where you are in the growth of your company. If done right, you will get referrals, testimonials, and reviews, and your customers will help you build your community.

Similarly, Hopkins observed that many customer success organizations are embedded in customer support. She says that is not the right place for that. Tech support is entirely different functions with Customer Success.

Hopkins says, CS is the combination of all things in your company – it is a little bit of sales, marketing, product support, and professional services. Why, because you’re trying to show (or deliver) high-value outcomes and product value in every phase of the customer’s journey.

Hence, these roles are woven together – not a separate identity.

CS as a competitive differentiator?

Yes, but you have to make sure that you have the right team put together. And this team must ensure that they can show the time to value early on and delight customers at every touchpoint.

Remember, satisfied customers are more than willing to give you reference accounts.

It is certainly a growth tool. In the SaaS business – the only way you’re going to grow is reducing churn, not just adding new logos.

Hopkins pointed out, “scaling growth is about setting the right expectations and proving the ROI by demonstrating the product value throughout the relationship, and reviewing progress regularly”.

Thanks for taking the time reading this interview. If you’re planning or wanting to get new insights into developing or improving your CS programs, I wrote my first book in CS for that purpose. It is available on Amazon and it is up for grabs!. I appreciate the support for sharing this interview.

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