In today’s ever-accelerating digital world, most brands know that winning the battle for customers depends on exceptional customer experience (CX).
A relatively new type of effort called customer success (CS) — particularly prevalent in the B2B tech sector — brings a set of parallel tactics that CX leaders in any market should pay attention to.
Whereas CX focuses on designing and orchestrating the perceptions that customers have of a company across all interactions, CS concentrates on ensuring that existing customers receive continued value from a company’s products and services.
Siloed Approaches Are Less Effective
Though the benefits, aims and responsibilities largely overlap, CX and CS functions as currently practiced often remain siloed: Post-sale CS responsibilities are undertaken by inside sales specialists or account managers, while presale CX initiatives — which take a more holistic view — are undertaken by the marketing and/or service side of the business. This is a mistake, since each has strengths that can heighten that other’s efficacy. Companies should seek to unite their CS and CX efforts in the service of customers.
B2B tech giants and innovative startups know that in the age of software as a service and subscription-pricing models — a world where every company is a tech company — it’s just as important to ensure that existing customers succeed as it is to acquire new customers. For more traditional organizations that aren’t as focused on customer retention, unifying CS and CX is a must if they want to stay competitive in today’s digital world.
It’s always riskier to sign a customer if you don’t know whether you can deliver the desired outcomes.
6 Ways to Unify Customer Experience and Customer Success
Achieving maturity when it comes to unifying CX and CS requires a companywide, customer-centric mindset shift: removing CX and CS from siloed departments, creating cross-functional program and, finally, reimagining the company culture.
To do that, CX and CS leaders must learn from one another by identifying what CX can gain from working with CS, and vice versa. There are six ways to make that happen: three ways that CX can benefit from CS, and three ways CS can benefit from CX.
What CX Can Gain From CS
1. Focus on the part of the customer life cycle that drives a lion’s share of CX.
CX professionals stuck on presale big-picture thinking often struggle to connect with their organizations’ products, operations, services and strategies. If they could break away from that mindset, they could learn a lot about delivering better customer experiences by absorbing what CS professionals are doing with individual existing customers.
2. Connect to Financial Drivers
CX professionals have historically had a hard time selling executives on the return on investment their initiatives can deliver. A CS team, which focuses on financial outcomes (i.e. organic revenue growth and customer retention), can offer CX professionals insight into the customer’s financial models and drivers.
3. Take a data-driven approach to customer health
In low-maturity contexts, CX professionals tend to be research-oriented — they listen to and interpret customer feedback to define and refine a CX vision. If they adopted CS’s approach of analyzing the behavior of existing customers, they could flesh out that vision by learning not just from what customers say, but also from what they do.
What CS Can Gain From CX
1. Adopt an outside-in perspective and tools to understand customer needs
Low-maturity CS professionals are often working in account management or inside sales — that is, they’re focused on individual customers and are often unaware of how CS delivers on the brand promise on a larger scale. By working with CX teams — and using their customer personas, journeys and mapping tools — they could see customers’ holistic experiences with the organization and thus better understand their needs.
2. Use governance to drive insights into action across the company
Early-stage CS efforts tend to revolve around reacting to customer or client problems, rather than focusing on driving change to prevent problems from happening in the first place. To fix that, CS teams could tap into the governance mechanisms that seasoned CX experts set up to orchestrate the end-to-end client journey. When done well, journey-based governing mechanisms prioritize organizational investments across organizational silos based on impacts to customers.
3. Intentionally design experiences
Because they are often focused on more individualized financial outcomes, CS professionals tend to shield clients from broken journeys rather than fixing those journeys. If they understood how CX intentionally designs experiences around customer journeys, they could drive more effective operations.
Compete With Disruptors
Outside the B2B tech world, businesses have slowly begun to see the benefits of unifying CX and CS.
For example, one of my firm’s clients, an automotive services company, recently applied CX capabilities to its enterprise-wide CS organization in order to bring greater discipline to its client feedback processes. It went from using three different enterprise feedback tools and a variety metrics and having a CS presence in less than half its business units, to a newly defined, consistent experience across more than a dozen business units. The company rightly knew that if it proactively designed better customer experiences, it would drive brand advocacy, retention and cross-selling that would benefit the entire organization.
As that example shows, moving to a more mature, symbiotic relationship between CX and CS won’t just make your customers happy — it’ll ensure that in the digital era, your business can compete with disruptors within your industry and outside of your industry. By partnering more closely, the two groups will build a customer-centric culture, improve retention and grow revenue and loyalty.
Paul Hagen is a senior principal with West Monroe Partners in San Francisco where he heads the firm’s customer experience and innovation strategy. He is an experienced strategy, customer experience, and marketing professional with over 20 years of market research, human-centered design, technology and digital strategy, facilitation and project management experience and a track record for creating solutions that enable business goals through innovative technology and systems.