A CS Revolution
The Customer Success function is in rapid evolution – but is it the ‘revolution’ of all customer-facing roles that’s needed?
Attempts at elevating Customer Experience frequently fall short of what customers really value. Advances often take the form of additional technical product features, or achievement of better performance against service metrics. These help, but as your customer base grows, their demands and expectations change. Many providers make changes without the compass of strategic vision or roadmap based on a deeper understanding of their current and future customers.
Customers are evolving at a faster pace than service providers. As soon as a system is put in place to tackle a particular customer desire, . An even more pressing concern is that currently, customers simply don’t want to buy the way many Sales organizations sell. Increasingly sophisticated buyers feel dissatisfied by one-dimensional value propositions, and leave them for more nuanced offerings.
The solution is simple, but harsh. If providers can’t keep up with the pace of business, then they will fall by the wayside, dying a slow death by churn. The result is a reduction of direct suppliers to those who earn the right to do business. If you can’t play this way, you may have to connect via partners who can – and that changes your business model and can affect your bottom line. Another pressing concern is that Sales cycle compression from later engagement affords little time to understand the customer’s business and unearth the origins of their need. Thus, you’re always playing catch-up, trying to find the solutions to their problems, and make sure you’re on the cutting edge before your competitors.
A Changing of the Guard
Another challenge that can arise is a lack of transparency. Within your company, customers can get overwhelmed by a changing of the guard – they often don”t know who they’re supposed to speak with. Are they supposed to be interfacing with Account Managers, the Sales team, Support, or CSMs? Confusion about which team does what, when, and with whom, can make them frustrated if they’re looking to simply get help with your product. This confusion starts in-house – not having clear idea of how customer facing teams plan, organize, deploy, deliver, coordinate and review – together – and communicate this to the customer can be fatal.
Furthermore, it’s critical to segment and address markets in a way that builds business potential, doesn’t just facilitate coverage models for existing revenues. Over time, the result of misalignment with customer business cycles and sentiments opens opportunity gaps! Worse, since your customer’s business is dynamic, it won’t stop and wait for you to catch up. If your solution solves a problem today, your customers will soon have more pressing or different issues. Then new gaps open up, and filling these gaps isn’t easy. Certainly not as easy as passing the problem over to the Customer Success team, whose entire job is to keep up with the customer.
Customer Success Strategy
This goes to the heart of how customer facing groups are chartered, structured, organized and deployed. It questions whether CEOs and executive teams, as leaders of existing silos, are willing to plan with a clear vision and whether they will lead the change to get it done.
It can mean architecting new engagement models, and in turn, reporting lines and roles. It means new offerings to fill immediate and new opportunity gaps. Traditional silos and business mechanisms need to be closer aligned, and diverse groups integrated.
These are tough conversations, but companies have much to gain. Change will happen everywhere, from Sales, which will become more of a consulting role, to Customer Success, which becomes a function that envelops customer engagement.
What’s the Structure?
Certainly, it means reengineering the activities of customer-facing functions to become proactive and aligned, able to lead and facilitate the customer through the lifecycle, in which the result is the customer’s desired business outcome. The good news is customers will pay more to get things that truly deliver value for their business, if they deliver an advantage in addressing their own customers, rather than just cutting costs.
Filling opportunity gaps builds potential for new offerings, upsells and cross-sells. However, without proactive engagement that’s focused on providing specific outcomes, you risk not seeing them. When is the last time your customer-facing groups met together to plan customer engagement strategies, rather than just rallying tactically to solve a red account issue?
Your solutions address the reason your customer bought – but now it’s history. When they ask “What else can your solution/s do?”, your engagement has to hit the moving target of Customer Success as both your businesses grow and change.
Without keeping pace, companies will face challenges to simply ‘hold ground’ when competitors revolutionize their operations! Customer Success has the opportunity to lead and drive the strategy – and it’s time to mobilize.
Mike Roberts is Managing Director of Xaasegy.com, a strategy consulting firm. Previously, he spent five years in executive management with high-growth SaaS companies, including Chief Customer Officer at CallidusCloud (Nasdaq: CALD), 6 years in management consulting to software and technology firms, and 10 years in enterprise sales leadership roles with Sun Microsystems, including to global level.