Customer Success and Product: A Vital Partnership

I grew up watching the Karate Kid. One of my favorite movies. In this movie, the main character, Daniel, immediately becomes enemies with Johnny after a misunderstanding and scuffle on the beach. This rivalry continues until the end of the movie where they face-off in the final championship match. Over 30 years later, they are reunited in the new Netflix series, Cobra Kai.

The rivalry is far from over.

After a new series of misunderstandings, poor communication, and actions based on preconceived notions, Daniel and Johnny find themselves competing, once again, in the ring. This time as rival coaches.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to the story here (I recommend watching Cobra Kai) but my point in sharing this is that you have two boys, now men, who both want the same thing: To be great at what they do.

Both had the same goal and both could have easily worked together to make their dreams a reality. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get past petty fights and minor differences.


I see some similarities in the relationship between Daniel and Johnny and the relationship between Customer Success and the Product team.

We both are working towards the same common goal: to better serve our customers.

While Customer Success is on the frontlines communicating with customers daily, the product team is working behind the scenes to ensure our customers have a seamless experience using our product. Both teams help mitigate risk and ensure a quality customer experience.

So what does this mean for Customer Success Managers like you and me?

First off, it means that we need to be mindful that the product team has the same goal that we do. They are here to serve our customers. They are aware of most the product issues. And the ones they are not aware of, it’s our job to present those issues to them. But it’s through this communication process where words can be misconstrued, tone can be read wrong, and misunderstandings can occur.

As a CSM, you need to have a strategy when it comes to presenting product issues to your product team. Megan Bowen, Chief Customer Officer at Refine Labs, says it best.

“My rule of thumb for working with product teams – DO NOT ask them to build new specific features – rather identify the biggest pain points of the customer and bring them the biggest friction points or pain points with data to back up how many customers are impacted. Then, let product do their job to identify the right solution to the biggest customer pain points.”

You have a job to do and so do they. Finding ways, like Megan pointed out, to make their job easier will greatly impact the relationship you have with them. Showing the “Why” behind a product request through any kind of data will help the product understand the need for it.

Krista Roberts, Enterprise CSM at IntelliShift, also added her two cents based on her experience.

“Regular communication with Product is key! Inviting them to attend customer calls, EBR’s and other times where they can hear first hand how customers are using the product, want to use the product and how our product is and can solve their business challenges is so helpful.”

Just like how sales and marketing should work closely, CS and Product should be working closely and meeting regularly. Knowing how your customers are performing and adopting the software is vital information for both of you to know. Identifying usage gaps and pain points can help both teams excel in their individual jobs as well as grow together to help the overall growth of the company.

In one of the most recent episodes of the Women in Customer Success Podcast, Katrina Coakley shared her experience as a CSM and how she has built good relationships with her respected product teams. She explains that how important is for anyone involved in building out the UX/UI of the product to involve representatives in the company who work with the customers face to face. Customer-facing reps can help identify and avoid certain pitfalls they know their customers have the potential to experience.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

One last word of advice to my fellow front-line CSM’s; just remember that our fellow product specialists are here to do their job just like we are. Sometimes misunderstandings occur and there might be some frustration. I’ve been there. But consistent communication (in person, if possible) where ideas are shared and pain points are identified will make a huge difference for you and your customers.

Maybe send them some donuts sometime to show your appreciation. They’ll like you a lot more. Trust me, it works.

If you’re interested in technology that helps product and CS teams communicate effectively, check out https://productsignals.com/

Driving Success from High-touch Accounts

Author: Maria Jose Villanueva, CSM at Ultimate Kronos Group and Founder of Customer Success Montreal

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mariajosevillanueva/

Customer Success Montreal: https://cs-mtl.com/

As a CSM, you have been given a book of business that consists of mostly Enterprise accounts, with the highest ARR contract value.

It is now in your hands to foster and grow them.

In this case, let’s say you have the right engagement model in place for them. So now, it’s imperative that you develop a plan and have the right approach in mind. These are the 4 things that I have implemented in my day to day that have helped bring value to my high-touch customers.

Create and Strategize a Joint Success Plan

Everything starts with understanding your customers as deeply as you can.

What business outcomes do you need to see them achieve to know that they are successful with your product? How are you measuring that?

Creating a Success Plan for each of your customers will help you have a clear definition of success and have them also commit and sign off on it. Once you have established the plan, the next step is to work in collaboration with your customer on outlining, developing, and prioritizing key activities that will drive your customer closer to their goals.

The Success Plan will help you ensure key Customer Success engagement activities will take place, and that they are aligned without any conflict. One thing this can do is provide future value for EBRs. These are key to help you present what your customer have achieved, their progress so far, and their overall experience with your product.

Another key activity is having a joint roadmap planning exercise with your customer. This will allow for greater alignment with other technology platforms and provide better long term plans. 

I still remember the first time I presented these exercises to one of my Enterprise customers. They were very enthusiastic in their feedback:

“ I wish all our vendors would do the same! This has helped us keep track of all our initiatives. Thank you!”  

Having a Success Plan will help you set mutual goals with your customers and give you a roadmap on how to achieve those goals. 

Build Internal and External Stakeholder Relationships

Establishing cross-functional communication will be imperative for you as a CSM. It will play a crucial role in creating a top-notch customer experience for your Enterprise customers. It will empower you to provide product knowledge, quicker customer updates, and generate more in depth insight about your customers.

By doing this, you will become your customer’s advocate and the voice for your customer inside your organization. 

When it comes to building the relationship with your external stakeholders you should always aim to take the role of a strategic advisor verses a tactical one. Thinking together with your customer by helping them solve critical problems with your product can elevate the current and future conversations you have with them.

Always have a value-driven discussion with your key executive contacts at every interaction.

Having these value-driven discussions will be key in helping your customer move closer to their desired outcomes. This isn’t always easy since putting out fires may disrupt you delivering value.

So how do you prepare for it? 

Ensure you are always prepared for every single call you have with your customer. Do your due diligence! Research the project at hand, ensure you have the right resources, and remind yourself of what the desired outcome is for the customer.

This is al important information to have, otherwise, you won’t be able to add any value and you’ll miss a great opportunity. Make it an habit to ask yourself these key questions on your on-going cadence meetings with your customer: 

How can my product/service bring more value to my customer?

How is my customer tracking against their desired outcomes?

How can I help them drive product adoption?

When it comes to leveraging digital engagement for certain value-driven activities, such as new feature announcements, you might need to make sure you follow up with them if they need training that focuses more on their relevant business case.

Be a Problem Solver and Knowledge Advisor

Help your customer by constantly sharing best practices for your product or service. By providing best ways to use your product and connecting them to the right company resource, you become a trusted partner.

Be present beyond the initial period of onboarding.  When you customer is having a critical escalation, it’s an excellent opportunity to build trust as you will find ways to help your customer with their issue at hand. These situations often position you in way that help your customers see you as their knowledge advisor.

Brainstorm on leading change management initiatives with them and find creative ways to solve their problems. Don’t shy away from these conversations. 


I hope these key points help you and that at some point along your journey as a CSM, you’ll cross a threshold where you’ll say to yourself, “Bring it on! I can take on any Enterprise account and there isn’t a customer situation that I can’t handle!”

Keep in mind that your relationship with your enterprise customer will be a continuous evolution process. It’s challenging but rewarding in the end.

About The Author

Maria Jose is an experienced business and Customer Success professional with 10 + years of experience in SaaS technology industries. In her current role with UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), Maria Jose is responsible for working closely with Enterprise customers as their Customer Success Manager, focusing on driving their long-term success with their solution and building relationships. She is the founder of CS-MTL, the first Customer Success Meetup group in Montreal, where she has hosted several Customer Success content-driven events contributing to the growth of the Montreal CS community.  She is also an active Mentor at CS Network Mentorloop program. 

3 Tips to Stay Ahead in The Customer Economy

We are living in the subscription economy. Or as I like to call it, the Customer Economy!

The ability to provide a great customer experience while delivering desired outcomes is the very essence of Customer Success. It’s also the foundation of every business that is striving to stay ahead in the Customer Economy.

As Dana Niv, Strategic Customer Success Manager at WalkMe says, “Today’s B2B customers feel empowered. They demand a whole new level of customer focus, expecting companies to know them personally, recognize their challenges, and cater to their needs.”

In other words, your customers know they have the power. It’s no longer a secret.

If you’re still with me, allow me to share three tips that I believe are essential to staying ahead in the Customer Economy.

Customer Success is a Company Mindset, not just a Department

In a recent interview, Dan Steinman talked about the exciting and promising future of Customer Success. He talked about how important it is for the Product team and the Customer Success team to be on the same page.

“The only real scalable thing in your company is your product.” He said, “If you’re going to scale Customer Success, it has to start by doing things within your product. Nothing is as impactful than delivering on something in your product that makes a difference with regards to user adoption and clear ROI.”

When Product Success and Customer Success come together, world’s collide. In a great and scalable way!

Dan went on to talk about the relationship between sales and CS.

“If Customer Success is not a slide in your sales deck, you’re not doing it well enough.”

I’ll give you a minute to take that in…

Prospects these days aren’t only thinking about your product and what it can do for them. They are also thinking about what your company can provide as far as service and client experience. This can only be accomplished well if the CS team is on the same page with sales, product, marketing, and other departments.

The customer journey involves all departments to some extent. Make sure all of them know what they need to do to provide a legendary experience.

Full interview can be found here:

Track the Health and Success of your Customers

One of my favorite books on CS is The Startup’s Guide to Customer Success by Jennifer Chiang. You can’t find a more detailed book regarding what you need to do to become a successful startup.

In the book she quotes Jeff Cann, Senior Director of Client Experience at Sysomos. Here is what he had to say about tracking customer success metrics:

“There is an incredible amount to learn from customers outside of that 1:1 opportunity that you have a responsibility to know. Product usage behaviors, areas of your application customers may have challenges with, NPS, the frequency of support requests. All of this information is critical to understanding the health and success of your customers and you owe it to them to be diligent with how you not only learn from it but act on it.”

Understanding the health and success of your customers is vital. Some metrics are quantitative and others are qualitative. Both are important when determining how your customer is performing with your product or service.

ClientSuccess goes into detail about these metrics and how you can best use them. See what they have to say here: https://www.clientsuccess.com/blog/6-metrics-help-calculate-customers-health-successscore/

Be Ready and Willing to Adapt

As JFK said, “Ask not what your customer can do for you, ask what you and your product can do for your customer!”

I may have misquoted slightly but you get the idea.

Customers understand that the software and technology landscape is constantly changing and evolving. If they get the feeling that your company isn’t one step ahead of the game and not willing to adapt, they will shop around for a new vendor.

One of the first career lessons I learned is when I was still in college. I was working for the student housing office and they were rolling out a lot of new policies and initiatives. Many of these initiatives didn’t make a lot of sense to me. So I asked my direct manager why we were doing all of this extra work that, to me, just added a lot of unnecessary tasks for us.

He told me that any business that isn’t constantly innovating is not moving forward. He explained how vital it is, even for a student housing office for a university, to always be thinking of ways to innovate and adapt to inevitable changes. This lesson has stuck with me ever since.

Irit Eizips, CEO and CCO of CSM Practice, spoke with Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, about the importance of Customer Success in today’s business ecosystem. Listen to their conversation here.

What are your thoughts? In today’s customer-centric world, what are some ways businesses can stay ahead and really ensure their putting their customers first?

2020: A Year in Review for Customer Success

“Happy New Year” will take on a whole new meaning when we ring in 2021.

If this blog withstands the test of time and someone is reading this who hasn’t heard about 2020, go ask your grandparents to tell you the stories.

2020 has been a ride. And not one of those fun rides you go on at Disneyland or Six Flags. It’s been more like the rickety, rusty rides you see at a local carnival that are assembled by a hungover 20-something with weed in his back pocket.

So while it’s been one of the hardest years many of us have gone through, there have been many highlights and things that have made this year memorable in a good way.

For Customer Success, this year has been one for the books.

Here are a few ways 2020 has positively impacted the Customer Success Community. These are simply my observations. Feel free to add your own observations in the comments!

The Rise of Online Communities

According to Kantar Profiles, 1 in 5 people are turning to online communities for stress management in 2020.

With online communities becoming more common, thanks to lockdowns and quarantine, the CS community has been a leader in creating and participating in these communities. Gain Grow Retain, Product-led Growth Hub, and RevGenius are a few examples of spaces where CS professionals have made their mark, grown in their presence, and collaborated with hundreds of other online professionals.

Online communities for business professionals will continue to grow and Customer Success will continue to be at the forefront of the growth.

The Emphasis on Customer Experience

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The companies that make Customer Experience a priority, will win in the end.

More companies have discovered this in 2020. Many have doubled down on their efforts to take care of their customers and provide a legendary customer experience.

Cisco and GitLab are great examples of this.

Cisco has implemented a Customer Experience initiative that has helped their customers deliver extraordinary experiences to their own customers. Today, they have more than 27,000 people around the world working daily with customers and partners to build solutions that delight and inspire.

GitLab has created, what I believe to be, a model Customer Journey Map that should be duplicated and tailored to every other organization. They created a Customer Success vision and put that vision to work through a well-thought-out journey map. Their goal with this customer journey is to “deliver faster time-to-value and customer-specific business outcomes with a world class customer experience, leveraging the full capabilities of the GitLab application.”

Follow these links to learn more about how these two organizations took 2020 by the horns:

https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/customer-success/vision/

https://blogs.cisco.com/customerexperience/intro

Many frontline CSM’s and CS leaders learned that putting their customers first was the best solution for driving success forward. Not only for their customers but also for them and the company they work for.

This podcast episode is full of CS professionals sharing their wins and success stories from 2020.

The Strength of the CS Community

I got my first official CS job in 2018. I knew right away that I was on a great career path.

Around mid-2019, I started getting more involved in the community on LinkedIn. It was great connecting with other like-minded professionals and reading their CS-related content.

Well, we all know what happened around the beginning of 2020. With all the uncertainty and stress that it brought, the Customer Success community became stronger and bigger.

Online communities like Gain Grow Retain and Success Chain started popping up and gaining new members on daily basis. People who had gotten laid off and wanted to start a new career in Customer Success were welcomed with open arms. CS job boards via LinkedIn and Slack were created. CS professionals were connecting 1 on 1 via Zoom to collaborate, network, and learn from one another in record numbers. Many of these Zoom conversations were posted on LinkedIn if one or both of the participants were looking for a job.

The more CS professionals I connected with, the stronger my network became and the more inspiring my LinkedIn feed would become.

Being a part of all this confirmed to me that I am part of the best professional community there is.

To see more of the progress CS has made in 2020, download this free report from TSIA: https://www.tsia.com/resources/the-state-of-customer-success-2020

How to Make the Most out of Your Executive Business Review

Have you ever had to sit through a presentation when the presenter was basically telling you how amazing they are?

If you answered “Yes” to that, you’ve either sat through a Tony Robbins seminar or a crappy Executive Business Review.

In the Customer Success world, an Executive Business Review can take on a few different titles. The two most common being EBR and QBR (Quarterly Business Review). No matter how often it occurs, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to meet with executives and have a dialogue with them about their progress and experience with your product or service. Every one of your customers should receive some version of an EBR at least once a year.

I recently posted on LinkedIn and asked the CS community how they get the most out of their EBR’s.

The advice did not disappoint.

Since I value the advice of these individuals over my own, I’ll share what they had to say rather than ramble on with my opinions and advice!

There are some critical components to EBRs that I’ve found beneficial and add great value to customers.

First, make sure you understand what your customer’s want to get out of their EBRs. If you don’t know [and meet] their expectations, you won’t add value.

Second, don’t tell them what they already know or read a bunch of metrics. Provide insights, thought leadership, and guidance. Be strategic. Those are some of the qualities of a Trusted Advisor.

Third, keep your EBR to a reasonable time and keep the information at a high (executive) level. Many people confuse EBRs with QBRs. They’re not the same. Avoid getting into the weeds on anything unless your customer takes you there. Customer executives are busy people and they want to get in, get what they need, and get out.

Fourth, never throw your day-to-day contact under the bus to their leaders in an EBR. In fact, you can solicit your D-T-D contact’s help in preparing for the EBR.

Finally, follow up your EBR with a warm thank you. Let them know that you appreciated their time and engagement, and ask whether your customer received value from the meeting.

David Ellin, Chief Customer Officer at Centric Leadership Strategies

Setting expectations for the EBR to be prepared by both customer and supplier as part of the partnership commitment. This is key for transparency on performance goals and achievement. Celebrate wins and correct gaps with an action plan with clear responsibilities for both supplier and customer.

Sue Nabeth Moore, Founder of Success Chain and Success Track

I recall my most successful series of EBRs were really a progression of story telling. Of walking the customer through their success and positioning my key contact as the star of the show. It resulted in an expansion deal and his promotion.

Peter Armaly, Senior Director of CS Enablement at Oracle

Always have a new project for the client to commit to as part of the EBR. Continuous engagement is key.

Emilia D’Anzica, Founder and CEO at GrowthMolecules

The EBR is a time to highlight not only what the partnership has accomplished to date but also brag a little on our main point of contact with the customer. This is a great time to shine the light on the hard work they are doing with setting and working towards goals. This is actually how I often sell the idea of an EBR as often they are nervous or put off by the idea of a member of their SLT joining a call. But when you tell them that it is all about them and how awesome they are it usually helps to ease their mind! Getting that buy-in is so key to a successful meeting.

Krista Roberts, Enterprise Customer Success Manager at IntelliShift

Another great resource is a recent video created by Rick Adams, CEO and Founder of Practical CSM. In this video, he talks about the essential practices for any effective business review. I like his emphasis on the word “business”. EBR’s should not focus on upselling or technicalities. They should focus on business and outcomes.

At the end of the day, an effective EBR/QBR/BR helps the customer understand the value they are getting from you. Plain and simple.

What do you do in your EBR’s to prove your value?

Additional Resources

Networking Your Way into Customer Success

This is a bit different than my usual posts.

Part of what I hope to accomplish with this site is help as many people as I can break into CS and make an impact.

The best part about the Customer Success community is that we’re all people-people (is that the correct grammar??) We love talking with others and we build one another up. There’s no shortage of success in the CS space and we all understand that.

So, you’re definitely in the right place if you want a career path that’s not only fulfilling but also filled with like-minded individuals that want to see you succeed. This is starting to sound like an MLM pitch but you get what I’m saying right? Cool. Let’s move on to who you should be connecting with.

There’s an embarrassment of riches on LinkedIn of CS professionals that are constantly posting great content. Here is a list of just a few that you should be connecting with today:

  • Jared Orr 😉
  • Irit Eizips
  • Megan Bowen
  • Emilia D’Anzica
  • Ali Topaz
  • Rasika Kelker
  • Kevin Leonor
  • Brian Hartley
  • Queen Joseph
  • Alex Farmer
  • Jim Buscaglio
  • Rick Adams
  • Ronni Gaun
  • Sue Nabeth Moore
  • David Ellin
  • Amarachi Mary Ogueji
  • Kristi Faltorusso
  • Jay Nathan
  • Jeff Breunsbach
  • Maranda Dziekonski
  • Diana De Jesus

Now that you’ve started building up your CS network on LinkedIn, it’s time to start engaging.

Once I’ve connected with another professional on LinkedIn, here is the 3 step process I have followed that has landed me a 1 on 1 meeting with almost everyone on the list above:

  1. I send them a short (2 to 3 sentence) personal message. Here is an example of what I usually send.

It’s short and to the point. I would say I get about a 50% response rate with this. Usually, it’s a simple, “Thanks, Jared. Likewise!” And that’s good considering most of these people I connect with are Director or VP level. They don’t have time to engage with simple folk like me ;D

2. After we connect, I engage with them on the content that they share and post.

Rule of Thumb: The people who consistently post on LinkedIn are the ones that will be more open to meet with you.

If they post something, don’t just reply with “Thanks for sharing!” of “Love this. Great tips!”

Add something to the post. Your own insight, a personal experience that relates to the post, or something of value. Heck, ask them a question about what they posted. Ask them to elaborate or give more info because you’re interested!

Also, post your own content and tag them in it! For example, I listened to a podcast episode and the interviewee was Maranda Dziekonski (in the above list). I posted about what I learned from the podcast, tagged her in the post, and she responded! This opened up an opportunity for me to engage with her further and we ended up having a great 1 on 1 via Zoom. Here is what I posted.

And don’t be nervous about engaging with someone with a lot more experience than you. They all used to be right where you and I are. They learned just like we did and gained their experience just like we are doing now.

Remember, luck favors the bold!

3. And lastly, like I did with Maranda, after I engage with them a few times, I send them a message asking them for a 1 on 1. Usually, it looks something like this.

Having these 1 on 1’s has been essential for my progression. It has given me a more meaningful and engaging network, provided me with great career advice, given me mentors, and opened the doors to future opportunities.

Here are some best practices for your next 1 on 1:

  • Keep it 30 minutes or less. These people are busy. Respect their time.
  • Always ask if they have a hard stop at the 30 minute mark. This shows that you respect their time.
  • Run through their LinkedIn profile before the call
  • Have 2 or 3 questions prepared for them. Be creative with this.
  • Thank them graciously for their time when the call ends and afterwards with a quick LinkedIn message.

And don’t forget to follow up on things you may have discussed. For example, one person I had a 1 on 1 with was working on a CS product. I have in my notes to reach out to him in a month or two just to follow up on how that’s going.

These simple things make a world of difference and will truly set you apart from the rest of the crowd.

If you want some great tips on how to optimize your LinkedIn brand and reach an even larger audience, I highly recommend these resources:

Providing a Legendary Customer Experience

This is a piggy-back off my previous blog post Customer Success vs Customer Experience. I recommend reading that before diving into this post.

Personally, I live life by very few rules. One of these rules, thanks to my favorite TV character, Barney Stinson, is to be “Legen … wait for it … DARY!”

Be Legendary.

To be legendary is to make a lasting impact on those you come in contact with. To be legendary is to not do anything half way but to fully commit to your dreams, goals, and ambitions.

Now to tie that into the point of this blog post: to provide a legendary customer experience is to treat every customer as if they are your first. You commit to them. You do everything you can to help them see long-term value in your product or service. You see them as the key to generating more customers and long-term growth for your organization.

So how do we get to this point will all of our customers?

Well, it all starts internally within our organization. One of the best interviews on Customer Experience is on The Relentless podcast.

Customer Experience Expert, Liliana Petrova, is interviewed and talks about the importance of “starting from the top” when creating your customer experience. “It starts with culture. This is the only thing that allows you to scale.” She says. Regarding CEO’s, if they can be engaged with their employees and make them feel valued and happy, then the employees will have a greater desire to make their customers happy.

“It starts with your connection with your team and building that trust. And they will become even better versions of you, who knows?!”

She also emphasizes the importance of having a vision for your customers. Otherwise known as a customer journey. A quality customer journey has touchpoints and each of those touchpoints needs to be constantly evaluated to ensure the customer is getting the best experience throughout their lifecycle.

Listen to the full episode here:

Check out Liliana’s website: https://thepetrovaexperience.com/

I grew up in McKinney, Texas — a suburb of Dallas. There was a Papa Murphy’s pizza store not too far from my house. Since my family is of Italian descent, we love pizza. Like a lot. We would go to Papa Murphy’s more times than I care to admit.

For those that are not aware of this particular pizza chain, it’s “Take and Bake”. Meaning, they put the pizza together with fresh ingredients, and then you take it home and bake it.

Every time we would go into this place, the incredible aroma of fresh pizza dough and toppings filled the air. The workers were lined up at the assembly line with smiles on their faces ready to put the pizzas together. The owner and manager were always warm and welcoming. The service was quick, the prices were reasonable, and the product was always exceptional.

Well, my senior year of high school, I got a job at this Papa Murphy’s store and learned very quickly why their customer experience was the way it was.

The owner and manager ran a tight ship and expected the employees to deliver exceptional service. And at the same time, treated us all with the same respect they expected us to deliver to every single one of our customers.

They also trained us well enough so we knew what duties we had to do all hours of the day in order to be prepared to deliver a legendary customer experience. Such tasks like keeping up with toppings and ensuring they are well stocked, baking and cutting pizza dough, cleaning the assembly line and floor, and ensuring the promotions and discounts were up to date and well advertised were some of the many duties they expected us to keep up with.

While I may have only been 17 at the time, I learned a very valuable lesson from David (the owner) and Karri (the manager). It’s the same lesson taught by Liliana Petrova.

Happy employees and a well-thought-out customer journey are exactly what every organization needs (whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a local pizza chain) to scale and succeed. Doing this will lead you to make a long-lasting impact on your customers. Or in other words, a legendary impact!

In other words…

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer [journey] a little bit better.”

jeff bezos

Voice of the Customer: A Strategy You Need

The customer may not always be ‘right’ but they are always the most important.

It’s easy to say that the customer is important to your organization. There are many companies that say that but, let’s be honest, we all know a few that could use a little help with that statement.

One of the most important ways a company can demonstrate their desire to put their customers first is to implement a customer-feedback program.

Otherwise known as Voice of the Customer (VoC).

Voice of the Customer (VoC) is a strategy that, if implemented, can be the ultimate customer feedback program for your company. It can generate real-time insight into your customer’s experiences.

“Companies use VoC to visualize the gap between customer expectations and their actual experience with the business.”

Hubspot

Implementing this can help any organization do the following:

  • Identify risk of churn early
  • Increase customer retention
  • Help identify ways to improve brand image
  • Know what product customizations need to be a priority
  • Improve the overall customer journey

The Aberdeen Group conducted a study entitled The Business Value of Building a Best-in-Class VoC Program. In this study they came to the conclusion that top performers using VoC best practices retain up to 87% of their client base and, as a result, enjoy nearly a 10-times greater year-over-year increase in annual company revenue.

See the full study here: http://meritdirectlistmanager.com/creative/aberdeen/10449-RR-VoC-business-value.pdf

A quality VoC program can take many different forms.

I might be a bit biased here but I currently work for a company that has this whole Customer Feedback thing figured out. Currently, we have three different methods our customers can reach us:

  1. A dedicated Customer Success Manager. Since we are a global company, we have 1 or 2 CSM’s for almost every region in order to give every customer a main point of contact.
  2. A 24/7 support line. This not only is great for our customers but also great for me. If I need some help answering a technical question, our support team is always on call and very quick to respond to employee and customer inquiries.
  3. A chat feature on our website. This is also a quick method our customers can use at anytime to get in contact with a company representative. Our product is virtual data rooms and we recently implemented this chat feature in each data room to make it easier for data room users to receive answers to their inquiries.

Every time a customer interacts with our support team via chat, we ask if they could rate their experience with the representative. Seen here.

We send the customer a similar inquiry for email conversations as well. This feedback is used to determine how well we are communicating with our customers and how they feel about the experience they are having with us. We also gather feedback data through exit interviews and NPS surveys that I, as their dedicated CSM, conduct.

To see how other companies are revolutionizing the way modern organizations are implementing VoC, check out this article: https://www.myfeelback.com/en/blog/top-brands-collect-customer-feedback

So whether you’re a start-up or seasoned organization looking to make some positive changes to your customers’ overall experience, I highly recommend implementing a quality VoC program.

As I like to say, Voice of the Customer isn’t just a buzzword, it’s a highly effective strategy.

Additional Resources

Start-ups: Creating Your Customer Journey

The Customer Journey. Like Americans and budgets, most business owners know they need one but few actually create one and implement it.

*Dave Ramsey has entered the chat*

The Customer Journey has evolved in recent years. Back in the day it mainly consisted of getting the customer interested in your product and selling it to them. Now, it involves all internal departments working together from the time your customer first hears about your product all the way through to when they are a happy and productive customer.

This can only be accomplished through consistent collaboration between sales, marketing, CS, support, product, and executives.

Salesforce recently explained in an article why every organization needs a Customer Journey Map and how to create one.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is redefining customer expectations every day, with the average consumer now using 10 channels to communicate with businesses. All these touchpoints create increasingly complex customer journeys, making it more difficult to always ensure a great customer experience. But customer experience is more important than ever and according to recent research from Salesforce:

80% of customers now consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.

69% of consumers want to talk with a company in real-time.

60% of customers in the UK expect the customer experience to be connected.

Read the full article here: https://www.salesforce.com/uk/blog/2016/03/customer-journey-mapping-explained.html

Now that I have your head spinning, let me let you in on a little secret that’s really not a secret at all: The companies that implement this the soonest will be the companies that win in the end.

Hence the title.

So, Ms. or Mr. Start-up owner, if you’ve read up to this point, you’re probably wondering how to best map out a quality customer journey. Well, the truth is, there is no one-size fits all for a successful journey map. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. Every start-up is different regardless of how similar your product or service is. Every client is different also.

The most successful journey maps ensure that the product can be tailored to meet the needs of each client. When needs are met, outcomes are achieved. When outcomes are achieved, customers becomes long-term and successful.

Like Jeff Bezos says, “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards.”

When mapping out your first customer journey, here are 3 questions I recommend asking yourself. I call this The 60/24/3 Rule:

  1. If I could put 100 of my niche customers in one place for 60 seconds, what would I want to say to them to get them interested in my product or service?
  2. If every new client had 24 hours to use my product or service before they could get a full refund, what would I do within those 24 hours to get them to sign on for another 3 months?
  3. If every client that signed on for 3 months could get a full refund after their term was done, what would I do within those first 3 months to ensure they see long-term value in my product or service?

Answering these questions will give you a pretty clear vision of how you want to attract your niche customers, what their first experience as a new customer will be like, and what you will do to consistently show them value.

How potential customers hear about you is vital. But the first experience they have as a new client and the 90 days following are the two most critical parts of your customer journey. These two components are what will help mitigate buyers remorse and affirm to the customer that they made the right choice by signing with you. This will ultimately help reduce churn and pave the way for a more loyal and happy client base.

Remember, each journey map is different depending on the product or service, and the individual needs of your clients. If you are part of a SaaS or Digital Marketing start-up, and are looking to construct your customer journey, I would love to connect.

Gainsight created a great video about the importance of journey maps and how to create them.

Feel free to reach out and we can collaborate on how to give your customers a great experience during their time with you.

Cheers

Additional Resources

The Customer Success Manager: Why the Hype?

The Customer Success Manager is the single most important role a company can hire for.

Now, if I were Bill Gates or Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank, you might have taken that first sentence a little more seriously.

Let me see if I can convince you. Stay with me.

The Customer Success Professional’s Handbook is a must-read for anyone wanting to get a deep dive into the impact CS can have on an organization. One page 4, it describes perfectly why the CSM role is so vital especially for the SaaS industry.

“Because of the current business landscape, the customer’s requirements have evolved. Customers expect outcomes, not just a completed transaction. Businesses have realized they must deliver value in a way that fulfills their product’s promise and meets clients’ expectations. Enter Customer Success! The CS function is the bridge between customer expectations, the experience they receive, and ultimately their retention. As a result, Customer Success is now one of the most significant contributors to company growth. In 2016, McKinsey & Company published a report that was titled “Grow Fast or Die Slow: Focusing on Customer Success to Drive Growth.” They concluded that ultimately the focus on customer success not only accelerates revenue growth but also creates a more efficient and effective go-to-market organization.”

Check out the full study here: https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/grow-fast-or-die-slow-focusing-on-customer-success-to-drive-growth#

Kellie Lucas says in her book, The Customer Success Pioneer “It is literally life or death for your business, if you are not fully and demonstrably committed to knowing and understanding your customer. Return on Investment (RoI) has been crowned as being king for your customer; this is absolutely a key objective. In a business economy where customers have the freedom of movement more than every before, the urgency for embracing Customer Success is a reality.”

She then goes on to quote Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, and a true pioneer for CS. He says, “Nothing is more important to Salesforce than customer success … And that’s why I believe being so committed to the customer is more important than it’s ever been … because it’s really this culture that’s driving us forward.”

Zendesk, a customer engagement software company based in Silicon Valley, weighed in on the importance of hiring CSM’s for your organization.

In a recent article, they shared this analogy, “Have you ever gone out to eat and were overwhelmed by the menu? And what you really want is someone to help you decide? That’s how I view [Customer] Success,” explains Delores Cooper, Customer Success Associate at Zendesk. “[We] look at the picture in its entirety; what will provide immediate gratification as well as long term stability. Success members accompany the customer on their journey and stick around for the entire lifecycle.”

Read the full article here: https://www.zendesk.com/blog/customer-success-manager/

There’s no other way to say it: Software companies are no longer living in the days where they could sell a product, make a profit, and not have to speak with the customer ever again unless for emergencies.

As SaaSX puts it, “SaaS companies have to keep customers happy to make a profit. Instead of selling a piece of software for a lump sum, you might sell a subscription to an app for a monthly fee. That means customers have to keep getting value out of your software in order to maintain their subscription. If your customers succeed with your product, they’ll keep using it, and your business will profit.”

Full article here: https://saasx.com/2020/04/08/the-importance-of-customer-success-in-saas-and-how-to-help-your-customers-succeed/

So there you have it. The need for a quality Customer Success team has never been more important especially for SaaS companies.

And if you’re a start-up, then jumping on this bandwagon can be the single more important decision you make. I’ll explain more in my next post.

Cheers!

Additional Resources