WEBINAR: “The Jasons take on Customer Success Leadership”

November 27, 2018 10:30am EST / 3:30pm GMT

Come join us for this unplugged conversation with the two leading Jasons in customer success. Jason Noble, a UK based visionary customer success executive and leader, and Jason Whitehead, a US based customer success and software adoption leader, discuss a variety of topics and issues of importance in the field of customer success.

This conversation will focus on global customer success leadership. We will examine a variety of challenges that customer success leaders need to address. We will also examine the qualities it takes to be an amazing leader of customer success and how you can grow customer success leadership talent.

Go to the registration page to sign up.

Customer operations? Tell me more.

It’s not that long ago that sales operations was a hot new topic, helping companies utilise their sales data better to drive more efficiency and better results in their sales processes. This expanded to a broader commercial operations function, to include marketing and to help track, process and manage leads, conversion rates, website analytics and more. All great but all only looking at the initial part of your customers’ journey – i.e. before your customers had engaged with you, adopted your services and were getting value from you.

Fast forward to now (or more a couple of years back) and we’re into the world of customer success and the need for businesses to have, as a core part of their corporate DNA, a customer centric way of working. Often this means having a customer success team or a few CSMs (customer success managers) but this is only the start. You need customer focused leadership, the right people, the right systems and the right tools – any one on their own isn’t sufficient.

As part of the right people being in place, a new role to consider is your customer operations analyst or manager (or team – depending on size). This may initially be part of a wider commercial operations team but it brings most value and ROI, when it’s a dedicated part of your customer success team.

Your customer operations team needs a solid but fairly narrow remit and needs to cover:

  • Customer data consistency
  • Customer data analysis
  • Customer success system
  • Customer data integration
  • Customer data reporting
  • Customer journey mapping

The customer success system piece is one where I’ve seen great success, in helping select, implement and manage the platform or platforms and tools that you’re using as part of your customer success programme and plan. And importantly their integration with other tools you’re using in your business, including your own product – for example to bring in product usage and product adoption data, as part of your customer 360 view.

Your customer 360 view should also include:

  • Customer health score information – how likely are they to renew or churn
  • Commercial information – e.g. monthly revenues, renewal dates and payment status
  • Customer risks – e.g. churn risk and overall business risk
  • Real time support data – from your support platform
  • License information – including additional services and products used

All of this comes from your customer data – a potentially untapped source of key business data. Your customer operations functions allows you to access and view all of this data in a customer focused way and shift your customer success management from being reactive to proactive to predictive (using the data to feed into trigger points that you’ve defined as part of your customer journey).

What does your customer operations function look like and do you know what insights there are in your customer data?

Who’s looking after your customers’ success?

What a great question to ask. Do you know the answer, and if not, who’s finding it out for you? And even more importantly, do you know what your customers need to achieve to be successful?

Often as business owners and leaders, we naturally need to be focused on our company’s success and how we evolve and grow our business, building new products and services and acquiring new customers. 

We’ve seen a shift in the last ten years to the new world of Customer Success and the consumerisation of business services, where our business customers’ expectations are driven by their experiences as consumers. This has been and continues to be a huge change and a very challenging one. I say ‘new world’ here, but it’s not new as in ‘we’ve never done it before’ – just in that we need a different (and new) approach today.

How do we provide the same levels of services (and amazing products and platforms) that organisations like Amazon, Apple and Netflix do? They’re in completely different markets and you could see them as being irrelevant to the lettings industry. But many of your own customers use them – and many others like them – on a daily basis, and they just expect things to work and deliver, as and when and where they need and want.

Our customers are now more willing and able to leave us if we don’t do what they need or provide the value they expect – and they expect this level of flexibility. The so-called age of the customer is all about this flexibility – it’s about how businesses push value to customers, and ensuring customers become the focus and that customers are attracted to use them, not stuck with them.

When our customers are successful, and they can directly see the value our products and services give them, they will naturally gravitate more to us, use more of our services, grow with us and become great advocates.

I heard a great quote at Gainsight’s recent Chief Customer Officer Summit Europe 2018 that resonates so well and sums this up perfectly: “Make your product value painlessly obvious”.

Customer Success has to be a business-wide strategy and way of working, it isn’t just the responsibility of one team , one job function or one person , and you need a customer-centric culture to achieve this.

It often starts with one team – your customer facing team – but that team’s objectives and strategy and planning have to align with the rest of the business and radiate out to influence other teams and stakeholders.

This team absolutely can be – and often is – the starting point for this refocus back to the customer. They can plan and start new customer-based initiatives, projects and activities that then flow out across the wider business. In this fast-growing world of Customer Success, many organisations are leading the way and developing new and improved approaches that can be replicated elsewhere and by other companies, even in different industries.

How do you ensure Customer Success?

So what does a customer-centric culture look like?  At a number of startups I’ve worked with Customer Success has been a a core part of our operating philosophy from day one but in the early days it often starts with that team doing everything for customers. As you grow and expand as a business, so your Customer Success team and approach has to grow, and of course your customer-base. You move from being mainly reactive and often seemingly on the backfoot, to having a full single customer view that covers everything from commercial information, support details, customer sentiment, survey feedback, product usage, contractual information, sales information and much more. This is a critical part of our success and it continues to grow, with the right technology and tools (including a Customer Success Management platform). 

The teams have to also evolve and I’ve seen success in creating dedicated functions for onboarding and implementation (and customer education), customer and commercial operations, documentation and configuration and customer success management (that includes customer renewals, escalations, training, customer feedback, consultancy and advisory services, relationship management and customer advocacy and customer value reviews). All of these involve working very closely with the other teams and helping to make sure that customer feedback is being fed through the right channels, listened to and responded to in the appropriate way.

There is of course a balance needed between providing the level of services required (and achieving those desired customer outcomes) and over-delivering and over-servicing, and it can be challenging to strike the right balance. It’s critical to sometimes say no and to route our customers through the most appropriate channels into the business, for them to get the outcomes they require, and for this to be repeatable for them and scalable to grow with our business and our customers’ businesses.

How we measure Customer Success is critical to us – and that statement is even more powerful when reworded slightly… how do you measure your customers’ success?

There are a number of key metrics we can and do use for this, including Net Promoter Score. NPS is an easy-to-use measure to gauge customer loyalty and how it trends over time, and is used by many global businesses in many different industries. I’ve used NPS successfully in a number of different businesses, asking that one ultimate question – how likely are you to recommend us? – but also with a number of optional additional questions to get more customer insight. The score at a particular time is less important than the trend over time or the details and sentiment behind the score. When we receive completed surveys, the Customer Success Managers then carry out detailed feedback calls and campaigns with customers to understand better the reasons behind the feedback and to explore how we can improve.

It’s important to note – and this can be often overlooked – that Net Promoter Score and customers’ sentiment and feedback is not something that is just owned by your Customer Success team. These are and have to be company-wide measures and, ultimately, key business objectives. Your detractors ultimately aren’t getting the value they need and they can be calling in more for support and help, so what we need to do is help move these customers towards being promoters, and ensure that they are successful.

So the answer to the new ultimate question – the title of this post – is you and your company. Your Customer Success team helps you understand better what your customers’ success looks like, alongside of course your sales teams, and then works with the rest of the company to help achieve that success.

Customer Success is about both good outcomes and good experience and getting the mix right for that customer and what they need. If one of these isn’t right or isn’t working, you will not help your customers be successful.

Nothing is more important than your customers’ success.

What is digital transformation really about?

It’s the Service Desk and IT Support Show over at Olympia next week and I’ve been invited to take part in a panel discussion on Digital Transformation, hosted by Barclay Rae with fellow panelists Matthew Hooper and Adam Haylock.  It should be a very good session with a lot of insights into what Digital Transformation means for businesses and their IT services and functions.

Digital Transformation continues to be a hot topic for many businesses but many are still struggling with what it means for them and what they need to do.  Our panel session, and a number of other sessions at the show, will help business leaders gain a better understanding of what it means and the implications for them.

As part of the Digital Transformation sessions, I have also been asked to participate in a blog series for the Service Desk and IT Support Show which I am looking forward to.  The first article covers the fundamentals of what it actually is all about.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the show next week and talking more about Digital Transformation and how it’s impacting you as a technology leader.

 

Are we ready for real 24×7 connectivity?

We’ve had the key note and it was impressive – I’ve never had my family members watch one with me, and all be excited by the new technology!  What technology you say?  The Apple Watch…

Apple Watch

Yes I’ll admit I’m an Apple fanboy at heart – it’s their whole customer experience and the simplicity of the Apple ecosystem that does it for me.  It’s the idea of a “service bubble” again (as I’ve blogged about before – i.e. when you’re there with a brand and the whole experience is just right – from every interaction you have and you know it’s them), it just works.

The Apple Watch won’t be the first smart watch on the block (just like the iPhone wasn’t the first smart phone), but it will work and it will sell and it will have the same consistent simple experience we expect and that we want.

I don’t wear watches any more and I haven’t now for probably 30 years, but I’ll be one of those looking at spending £300 on an Apple Watch when it comes out.  Yes it will tell the time like a traditional watch but I don’t need it for that (when in 2014 are you somewhere where you can’t find the time out?).

It’s the ability to do so much more without having to find your phone and pull it out.  Maps telling you the direction to go, a heart rate monitor (that you don’t have to strap around your chest and get friction burns from – that’s another story), messages from friends and family, access to my photos, online shopping, a camera and access to passbook (boarding cards, loyalty passes and more), to name a few.  It will ultimately replace my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 (that’s beginning to drop the signal a bit more than it should) but maybe when v2 comes out with GPS included (running with the Apple Watch and having to have an iPhone on me, doesn’t work for races just yet).

Apple Watch apps

But – and this is the big question – am I prepared to never be offline?  Never offline – this was the title of Time Magazine this week – have we even considered what this means?

Time Magazine Never Offline

You may say that you’re never offline now, with a smart phone always near by.  But you can put it down.  How often do you take a watch off?  Rarely if ever.  Always reachable, location always known and apps reacting to you realtime giving advice and directions – 24×7 365 days a year wherever you are (yes assuming you have a mobile data connection).  We’ll get to a point when retailers know where we are and can automatically make recommendations on what to do, where to go and what to buy.  We’ll see consumer behaviour changes that we’ve not even thought about yet.  A lot absolutely will make sense and after a while we won’t know what we did without them (just like smart phones).  But we need to consider the implications of some and work to make sure we don’t create a situation where having a smart watch becomes a necessity and if you don’t have one you lose out, to some extent.

We need good – no make that excellent – mobile data coverage everywhere as well, to make most of the use cases for smart watches work.  Not just global coverage, as in in all countries around the world, but even within countries and regions.  Even near the great city that is London, solid 3G and 4G coverage isn’t there yet.  And then there’s good old network roaming – just imagine travelling around the globe as we do, and suddenly being hit by extortionate data charges – it won’t work.  Telco’s and other businesses will need to rethink their existing business models and come up with ones!

It’s an exciting time!  I can’t wait to see how things go when the Apple Watch hits the streets in 2015!

Apple Watch this space!

Are you delivering excellent service?

I too often hear the phrase service excellence used these days when describing technology delivery services, and in most cases there’s no definition of what this actually means.

Service excellence word cloud

Let’s go back to basics then and look at we mean by excellence in this context.  From the Oxford dictionary, we have “The quality of being outstanding or extremely good”.  Another definition is as a quality that people really appreciate, because it’s hard to find, and as being the quality of excelling, of being truly the best at something.

I like this last one – being the best at something and excelling – so going above and beyond the normal expectations, and importantly setting new standards.

It’s this excelling at something that hits the mark for many customers when it comes to service.  Many of the organisations I’ve worked with and for, have been in challenging situations around their customer service, customer experience etc, and one of the focuses for my role there has been to revitalise their approach and work to transform the way they engage with customers, be they internal or external customers.

In this day and age, we’re all consumers (outside of the normal workplace) of goods and services and our expectations have changed significantly over the last few years.  It’s now all about a truly anyhow, anywhere and anytime culture, and this has a huge impact on how organisations need to work and change and adapt.

To add to this challenge, some of the more legacy technology services that we’re delivering – as well as the new innovative solutions an services – just have to work.  Email is a great example.  If your email service is 100% available, 24×7, and can be accessed wherever you are on any device, is this an excellent service or is it just expected?

I read an interesting article a few weeks back, on cio.com, titled “7 Steps to Excellent Service Delivery“, by Phil Weinzimer – do take a look, there are some really good ideas here.

7 steps to excellent service delivery

Phil sets out a 7 step plan that CIOs can use, to improve the delivery of their services to the business, and the core theme is understanding the business objectives better and delivering to meet those.

In summary the 7 steps that Phil’s lists are:

  1. Identify the business and commodity services required by the business units
  2. Identify the key stakeholders and priority for each business service
  3. Build and develop the enterprise list of business services, for each unit
  4. Socialise and communicate across the enterprise
  5. Develop and execute the work plan, and get stakeholder buy-in
  6. Continuously measure the service delivery – and build and use business focused SLAs
  7. Continuously improve – regularly evaluate the service with the stakeholders and users

I really like this approach.  It’s critical as I’ve mentioned to engage more with the business and key stakeholders, and to be able to respond in a very agile manner to their needs!

How does your service measure up?  And what does excellent service mean to you?

 

6 great customer success principles to live by

… and you learnt them all in pre-school. A great article that I read today and well worth a re-post.  Written by Dennis Hennessey – Six Great Customer Success Principles To Live By – and published on the BUSINESS2COMMUNITY.

Customer success

The first blog post I’ve written in 6 months, far too long. Busy with a a new exciting position and opportunity with Appirio in our London head office, helping to drive and build customer engagement and customer success, with some great customers, helping them innovate and transform their businesses with cloud technology.  And working with an amazingly talented and passionate team.

This article really resonated with me and as principles they’re very simple to remember, understand and build into your own customer success and customer engagement teams…

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Honesty
  4. Be polite
  5. Keep your promises
  6. Be helpful

Customer success workshop

Not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination but very powerful principles and all key to helping build, improve and take your customer relationships to the next level.

What customer success principles do you use and are any of these missing from your organisation?

How does your company culture stack up?

A great article from Mashable – by Lauren Drell on improving your company culture.  All the tips make perfect sense and are not too difficult to do – but they may require change in your thought process.

Take a read… 9 Tips for a Better Company Culture.

Google company culture

Your company culture is the killer differentiator between you and the competition – it’s why guys want to work for you in the first place, and why they will in many cases go out of their ways to secure a position with you.  They like what you do, your vision and the opportunities with you and want to be part of your journey.  Take Apple, Google and Amazon as prime examples of well known companies with great cultures where people want to work.

Apple company culture

Lauren suggests a number of different tips on how you can change your company culture for the better.  I’ll summarise these below:

  1. Hiring should be a continuous process and not just when you have specific vacancies.
  2. Encourage entrepreneurial thinking.  What would people do if it was their company.
  3. Hire fantastic people, remember people are your business.
  4. Lead by example – culture starts with you.  Show passion for the company and vision.
  5. Character counts – hire people for attitude and positivity.
  6. Don’t forget the freelancers or recent graduates.
  7. Your gut reaction is more often than not right – listen to it more.
  8. Encourage ownership and flexibility – we want happy people.
  9. Continue to build your company culture.

Lauren sums it up very well in one sentence…

“Hire in tech, product or business, but only take people that really wow you.”

A great culture, means an even better team, resulting in better productivity from the guys, improved services, better relationships with your customers and a great vibe in the market about you.

Culture word cloud

Nothing will ever top this Volvo ad

A quick follow-up post on the viral Volvo ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme (JCVD) in – after seeing more posts of the ad on our favourite social media platforms!  The headline on the latest post is great…

Advertisers Should Just Quit

The viral YouTube ad is now at 40 million views.  That’s 9 million more than yesterday.  That level of viral-ness is staggering!  Give it a month and where will it be?

Now, of those 4o million views, how many are from prospective truck buyers or people looking for trucks?  Probably not many.  But we’re talking about it, and yes now even more 7 and 8 year olds are (and they love it and are very impressed by Mr. Jean-Claude Van Damme – some demos of splits yesterday at school).  And these views are only online – there’s no TV ad running for it.  Is there one coming?  That would be cool.

Volvo trucks

The strange life, death and rebirth of the CIO and what it means for the future of technology

A re-blog from a very good article earlier this month on ZDNet (by Steve Ranger – the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic) which follows the same theme as my recent posts on the changing role of the CIO and CTO in organisations and what this means.

Which way to go

The way companies buy, build and use technology is changing rapidly, which means the teams that build it and run it will need to change too.”

Technology business alignment

Are you as a technology leader changing quickly enough and giving the necessary direction to your teams and the business?

We’ve faced some huge shifts in technology services and provision of these in business over the last 5-10 years.  First outsourcing and offshoring, then the cloud and technology as a utility, then more recently consumerisation and the whole BYOD phenomenon, and this is forcing us to make big changes in how we lead and manage technology teams and functions in businesses.  These changes will accelerate over the next 2-3 years and new changes will emerge.  Technology will become more and more critical to businesses and needs to be more agile and responsive to change.

The challenge for us as technology leaders, is to manage increasingly conflicting business expectations – to increase efficiency, reduce costs and come up with new innovative ways of using technology to create new business opportunities.