Category Archives: Customer Success

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?

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.

 

CIO-DNA part 1 – an event hosted by BCS

British Computer Society

I attended the CIO-DNA event earlier this week, hosted by the BCS Elite Group, the BCS London South Group and the IOD.  It was a 1/2 day session with technology leaders from different organisations speaking and with some very thought provoking discussions around what makes an effective CIO and CTO, and some of the speakers’ personal journeys to becoming technology leaders.

I’ve summarised some of the key takeaway notes – the fundamental drivers behind what makes a good CIO – from the session below .  Let me know what you think – do you agree?

DNA

  • The CIO and CTO roles are now primarily about innovation.  The focus is no longer about keeping the lights on.
  • As technology leaders we need to advocate the creation of an environment in which the team feels empowered to create sparks of innovation.
  • You need to be fundamentally close to the business and to the customers.  They need to help drive the priorities for technology.
  • A great quote from one of the speakers – “The death of the mouse is only weeks away” – in reference to how important touch is becoming and will be.  Interesting point.  Yes touch is critical but I think there’s a longer transition for a lot of core technology products and platforms.
  • Related to touch, devices that are touch enabled remove barriers to entry for C-level executives and help get wider buy-in to new technology services.
  • Communication and visualisation are key for the CIO to raise their profile.  And as part of this we need to be recognised as equal contributors to business transformation.  The CIO needs to be the agent of business transformation.
  • See technology as an enabler to open up new markets and do things the business wasn’t doing before.
  • The key areas where there are new opportunities, are – smart machines, capturing the real world, mobile computing, touch and cloud.  Where cloud can be seen as more about provision and delivery.
  • Knowledge management will continue to be a challenge for technology leaders, with retiring staff taking know-how with them.  This isn’t a new problem though and can’t be changed.  Focus instead on the new guys coming in and give them an environment that they can be most effective in – and that doesn’t just mean yes to BYOD.  New recruits – and the work force of the future – now have very different expectations for IT and technology.
  • Develop techniques for managing different streams of inputs and see where they match and where they conflict.  Where they conflict, dig deeper – these places show the most interest.
  • Move away from being a pure technologist and focus on the business transformation agenda.  And get proportionately more focus on the profit side of the business – technology is no longer just about costs.
  • Technology does not have users any more – something I’ve been saying for a good number of years.  We need to shift our way of thinking to see them as our customers – whether external or internal ones.  We as technology are providing our customers with a service!
  • Understand what your customers want from the services and systems, and move then to create and deliver that!
  • Create a clear future workspace vision – that allows the business and teams to be more flexible, work smarter and to work faster.  And get the inputs from the business for this – don’t drive with technology.
  • Technology is about change management with the business, and utilising technology to do that.
  • Test the vision with the business – and use visualisation tools (e.g. storyboards and animations).  See a great example of this by Gavin Walker at NATS below – this part of the session was from Gavin….

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfdES2fKyAU&w=560&h=315]

 

  • Position technology as the enabler – to help your customers work better and more efficiently.  Get the decisions pushed into the business – to give them greater accountability.
  • Don’t see IT as a cost centre – the business own the costs and budget.  Technology spends the budget on behalf of the business, with the business making the choices.
  • Focus on change management, not technology.
  • Focus on information, not systems.

These last 2 very nicely summarise where the focus needs to be for technology.  A very pleasant afternoon at the BCS with a good theme and great sessions and as always great networking.

More thoughts soon!

Technology leaders

A guide to understanding customer success

Two relatively recent formal functions within businesses are those of customer engagement and customer success.  Clearly not new as in we’ve not been focusing on success or engagement before but in that it wasn’t someone’s job title or sole function.

Customer success

Or was it?  Customer success and customer engagement have clearly been critical to businesses, since commerce first came about and it’s always been – or should be – part of everyone’s job and the function of every department.  But what has changed is that a need has been identified to have individuals and teams who focus just on success and engagement, particularly from a leadership perspective – and ensure all other teams are working in a customer focused joined up and collaborative way, that results in the best experience and service for our customers!  All great to have.

There’s a great blog post from last month that looks at the role of someone heading up the customer success function from Dan Steinman (Chief Customer Officer at gainsight).  Dan highlights the key traits that are needed for a successful customer success leader and does so by asking his team about him in his role – a very interesting and insightful exercise.

Do read Dan’s post for full details but in summary the key traits are:

  1. A passion for customers.
  2. A willingness to get their hands dirty.
  3. A philosophy.
  4. An understanding of what the customer success team do each day.
  5. A knack for influence management.

Influence management

Passion makes perfect sense.  You need to have be focused on the customer and making things right for them and caring about them being successful.  And your team need to share the same passion – and then let it spread beyond just your team!  It can be a cultural shift but a critical one.

Getting involved when there are customer issues and challenges, means getting stuck in and doing what is needed and engaging with the customer and team.  And not just taking a back seat overseeing it all.  It’s about credibility.

As a new field, it is evolving fast and there are lots of new ideas.  You need to be committed to what your phillosophy on customer success is and what that means for your customers and your teams.

The better you know your team and what they are doing, the better informed your decisions are – not rocket science, but all about good leadership.

The last point is the big one I think – influence management.  You need to be working across all the functions and teams in your company so that they understand their roles in customer success – from sales to operations to development to product management to admin to support – so they can understand what and when changes are needed and implement them.

As an evolving new function, there is no commonly agreed standard definition of what customer success (or engagement) management is.  Having a team focused on customer success, has a strong message for both internal teams and stakeholders and customers.

Pay as you go technology

As technology moves more and more to a utility based – pay as you go – model and more focus is on long term relationships and not the legacy models where there was a huge upfront cost (as CAPEX – capital expenditure), customer retention becomes more critical.  This is where customer success and customer engagement both come in – ensuring customers are retained.  And key to this is ensuring customers can easily see the commercial value of the platforms and services you are providing.

These new technology models, have created a need to formalise and structure the customer success function, but it’s not just in technology companies where it applies.

The more value your services provide, the more successful your customers are and the more successful you are.  Customer success can be the focus of your VP of customer success, or your chief customer officer, or your customer success director, but their role is to make sure everyone understands what customer success is all about and everyone’s own role in it, and to make your customers successful.

Customer success