Connecting the dots to customer success
Indications for upsell and expansion opportunities among existing customers as well as signs of trouble exist in good number. The trouble is that these indications exist as dots, small signs that if understood together point in a clear direction and convey message but if seen separately go largely unnoticed.
To understand their relevance requires connecting them. It’s the “forest for the trees” challenge, where if you see a tree here and a tree there, all you perceive are individual trees and miss the fact that you are in a forest. Often, marketing—and the company as a whole—fails to see the forest even when they are in the middle of it. Failing to see the forest in this case means missing a selling opportunity or preventing the loss of a customer.
The Forest for the Trees Challenge & CS
Since Customer Success and interactions with customers typically involve a number of employees in different departments, no one individual has the perspective that can provide clear, detailed insight. Pulling these desperate data points together and making sense of them requires centralization and comprehensive management.
It may also be a great application for machine learning. Using machine learning not only uncovers addressable issues and opportunities early, but it also provides insight to know what factors may contribute to trouble or success. Knowing these, companies can better manage service and interaction to increase customer success as well as turn negative situations around or maximize upselling opportunities.
Customer Success & the Use of Automation
Other indications may come from things that happen—or don’t happen—based on the use or interaction with a product or service. Consulting relationships might observe experience a drop or change in the number of inquiries or interactions. Software or products that are connected, such as those involving the Internet of Things (IoT), or monitored can provide a wealth of important data. Factors may include login frequency, changes in the number of users, changes in number or types of reports run or product features used.
A drop in product utilization, typically for a SaaS product, may not mean anything definitive, but when coupled with insights from various customer interactions may provide an early warning of potentially losing a customer. Similarly, a slowness to renew combined with other data may provide much needed intelligence to forestall customer churn. Other combinations, such as comments made to the support organization and increased account activity may signal a ripe opportunity for expanded revenue.
In many companies, customer success is essentially a hybrid function, conducted by sales, support, customer success managers, executives, product managers, partners and even marketing. Each yields dots of insight that individually exceed a threshold for any kind of action or urgency. Uniting the conversations, experiences, impressions and interactions forms a picture that would otherwise not be visible. Add in other facts ranging from financial to product interactions, and the picture becomes even more clear.
So how can a company produce such a picture that can drive increased revenue and minimize churn?
In a small organization, employees can simply talk. Start-ups have the luxury of gleaning insight from cross-functional team meetings, such as a quarterly or monthly business review. Even with start-ups there is no guarantee that dots will be connected. Each person has their own set of responsibilities and focus. Often, it is only serendipity that enables a big picture and productive insight.
At a minimum, dots need aggregation for a picture to emerge. Ideally some sort of system of record can capture the individual bits and present them in a way to create some intelligence. CRM rarely serves this purpose. Many companies simply struggle with the data hygiene needed to keep sales on track. Service management and ticketing systems may contain important insights, but these are often hard to extract and integrate. Marketing has made great advances with lead scoring technology and practices, but the same attention needs to be given to gaining a deeper understanding of customers and channeling the insights into actions that can help retain customers as well as expand them.
While there is some reluctance to add yet another corporate system, and the fear of tool sprawl is prominent, the digital enterprise is adding internal applications in record numbers. Some of this is official, but some results from the get-it-done approach by individual employees. The “there’s an app for that” mentality of mobile-computing-enabled consumers creates expectations and behaviors for today’s employees. In the BYOD culture of most businesses, employees will add what they need to increase their productivity and enjoyment at work.
Companies should proactively consider what they must do to gather customer impressions and produce insights. Since customers—and customer insight—is a valuable company asset, organizations should ensure that customer-reflecting tools and systems are not done through the inventiveness of employee’s shadow IT initiatives but through a carefully managed and maintained corporate efforts that are multidisciplinary and cut across individual departments.
There are good choices for systems today, and there will probably be continued innovation in this area. Factors to consider include how well data can be captured and aggregated and how insights can be drawn from them. In essence, how well can these systems collect and connect the dots. Systems should also be able to drive actions or lead to activities that can productively utilize the information.
In today’s markets, where capturing a customer is hard and retaining them even harder, companies must increase their ability to understand their customers and proactively engage with them for the best results.
Shreesha is the CEO and co-founder of Strikedeck, a leader in Customer Success Automation. Shreesha is an entrepreneurial executive with a track record of launching and growing products in competitive markets with General Management experience in product development, Growth Hacking, and go-...