What 2020 holds for customer success
Several jokes have already been circulated, combining predictions for the year 2020 and the quality of vision companies have in understanding their own customers. A good question to consider is whether that vision is getting better or worse, and, if worse, what corrective measures are available to drive improvement.
Over the course of the past several years, there have been two trajectories shaping the need to better understand customers and continuously seek to improve their health. Customer Experience (CX) has risen as a central topic, while Customer Success has fluctuated as various models are employed. Both need sharper definitions, along with clearer goals and objectives. Consumer-centric companies are generally far more advanced in the CX realm than B2B companies.
Foreseeing the Future
Throughout 2020, B2B companies will further embrace both Customer Success and CX and will better understand and value the impact and potential for business customers. In other words, this vision will improve for many companies. The road to better customer vision for B2B companies will be through refining Customer Success and implementing a broader and deeper adoption of CX.
While many B2B companies may have long embraced CS—particularly those with cloud-based SaaS models, the notion of customer experience has remained more common with companies centered around consumer markets. Those B2B companies involved with software have invested heavily in usability and UX as a measure of the utility and ease of use for their products, but stopped short of assessing and monitoring the complete customer experience.
The 2020 Success Vision
Now more than ever, there is a growing understanding that companies should look to the full impact of what their product does or fails to do for the customer by more fully considering the value it provides and the role or function that it fulfills. Questions such as how the product helps a customer to meet its own goals and how well the customer understands the product or service and what it can provide should be among those being assessed. These are far more crucial factors for B2B companies and provide greater customer vision than just knowing how well customers like product features and other attributes of owning or using a product or service.
An argument could be made that B2B companies need more collaborative CX practices than B2C companies. The ability to know not just the impact of feature and brand but to also ascertain impact and contribution towards a customer’s own goals is far more important to B2B companies. Ironically, it is B2C companies that are truer believers and investors in CX. Beginning this next year, we will see a shift with more B2B companies embracing CX.
At the same time, B2B companies need to better shape customer experiences and proactively keep them on track using advanced Customer Success programs. One way this will happen is by revamping CS teams to make them independent but still intraoperative with sales and support.
Currently there is a growing recognition that that CX and Customer Success work hand in hand. This understanding will expand in 2020. Think of CX as comprehensive way that a customer relates to a company, including the use of its products and services. Think of CS as the process to understand customer needs and expectations and help in ensuring that they come as close as possible to realizing them. While this is somewhat of an over-simplification, it is clear that they work together.
In reality, the functions have had divergent roles and have not been tightly coupled. Customer Success has often meant a way to get a customer up and running or the means to minimize service and support issues. Customer experience has been the statistical computation of survey results or the ongoing tracking of Net Promoter Score.
Many companies still have CS as a captive function within an organization such as sales, technical support, consulting services or training groups. For the most part, this structure has limited the ability of Customer Success to produce long-term customer value and health. Being a part of another group, such as technical support, shifts focus and priorities to align with the larger organization rather than a pure orientation towards long-term customer health. For instance, the larger organization may skew the work of CS to a shorter-term reduction or avoidance of service or support requests rather than being able to understand customer goals and providing help to achieve them.
The 2020 Vision is Incomplete without CS
By putting better models in place for CS and removing inherent limitations and conflicts, this function will be able to orient itself to long-term customer health and ensuring that customer’s goals and expectations are met.
Vision of customer health will improve. It has to. Those that fail to make the necessary shift will miss out on the various opportunities CS brings with it. Those that learn how to boost CS and CX disciplines will gain market advantage.
Shreesha is SVP & GM at Medallia-Strikedeck, a leading Customer Success Automation company. 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,...