by Barton Goldenberg
Gone are the days when you can simply ‘push’ your product or service onto a customer. Product-driven marketing – messaging focused on features and benefits and promotional offers aimed at driving sales – is no longer effective. Features are easy to copy and offers are easy to match. Many companies know it is critical to listen to the needs and wants of customers and build these into their products and services, but this alone will not assure success when everyone else is doing the same.
Forward-looking companies understand that they must go further and ask, “How is my product or service adding measurable value for our customers, and how will I know?” Their quest for the answers to these questions has led to the concept of “Customer Success,” where the needs of the organization to sell product, and the needs of the customer to derive tangible value, intersect.
What is “Customer Success”?
According to the Customer Success Association, “Customer Success is a long-term, scientifically engineered and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.” Let’s unpack that definition.
Customer success is not transactional. It is not about customer acquisition or making today’s sale. It’s about managing customer relationships as long-term assets, seeking to maximize their value over time and to avoid losing them to the competition.
2. Customer and Company
The origin of the term “Customer Success” is often attributed to Salesforce, which sells software-based services or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Salesforce found that maintaining these recurring revenue streams required maximizing the utility (i.e. the value) derived from their customers’ use of their products over time. For the company to succeed, their customers had to successfully achieve the objectives they sought when purchasing the product.
For a company to deliver ongoing value to its customers, it must innovate and stay competitive. For the Company, it ensures ongoing sales/revenues. For the customer, it delivers ‘value-add’ that customers are willing to pay for. It also drives long-term customer loyalty, satisfaction and advocacy. Most companies find their business follows the 80/20 rule: they derive 80% of their revenue from the ongoing/repeat business of roughly 20% of their customers. An approach geared toward customer success maximizes customer loyalty and lifetime value of these customer relationships.
Think about your own business. It’s not enough to merely believe that a customer or your company are receiving benefit from the relationship. The key is to actively measure whether the customer feels they are receiving value. One way to accomplish this is to set up a plan that measures a series of achievable goals over time (e.g., high Net Promoter scores, customer satisfaction scores).
To whom? In whose eyes? How do you measure perceived value of your product or service at the end-user level? Should you measure customer satisfaction? Repeat orders? Willingness of your customer to recommend you to a friend (Net Promoter Score)? How often you receive ‘likes’ on social media sites? All of the above? Bottom line, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Detailed customer success metrics are critical to determining how much value your customer is gaining from using your product or service.
Effective implementation of customer success programs involves integrating the functions and activities of Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Training and Support. This has implications for people, process and technology within any organization. Look for our next blog article on customer success in a couple of weeks, where we will delve deeper into this topic. For a preview, follow these links.
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