It’s undeniable – customer success has rapidly become king. And not just by the limited definition where representatives resolve one customer support case after another, but by the growing demand of guiding customers to results.
This isn’t a new concept, and it’s certainly not misinformed. In the world of SaaS and beyond, customers don’t just buy solutions to plug holes. Solutions now need to support business outcomes. They’re investments in the future that a company envisions.
Here at Propel, our customer list has grown exponentially over the past few years, and with that, we’ve had the great opportunity to learn and support the needs of various product and commercial teams for leading companies from VIZIO to Desktop Metal. In this article, I’ll cover what customer success means to Propel today, what works and what doesn’t work, and how we help product companies achieve their goals with the right set of solutions.
Standing Out is the Only Way In
Today’s customers are smarter, more knowledgeable, and have instant access to a variety of tools and solutions for their challenges, including the option to do nothing or build in-house.
The risk, however, is that implementation and adoption continues to be a problem. Particularly in an industry like ours that’s been around and has done things a certain way for a very long time. Giving up is real.
Secondly, as the old saying goes: no one gets fired for buying IBM. (Yes, it’s a dated reference; but still relevant.) Although there are many more solutions out there on the market, and you have easy access to these products through your own research, it’s still hard to choose. Clunky or not, the path of least resistance is to simply go with what you know. Or…
Go with what your friends or colleagues know. The influence of referrals and reviews is unmatched today. If no one else is using a product—or if those who are aren’t seeing results using said product—it makes it nearly impossible to trust a company.
With all of these issues combined, achieving success with any new solution becomes more elusive. Which is why implementing something new with the right team is critical. Fortunately, there are companies and general practices that are getting this right.
Communication is Where It’s At
The best customer success experiences happen when the prospect comes to us at the absolute end of their rope with their current systems.
We recently implemented a new solution for a company that came to us riddled with issues. They had disconnected systems, error-prone processes eroding profit margins, limited knowledge transfer, a dated interface too difficult for new users to learn — all of which were causing massive delays in their business processes, decision making, and ultimately their time to market.
After implementation, they saw a 30-40% increase in productivity, $200K annual reduction in IT overhead, and a flexible platform that will evolve with the company.
Stories such as these are not only hugely gratifying, but they provide us with further proof that our customer success journey makes all the difference for prospects who may be nervous about taking on a big change.
It may be a cliché, but for good reason — the critical key to these experiences is opening up the lines of communication. We use tools like Slack for more direct contact, and we always follow up with churned customers, if and when churn occurs.
With clear, consistent communication, a dedicated customer experience team can help customers be successful in their own businesses and while using the benefit of steady feedback to fine-tune the service.
Check out Propel CSMs Erin Gracyalny and Aaron Cloud discussing the importance of thoughtful, consistent, communication on The Platform Rules podcast→
Customer success is not solely the responsibility of CSMs or any single department, rather it’s an entire company initiative that starts on the front lines with prospects and extends through to advocates on the other end. The companies that miss in this effort are the ones that are siloed, leaving success teams unsupported. What customers expect from companies today is:
- Responsiveness and engagement
- To be heard and acknowledged
- Personalized guidance and recommendations
- Trusted partnership
It’s entirely possible for customers to be satisfied, but not successful. This is where a company’s true intentions come in. With the many products that are being delivered to market everyday, we know satisfaction is just one part of the equation. Your customers deserve more; and so do ours.
The Not-So Secret Ingredient – Mutually Assured Success
Propel’s customer success philosophy is to always place customer delight front and center. We support customer outcomes not only through our dedicated customer success team, but also through professional services.
Propel’s philosophy is to introduce total value at every stage of the customer journey across the organization, ensuring that customer delight is front and center.
For other SaaS companies, the standard touchpoints are just contraction and renewal. Customer success at Propel, however, is all about working cross-functionally to accomplish strategic initiatives for an organization.
From a big picture view, the point of this intimate customer relationship is to better align the customer goals with Propel goals. Because of this, the question “Why did they buy Propel?” gets a different response each time because the iterative customer success process doubles as a reset marker of evolving goals for us and them.
Proactive vs Reactive
Not to state the obvious, but it always comes back to making unhappy customers happy. We have regular dialogue, QBRs and meetings – all of which are designed to be as impactful as possible. Sometimes customers don’t know what they should be asking… so we anticipate what they should be asking. We take a proactive, strategic approach to being a partner for the customer.
Strategic Business Relationships
When we talk about the strategic aspect of the customer relationship, what we’re talking about is creating a mutually beneficial relationship with them. As we listen to the customer, take their feedback, and engage with them, the strategic goal for Propel is that they help guide our roadmap too, which customers get to see in our releases.
This strategy provides success on both sides — motivating us to give the customer the best experience possible while also improving our own product and services.
In our business workshops, we talk about the internal processes that the customer is looking to migrate to Propel. As they make decisions on how they want workflows or life cycles to work, the Customer Success Manager can introduce that to Propel’s Product Roadmap.
In the end, our own success metrics revolve squarely on how well we answer the question, “Did we address what was important to this specific customer?”
During the value realization phase of the customer cycle, we bring in the professional services team to handle the technical implementation when it’s time to go live.
As the CSM handles the weekly or monthly check-ins with a client, they'll identify the technical needs. Then, professional services serve the purpose of escalations for technical support. They’ll determine how to meet the need and perform the configuration.
Together CSM and PS establish a whole support organization who are able to help our customers from a day-to-day perspective. As PS takes the lead, the CSM is always there following along. PS sits at a point of escalation, and the CSM quarterbacks for the client. In order for the CSM to provide the most value, they’re always kept in the loop and the customer never has to re-ask questions or double back.
Don’t Take It From Me
Hearing how this works from me is one thing, but hearing directly from Propel customers is another. Below are a couple of stories from our customers who have successfully implemented and onboarded Propel solutions to their teams:
Brent Lewis, Director of IT Quality & Compliance Systems at ASP
Michael Farr, VP of Operations at Sierra Monitor