How do you create customer value? Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to present what I believe are the six key elements to creating customer value through a customer success team. First...
Keep it simple, keep it focused on the customer.
Customer Focus requires that the Customer Value team be focused first and foremost on the customer. Not internal processes, not case studies or success stories or marketing or sales. The team needs to be focused on the customer and ensuring that they are getting value from our products and services. Simple as that. All of the good things for the company-- renewals, up sell and expansion, net promoter score, references-- come from a clear and consistent focus on customers and their success. The customer value team plays the pivotal role in ensuring that customers experience an extraordinary relationship with the organization.
Creating customer value requires that you understand your customer's journey and align people, tools and processes to help guide them along the way.
At HireVue, we created a five step customer lifecycle (on boarding, review/assessment, renewal expansion, optimization, maturity) and as a team project we mapped the characteristics of each of these phases. We looked at which customers were most successful based on net promoter score, renewal, expansion, executive engagement, etc., and identified the steps that we as a company had taken to create that success. From these insights we then created a lifecycle map that highlighted the characteristics of each step and identified what a Customer Success Manager could do to engage and drive the customer to the next level. As we continue to evolve our program we will map in the exact resources so the CSM has, at their fingertips, a map and the tools they need.
Customer Engagement Model
Aligning customer value resources to accounts based on type can accelerate adoption, expansion, satisfaction and renewal.
When we first implemented Customer Value at SuccessFactors, we focused on renewal risk management. We engaged with customers in the last year of their agreement with SF and prioritized based on contract value. We would uncover significant risk in accounts that had been neglected since their original implementation. The engagement model was reactive and led to a heavy emphasis on crisis management. Ultimately we became so effective at the "diving catch" that we were able to convince leadership that we should adopt a more proactive engagement model. That led to an expansion of the team to focus not only on renewal risk but the entire customer lifecycle. At HireVue we started there. I joined the team because they were willing to invest in proactive full lifecycle customer success for all accounts. The executive team and board already had religion, they needed execution.
Data Backed Decision Making
Long term customer value requires that we utilize all of the great data we have about our customers to make decision on how best to support those customers.
At SuccessFactors, we partnered with Jeff Ulrich and Ron Stainbrook to create a tool called SuccessCentral, an in-house version of what Gainsight, Bluenose, Totango, and similar customer success software solutions offer today. SuccessCentral enabled the Customer Value team to see all of the relevant information about an account on one page. It had the additional benefit of providing customer facing views of the data. This data included a summary of the resources and account ownership, products they had purchased and subscription dates and amounts, account health flags and notes, support utilization and benchmarking, and most importantly, adoption data. SuccessCentral gave the team a comprehensive view of the customer. At HireVue we leverage Salesforce and customer report solutions from our team Business Analyst to gain insights into the customer. Beyond just having a summary of the data though, we created a customer health index. Partnering with our data scientist we analyzed all of the data that we have on our customers and looked for those data points that were most highly correlated with account expansion and renewal. This provided some big surprises (for example, product adoption is not highly correlated with account renewal), and we leveraged these insights to create a customer health index, a single score for accounts that benchmarks them and allows us to systematically identify accounts that may be at risk or have an opportunity for expansion. The score takes into account the customer success manager’s view of risk and layers on more objective measures like implementation approach, net promoter score, and executive engagement as well.
Building a team to drive customer value involves planning for continuous improvement to ensure that the evolving needs of customers and the business are met in the most efficient and effective way possible.
At HireVue, we started with an engagement model of 10 named accounts per account director, 30 enterprise accounts for each customer success manager and 50 mid-market and SMB accounts for each junior customer success manager. We saw growth in the mid-market segment accelerating more quickly than the enterprise segment and we were posed with the challenge of investing in more mid-market and SMB customer success managers or in named account directors. But it was clear we needed both if we stuck with the model. We started with the data and looked at the revenue (easy, no question), impact on product evolution (not as clear cut) and adoption (not even close) for each of the segments. This led us to the decision that we should hire an account director (done) and a mid-market SMB rep but… one that would scale in a new segment, SMB. We hired a junior resource, a really smart, energetic and ambitious account representative, who could manage a portfolio of 100+ accounts in the SMB segment. Her focus, and I have been working closely with her on this, is a light touch model that still serves up the best of customer success but scales to a much larger portfolio of small business accounts.
By highlighting the simple things in a low friction way we have built a culture of celebrating success, building and sustaining our customer first focus and ensuring that the team knows that their small results matter.
At HireVue we celebrate success, not just of the major renewal wins, but customer feedback on the journey. When I joined the team I asked that everyone post the top three activities for the week and the top three results from last week in our open Chatter group. This exposed the broader team to what everyone was working on and drove visibility to leadership of our focus and results. It also had the benefit of creating an environment where everyone could visit and check in weekly. We have been using this group for “shout outs” which are quick highlights of team success. Sometimes these are renewal wins, but more often, and an important ongoing focus, is highlighting simple customer success, doing the right thing on small issues that drive bigger opportunities and customer satisfaction. Recently I highlighted a CSM who had received some positive feedback from a customer on walking them through their NPS report. The process of walking them through their data and making recommendations had led to change that drove positive progress the following month.
Creating value through a customer success team requires having a strong foundation of process, data based decision making and celebrating success along the way.
About David Verhaag
David is the Vice President, Client Experience at Degreed, the lifelong learning platform. Prior to Degreed, David established and scaled the Customer Success function at Kahuna and HireVue and spent eight+ years with SuccessFactors where he led the development of the global Customer Value team. David lives on a sailboat in Half Moon Bay, CA.
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