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Customer success at the foundation of long-term customer relationships

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Service provision has long been equated with complaint handling. It can be so much more – and certainly so much smarter. Opportunity knocks when you invest not just in customer support but specifically in customer success. 

Ask yourself how your company manages this. Is service seen as a first line of defence against demanding customers asking awkward questions? Do your staff spend most of their time fire-fighting? In practice, this model is generally not sustainable for long. It’s far more effective to expand the department with employees who single-mindedly pursue the goal of happy customers. Companies that seriously invest in this will soon reap the rewards.

Customer support versus customer success

Let’s first zoom in on the difference between customer support and customer success. Support is the department where customer queries are received – perhaps on the phone or by mail, chat or social media. As a company, you want this to be organised effectively, so customers don’t have to spend 30 minutes on hold or find their message has been lost in a jam-packed mailbox. While customer support waits for customers to get in touch, customer success colleagues proactively seek contact with those same customers. Offering help before they even ask a question. Showing them features they didn’t know existed. Surprising them with new technology, tips and commercial opportunities.

Make existing customers happy

In our experience, SaaS companies in particular are establishing customer success as an autonomous service section. Increasing numbers of directors at those companies are experiencing the benefits and have made customer success an important part of their growth strategy. In manufacturing, however, this phenomenon is still relatively rare. A missed opportunity, if you ask me. Because no matter how many new customers you escort through the front door, if the back door is left wide open, all the funds you’ve invested will have been for nothing. Bear in mind that a customer retention rate of 5% can boost your operating results by 25-95%(!). Every reason therefore to invest in customer success, one of the most tried and tested methods of truly making existing customers happy. The signal you’re sending is clear: let’s pull together to achieve your goals.

Tackle problems promptly

While customer support sees problems coming at them, customer success tries to pre-empt them. That’s worth a lot. Companies frequently only discover too late that a customer is less than satisfied with the product and service they offer. Here’s an example from our own practice. As part of our own customer success strategy, in 2020, Webs started using the net promotor score – the well-known management tool used to measure customer loyalty. Our score of 35% is something we take pride in (the average score is 14% – article in Dutch). At the same time, at a handful of companies, we achieved no higher than 8%. I met with those customers to find out why. At one company, we implemented a change of consultant. Nothing to do with my colleague’s abilities – just not the right match. By signalling an issue at an early stage, you can avoid the situation that such a customer packs up shop after a year, thanks you for your efforts and heads off to look elsewhere. 

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Customer Experience

Make existing customers happy. 

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Data as a source of customer success

Convinced? Let me leave you with a few practical tips to help you make a great start with customer success. As ever, data plays an important role. You do need those insights to be able to map out the best route ahead. For instance, what is your customer retention rate? And what about your customer lifetime value? If you’re using the right tools, it only takes a few clicks to get this information on-screen. You can then set your objectives accordingly. Say, get customer retention from 60% to 80%. Or customer lifetime value from 18 months to two years. 

The next step is to formulate your ideal customer profile (ICP) – customers who are an ideal match for the solution and service provision you offer. Talk to them and take the time to understand their pain points, needs and ambitions. This information is priceless. It enables you to proactively seek out customers in future and to see if you can identify further service opportunities. What were those words I just wrote? Oh yes, pull together to achieve your customer’s goals. Companies that achieve this are demonstrably more successful.