This is the first blog in a series that explores the value of Customer Success, from both the company and customer points of view, and ideas for how to operationalize and optimize this critical element. The series will feature:

The Urge to Converge: Understanding the Customer Success Value Proposition

The Urge to Converge: Exploring Customer Journey “Swim Lanes” for Sales, Service and Customer Success

The Urge to Converge: Designing Customer Success Competency Maps

An Expression of Surprised Satisfaction

Imagine this scenario. A top executive calls a company to bring up a serious concern. He hangs up the phone with a look of surprised satisfaction on his face. His executive assistant walks into the office and comments on his expression. After he explains what occurred, the EA asks, “Did you speak to sales or service?”

“I’m not sure,” he replies.

That is what customer success looks like!

Sales & Service Convergence

Why are sales and service converging? It all began with churn. Enterprise companies with an Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) model simply cannot afford to lose a customer in the first year, since profitability usually commences in the second year due to cost of sales. They need to create customer stickiness to replace the vendor lock-in that once protected revenue. Customers, more informed about their options and more agile in their decisions, will take a walk if they don’t obtain value …and get it fairly quick.

Customer success, a name that is beautiful in its focus, simplicity and promise, is a framework of activities that ensure adoption, usage, value and satisfaction for customers. If we get it right, this sales and service hybrid will combine the best of both worlds.

However, there are challenges to this way of thinking. According to Vala Afsharm, Chief Digital Evangelist for Salesforce, fewer than 20 percent of businesses are able to deliver relevant and valuable customer experiences. In other words, that satisfied expression on the executive’s face is rare. According to the research findings of Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, the top three success factors for customer experience transformation are a customer centric-culture, leadership buy-in and visibility into and understanding of the customer experience.

Customer Success Value Proposition 

CSO Insights’ 2017 Sales & Services Best Practice Study discovered that 89 percent of World-Class companies agree or strongly agree that they consistently live up to their brand promise, compared with 36 percent of all survey respondents. This is a huge gap, and the mandate of customer success is to close it.

Matt Thompson, Adobe’s EVP of Worldwide Field Operations, states in Selling in the Age of Experience that “relationships that stop with the sale aren’t really relationships at all—and that’s unacceptable.”

Matt encourages companies to insure that their customers realize full value by asking these questions:

  • Are my customers using the product to its full potential?
  • Can I help them apply my product in unexpected ways?
  • Can they help me improve the product, or can their experience help inform other prospects?

What is the Customer Success Value Proposition from the company point of view?

  • Closer relationships with customers and revenue protection/expansion from proactive outreach
  • Deeper understanding of customer pain points discovered from the inside (problems shared) versus outside (InsideView and other sales tools)
  • Utilization of Customer Success Managers to uncover product problems and contribute to product improvements

What is the Customer Success Value Proposition from the customer point of view?

  • Trusted Adviser partnership that helps them achieve goals and solve problems, fulfilling what sales sold them in the first place
  • Committed and consistent relationship with someone who understands their company and is their champion throughout the journey
  • Continuous reinforcement of their value as a customer

Coming next: Designing Process & Selecting People 

Next, we will explore how to design “swim lanes” for sales, service and customer success roles based on touch points in the customer journey. In the third part, we will demonstrate the use of competency maps to promote and hire for the skills and behaviors required for customer success.

Interested in learning more about how you can help your organization deliver an end-to-end positive customer experience? Visit our booth at the Technology Services World event in October.

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