One of the most rewarding parts of marketing is when your customers can talk glowingly about how your company helps them in their day-to-day activities.
Most times, affirmation about the company and its products or services doesn’t come out of the blue. It’s done by having a direct mission around the customer and clear goals to help measure the success of it.
Contrary to the name, the mission of “customer success” is not just one team's responsibility: it must be something everyone in the company touches. It’s critical that this corporate-wide initiative is driven top-down by the c-suite, specifically the CEO. The CEO must shout it from the top of the mountain so everyone - employees, partners, and most of all, customers - can hear and understand why it’s the top priority.
It’s the only way customer success becomes religion - meaning it permeates across marketing, sales, product, engineering, services, and community.
That said, each group has its own internal teams, with additional requirements and areas of focus integral to corporate-wide customer success initiatives. In fact, in a recent MediaPost article by Brooke Niemiec - “You Don’t Need a CMO” - she stresses the importance of building equal accountability across the board:
"Today’s success isn’t about a single role existing or not existing within a company. Ongoing success is actually about having a corporate ecosystem and way of operating that benefits the customer, and all functional leaders should see themselves as equal partners in solving the customer equation."
The power of TCE
There are plenty of examples of companies that understand the impact of true customer success. I was fortunate to experience it (no pun intended) during my time at EMC (now part of Dell Technologies). Early on in EMC’s success, the company was maniacal in the way it supported its customers when something went wrong (we called it “break fix” back then).
As competition grew from new entrants in the market, EMC realized it had to double down in the way it delivered the ultimate - or “Total” - experience to customers. They coined the phrase TCE, which meant Total Customer Experience. It was developed by members of EMC’s executive team to be the silver bullet for the company, and when I left in 2011, it was ingrained in every employee. It became religion. So much, that it should not be overlooked that EMC’s TCE initiatives were a critical component in its sale to Dell a few years ago.
What that experience taught me is companies must have an entire view of their customers - and understand the personas of who they are selling to (whether they buy on price, value, or the best - experience). But the experience starts way before they become a customer. That’s why, I’ll break down customer experience into three critical stages:
Each of these stages has a tremendous impact on loyalty and retention. When there's alignment across these facets, loyalty and retention reign supreme. And that’s where advocacy - and the voice of the customer - becomes a driving force in your outbound initiatives.
While we will delve into each of the customer experience critical stages in later articles, here are three initial takeaways to consider when establishing a customer success program:
- People: Who are the people across the company that play critical roles in each of the phases? What are each of their responsibilities? How are you defining success and how does their role aid in that end-state? Providing clear roles and responsibilities tied to goals and key performance indicators builds the most important foundational element.
- Process: What is the most simple, yet effective process to ensure proper communication and alignment is achieved cross-functionally for each of the critical pillars? How do you build the right journey so the customer continues to move from prospect to close to implementation to education to advocacy?
- Reporting: How do you deliver the right assets and channels to give the best experience to the customer? And how are you measuring this execution to give short and long-term feedback - both quantitatively and qualitatively? How is that then delivered back (feedback loop) to better improve the people and process portion?
Building true customer success is not something you can build quickly, check it off, and be done with it. It’s a journey - just like product development. It requires continued evolution, listening, patience and the ability to act quickly based on feedback and reporting.