Offering seamless, end-to-end customer journeys is becoming a top priority for every cloud business. In the emerging “everything-as-a-service” economy, service organizations are increasingly becoming the drivers of profitable revenue growth. Customer success is at the forefront of this trend, enabling companies to develop and deliver higher-value services to their customers while simultaneously creating new sources of revenue.
Designing and packaging success services has become the key to sustained business growth. Adopting a “customer first” mindset — placing customer experience at the heart of service design — will enable cloud companies to deliver long-term customer value and build customer loyalty. Knowing this, companies need to calibrate their mindset for success and organize their service portfolios around their customers’ needs. Additionally, they need to be able to co-innovate services with their customers to ensure buy-in.
“Designing for customer experience” means approaching service design in the same way that software product managers approach application design, mobile app design and website design. In other words, you start with customer user stories and not your own perceptions and biases; you need to pay attention to every customer interaction while driving for results.
If designed properly, with in-depth knowledge of the customer’s current and projected needs at the core, and all the activities, roles and processes aligned to enable frictionless customer experience across all touch points, services are the engine that power customer loyalty, retention, advocacy and, consequently, revenue growth.
Design methodology for success services
1. Develop the customer success business plan
If your company hasn’t had a customer success organization before, you need to start by developing a business plan. Develop the customer success business plan with the focus on the factors that drive customer success and factors that drive business outcomes.
Next, you need to align services, roles, processes and touch points and map them to the customer journey. If you have a customer journey map already defined, then handoffs from sales to services to success and renewal become very smooth. If not, I encourage creating customer journey map before going into roles definition.
2. Define customer outcome
Customer loyalty is in direct correlation to customer experience, which is largely influenced by the results of services provided to customers. XaaS customers are outcome oriented and the definition of outcome may differ from customer to customer. However, there are some common denominators: customers want to realize clear business benefits from their investment in your product; they want to see the value in terms of results and return on investment (ROI).
Technology providers, therefore, need to pay more attention to what constitutes “outcome” to their customers in this new service paradigm, at each stage of their journey, and develop service levels accordingly.
3. Enable customer success organization with required skills
Customer success is a new function and naturally there’s a lot of employee enablement that needs to happen. In order to have meaningful and knowledgeable dialogues with customers, your customer success team needs to have appropriate understanding of the customer’s business, knowledge in your application domain, skills in XaaS consumption analytics, as well as be versed in the underlying technology.
Investing in customer business and application domain expertise are necessary requirements, as your CSMs need to understand the language of users in order to converse with them – HR and sales speak are very different.
Your CSM team needs to develop capabilities to help customers drive and maximize your application adoption and your technology consumption. They need to leverage consumption analytics to measure customer success and ensure your products are delivering value. This is the core of the customer success function.
4. Co-innovate with customers to tailor service capabilities
Customer co-innovation is a process of working directly with your customers to recreate your services based on customer inputs. Working with your customers in this way gives you greater understanding of their needs, enabling you to offer service plans that your customers will find useful and thus pay for them.
The co-innovation process requires cross-departmental involvement. Your company’s product managers deliver the nuances and user stories around the products that you’re covering, which can assist you in identifying requirements that you want to consider when developing new service offerings.
You also need your professional services consultants and even your Systems Integration (SI) partners to share implementation and operational best practices with you.
As you define your service offerings, you need to bring in Finance to ensure that you’re following revenue-recognition guidelines so that your minimum prices are not affected with the changes you are putting in. Revenue recognition is particularly applicable if you provide subscription-based premium success plans.
In addition, you need to have a very solid services sales enablement plan so that your salespeople have the right tools and knowledge to sell these service packages to the right buyers at the right step of their journey.
5. Measure success and value
You need to establish KPIs to measure the success and value that your CSM organization creates for customers in order to deliver improved outcomes and enhance your services delivery over time. By revisiting your organization’s service packages at least on a yearly basis, you can develop effective solutions and align services to identify and remove the kinds of friction your customers encounter. This outside-in approach to service design brings massive benefits to the entire company.
You also need to make consumption data, KPIs, customer score reports, etc. available to marketing and other functions to help them plan their future activities accordingly. There are customer success solutions available today that can automate these processes, including those from leading companies such as Bluenose, Gainsight and Totango.
6. Benchmark against industry leaders
The important thing to note is that regular benchmarking against your competitors and industry leaders will enable you to determine whether the quality of your company’s service offerings is on par with industry trendsetters. Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) is a resource for leading practices information by industry trendsetters in all services disciplines, including customer success. By going through the process and leveraging resources available to you, you will identify potential areas for improvement.
However you choose to approach it, designing success services will help you meet the evolving nature of the technology industry. Success Services are a source of future competitive advantage and a solid foundation of long-term profitable growth. In the end, success will belong to the companies that can continuously prove the value of their products and services to customers.
Omid Razavi is a cloud sales and customer success leader and currently advisor to software and technology companies to grow and/or transform their sales, services and operations for the cloud. Dr. Razavi has over 20 years of leadership experience in managing sales and services at various companies in Silicon Valley. He may be reached at LinkedIn and Twitter.