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Perfecting Customer Experience

By Special Guest
Shreesha Ramdas, SVP and GM, Medallia
August 19, 2019

Customer Experience (CX) is all the rage, but so much of it is focused on the initial stage of the customer journey.  This front-loaded approach to CX virtually ignores the latter stages until customer issues become big enough to grab the company’s attention and send it into red alert mode.  CX suffers from a typical short attention span or “check it off the list” problem endemic to most organizations.

Providing a “right start” for customers is, of course, extremely valuable, but ensuring that the product or service continues to be used, ideally more fully, is also important.  Most customers do not fully utilitize the features or value of the products and services they buy due to complexity, complacency or simply not knowing they exist.  Sometimes, organizations acquire a product or service and never use it at all.  A recent study showed 37% of software installed on corporate computers goes unused.

Customer success teams often get products or services set up and may provide some form of initial training or a product overview.  Most do not continue to walk beside customers as they start to utilize their products to help customers reach a level of proficiency.  Additionally, all too often, only one or a few individuals are part of the initial education, and the learnings do not extend across the customers’ entire organization.  This presents a big problem, particularly when those trained individuals leave their organizations or are shifted into different roles.  Once that happens, there are fewer anchor points for the product or service – sometimes none at all, and it quickly becomes forgotten.

Customer success representatives or other personnel need to be oriented to check in on customers in later stages and better understand their usage and interactions with their products.  This is typically not the job of just one person and may involve technical support, training, consulting or even product marketing/management.

Orientation towards sustained customer success is easier said than done.  Most customer success organizations are tasked with helping new customers.  Once that initial touch point is completed, these customers generally cease to be new, and customer success teams move on to the next new customers.  This cycle needs to fundamentally changed in order to ensure that customers progress and become well entrenched with all their products and services have to offer.

Besides tasking customer service with a much broader role, processes and approaches must be created to know how to best help customers and drive and expand adoption.  This may entail expanded resources, such as specialists, materials and articulated use cases.

Of course, this also means that customer service has the appropriate staffing to accomplish both an initial right start as well as sustained engagement for long-term success.  Merely adding the responsibility on top of existing priorities is not generally feasible.  In addition, the experience required for later-stage engagement may be quite different than what is needed for initial engagement and may necessitate personnel with different backgrounds and capabilities.

Finally, the workflow and tasking involved with sustained engagement needs to exist in a formal manner.  Ideally, it should be systemized and automated.  The work involved in sustained engagement is usually more complex and may be much more varied.  Unlike the initial engagement, later-stage engagement is generally not a simple check mark step.

Once organizations move to supporting a full life cycle of customer success, they are in a position to assimilate tremendously valuable information from customers.  Besides being able to drastically reduce customer churn, they may be able to uncover new opportunities for revenue and expansion.

The data — conversations or observations by those engaged with ongoing success — may appear as bits of information that, on their own, do not mean much, but taken together may highlight major issues or opportunities.  Integrating the data and synthesizing it or getting it to the right people is key to actually seeing and understanding what is going on.  This same information may expose trends, issues and opportunities that go beyond one customer.  They could have a bearing on product development, training, support, sales, marketing or other parts of the company.  For instance, it could identify a bug or deficiency in a product, or suggest the need or opportunity for additional features or capabilities.

Gathering the data is one thing.  Turning it into information is another.  Making it actionable is an even further step.  Again, centralizing the data and being able to analyze it, disseminate it and create tasks or outcomes is essential.

Evolving customer success to include sustained engagement is a game-changer for organizations.  Not only can companies reduce churn and increase revenue, but they can also gain valuable insight and information that can make their businesses more competitive and sustainable.  Such awareness may help firms avoid devastating pitfalls, keep their capabilities and values current or even several steps ahead, and ensure that their visions are more customer-focused and less myopic.

Shreesha Ramdas is SVP and GM at Medallia.  Previously he was CEO and co-founder of Strikedeck.  Prior to Strikedeck, Shreesha was GM of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, Co-founder at LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) and OuterJoin, and GM at Yodlee.  Shreesha has led teams in sales and marketing at Catalytic Software, MW2 Consulting, and Tata.  Shreesha also advises startups on marketing and growth hacking.  You can find Shreesha on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Edited by Erik Linask
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