By Shreesha Ramdas, Strikedeck
With SaaS at the forefront of business operations today, Customer Experience has never been more important. Since customers can easily switch to an alternative software offering, vendors must reduce churn and increase stickiness, retain, and even expand their customer base and their digital footprints.
Until recently, Customer Experience was owned and executed by Marketing, and while there was significant focus on “landing” accounts, the customer journey that followed was largely overlooked. Customer Success, on the other hand, enables Product Managers to roll out continuous improvements and added features, while simultaneously enhancing the customer experience in the process, and emphasizing the need to prioritize metrics related to CX.
Customer Experience Defined
Customer Experience (CX) is the sum of what customers actually experience, good or bad. It not only comprises all interactions with customers and the value received from the software, but it also includes any necessary support, training, vendor communication, and potential community involvement. Customer Success (CS) aims to influence, assess, and improve the Customer Experience. With the SaaS model, CX is both complex and dynamic, making CS even more important and pivotal to assuring a positive CX.
Why Is CX Better Under Customer Success?
There is a constant debate about CX and whether it is a vendor function or only something strictly embodied by the customer. To take it one step further, who should be responsible for the Customer Experience? Some, for instance, see CX as synonymous with the customer journey, and often under the jurisdiction of Marketing, while others think that it belongs with Customer Success, and should be the underlying goal of all functions of a business.
These debates and varied definitions are generally pointless until one realizes that each customer owns their own experience. Experience belongs to the beholder and it can and should be shaped and influenced, but ultimately, it is the customer who decides if the experience is positive or negative and how much value they have received from the product/service.
The starting point for CS is listening to the customer, understanding their needs, evaluating the CX and determining what could be done to make it better. In short, CS solves problems and gets to the root cause of CX issues.
As opposed to Marketing and Sales that focus on “landing” customers and getting them to “seal the deal,” CS is constant throughout the customer journey - observing, driving open dialogue, rallying help or support, and encouraging and facilitating the full use of the software. From the moment the customer interacts with the company, all the way to the end - the point when and if they decide to discontinue using the company’s products, CS takes ownership of the customer journey. This gives CS a better chance to take a deeper dive into all the issues that the customers are facing and get to the bottom of them, even before the customer complains.
After mapping out the entire journey, Customer Success Managers (CSMs) are better equipped to single out obstacles and devise an implementation plan to improve CX. These obstacles or issues may be in the form of unattended support tickets, improvements needed in the software UI, or anything else that might hamper the value that customers derive from the product/service.
An important element of CS is that it allows strategic decisions to be data-driven. Instead of CSMs pointing fingers at problems, they can use invaluable customer data and justify the need for fixes and enhancements in the overall user experience. Besides direct observation and regular conversation, data from health scores like NPS, survey results, engagement metrics, and various other measures is valuable for assessing success (or failure) and predicting threats and opportunities. Customer Success considers the findings from such metrics, compiles and analyzes data, and suggests ways and means to enhance CX.
If there is any department that is capable of illustrating a realistic picture of the customer, it is Customer Success. Despite the bidirectional conversation, CS is transactional in nature - it focuses on the recurring revenue model and facilitates the adoption process of technical, SaaS products. That being said, with a customer-driven mindset, CSMs can understand customer pain points in a better manner and strategize to improve CX.
With the passage of time, Customer Success has emerged as the one-stop solution for all customer facing issues, especially in the SaaS space. The relationship between CX and CS has evolved quite a lot - organizations are realizing the intersection between the two disciplines and are working toward creating further points of convergence.
New practices of inculcating more emotion in customer health metrics are making CX understandings even greater, accounting for variables such as fear, pride, ownership and other drivers of experience. These new factors generate even more accurate findings about customer satisfaction and loyalty levels. These can then be used to derive greater value - hence improving the overall customer experience. While CX is owned by the customer, Customer Success can (and should) own the means to influence that experience and strive to achieve greater levels of success.
About The Author
Shreesha Ramdas is the CEO and Co-founder of Strikedeck, a rapidly growing Customer Success company. Previously, Shreesha was the GM of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, Co-founder of LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) & OuterJoin, and General Manager at Yodlee. Prior to that, Ramdas lead teams in Sales and Marketing at Catalytic Software, MW2 consulting, and Tata. Shreesha is currently an advisor to Workato, Dxcontinuum, ObeoHealth, and Elastica.