Why (and How) Customer Advocacy is the Key to Recurring Revenue.
For growth-minded B2B businesses, garnering customer advocates who will help you do the heavy lifting of growing your business is the singular most important goal.
Hint: Your customers’ success is absolutely important, but that’s become table stakes. It’s moving them from successful, to loyal, and, finally, to advocates that bears the real fruit.
For growth-minded B2B businesses, garnering customer advocates who will help you do the heavy lifting of growing your business is the singular most important goal.
Hint: Your customers’ success is absolutely important, but that’s become table stakes. It’s moving them from successful, to loyal, and, finally, to advocates that bears the real fruit.
The Evolution of Customer Experience
From Customer Experience to Customer Advocacy (a Primer)
While there’s plenty of chatter aboutCustomer Success being your “driving purpose” in a post-sales strategy, we have a slightly different take. Your customer’s success is a critical step on the road to garnering their loyalty and, ultimately, their advocacy. Attaining this end goal starts with how you manage your customer experiences.
In a recent LinkedIn forum discussion, Customer Success enthusiasts debated the definitions of Customer Experience and Customer Success. As we ignite the fire under our own passion for Customer Advocacy, we want in on this conversation.
Let’s start with our take on the vocabulary being used in discussions about managing existing customers.
- Customer Experience (CX): We like Gartner’s definition. The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.
This is the starting point of any plan for retaining customers. While it’s often talked about in a B2C context, customer experience is a very defining step in customer retention and growth. Meeting and exceeding expectations is key.
- Customer Success (CS): Is “Customer Success” a function? A department? A mindset? Phil Nanus at TSIA distinguishes between the department that is tasked with helping customers be successful (cs – lower case) and the state of success that customers experience with your solution (CS – upper case).
We see customer success (CS) as an enterprise-wide discipline. It’s all the things you do across an organization that facilitate your customer’s success. It’s not limited to onboarding or adoption. Rather, it’s a top-down, culturally and strategically instantiated approach to helping your customers experience success as a result of using your solution.
- Customer Loyalty: This is the byproduct of customer success. If your customers don’t leave you, they are Loyal. There may be lots of reasons customers remain loyal. Facilitating customer experiences which make your customers successful is the recipe for loyalty.
- Customer Advocacy. Now, this is the promised land! All that comes before (CX, CS, Loyalty) leads toward the goal of customer advocacy. This is where customers become vocal on your behalf. It’s when they start to help you sell. Getting your customers to this state is not simple.
When you put this all together, what does it (ideally) look like in the B2B landscape?
In B2C, the connection between customer experiences, loyalty and advocacy are straightforward.
Consider your favorite airline. While routes and pricing are pretty significant reasons you choose an airline, you are also likely to be loyal (or not) to one over another based upon your experiences. Do they depart on time? Do you appreciate the leg room? How do you feel about their in-flight service? If you – personally – like your experiences, you are likely to refer the airline to others. If you don’t, you will surely tell your stories, as well. Your voice has power, and the airlines know that. They seek to make your experiences positive because they want your vocal support (advocacy).
In the B2B world, the route from experience to advocacy isn’t much different. Just as customers of B2C products want to know they are getting a good return on their investment AND feel positive about their overall experience, so, too, do B2B customers. The key differentiation is that it’s not just an individual’s experience that’s forming the basis for loyalty (though a single power user’s voice can be very influential). Rather, it’s about all the users and sponsors within an organization and how they experience your solution (and your team). Because of the collective nature of B2B relationships, it’s vital that customer experiences are predictably positive for all people within an account. For a B2B customer experience to form the basis for customer success, it must be both effectively and affectively processed – seen as a favorable value AND positive emotional experience. For the entire account to share this success, it must always be delivered the same (branded) way so that everyone within the account receives a similarly positive experience. When that same experience (and product) results in success for the customer, you are on your way to garnering loyalists.
While customer loyalty is key, it’s just half the story. Customer Advocates are the ones who help you grow your business through their vocal support and referrals. Developing a culture of advocacy is the way to do this. This is an enterprise-wide effort and involves:
- Being an advocate for your customer (think mutual advocacy)
Much like in human relationships, business relationships respond to modeling. What you do for your customer, they are likely to do for you.
- Internally collaborating in the interest of customers
Even if a customer is happy with your solution, they can be dissatisfied with their experiences with your business. When teams don’t work collaboratively to deliver a branded (and standardized) customer experience, customers can feel disoriented, frustrated, and unlikely to advocate.
- Anticipating your customers’ needs
Nothing makes a customer more likely to become vocal than when their needs have been met and their expectations exceeded – and they didn’t even have to ask for it. Know what your customers will need and deliver proactively. (These are table stakes. If you don’t do this, you’re not likely to garner loyalty to begin with.)
Customer Advocacy is NOT just nice words. It’s the way of capitalizing on existing loyal customers to grow revenue.
The Rise of Customer Success Management
Customer Growth Management: from CRM to CSM and beyond
The challenges of growing customers (whether in logo acquisition or expansion) is age-old. In the software industry, tackling the challenges of growing and managing growth is a -tale of resource evolution – both human and technological.
First there was the Rolodex
We owe these forefathers of contact management acknowledgement for the documentation and organization of relevant account data that we needed to access to grow customers out of existing contacts. These rudimentary systems went hand in hand with grass roots sales and account management efforts.
Remember UNIVAC and the birth of the PC?
With the advent of centralized computing, contact management went digital. However, the data wasn’t especially accessible, and was definitely not collaborative. It wasn’t until the PCs of the 80’s that account managers (and admins) could log into contact management systems through desktops. This was progress, but still limiting in terms of understanding the history and current opportunities within accounts, which is essential information for growing customers.
CRM is born
And then came the rise (and fall) of Siebel. Founded in 1993, Siebel was a multi-billion dollar company by 1999, with a 782,978% growth over five years. Siebel was a pioneer and game-changer in account management. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was officially born in 1995, giving sales teams and existing account managers access to the data they needed to know who their customers were and what opportunities existed for growth.
This set the stage for opportunity management and sales force automation (SFA). Enter SalesForce, who owes much of their story (and success) to Siebel. Cloud-based SFA allowed sales forces (inclusive of those tasked with growing existing customers) remote access to everything they needed (or so they thought).
Let’s pause here. Here’s the first revolution (Yes- the Internet changed everything.)
It not only changed the way customer (and prospect) data was shared, but it also changed the way that software was bought and sold.
- By the early 2000’s, software was decreasingly being sold in legacy systems and increasingly being developed and sold for cloud subscriptions. SaaS was born.
- Customer growth management software was in lock-step with the shift from legacy software to subscriptions. SalesForce was 100% in the cloud – and so was most of the new software that was being developed.
- The workforce assigned to managing customer growth had a new landscape and supporting technology before them.
It was a tour de force, indeed. SalesForce’s capitalization on cloud computing, and the shift to subscription software purchases gave account managers a real-time capability to know their customers as opportunities for growth.
Unfortunately, it did NOT give them a way to know WHAT IT WOULD ACTUALLY TAKE TO GROW THEM.
Customer Success Management – the real revolution in understanding customers
The recurring purchase and revenue model of SaaS requires that existing customers realize increasing value quickly and continuously – or they’ll simply leave. CRMs (and SFAs) didn’t (don’t) do anything to provide insight into how much value a customer is garnering from a solution. Additionally, account managers didn’t (don’t) typically have the expertise or job description required to ensure this value delivery. While the CRM (and SFDC, especially) was revolutionary, it just didn’t go far enough.
The first Customer Success Management software companies were as revolutionary as Siebel! They gave SaaS companies a way to know so much more about their customers than they did using a CRM. Gainsight and Totango were truly the forefathers of Customer Success Management. They provided a way to visualize customer challenges and use analytics about customer health to inform those tasked with customer relationship/growth management what they needed.These platforms were designed with the analytics capabilities to know customers at a much deeper level, based upon a variety of health indicator metrics.
In tandem with the advent of this revolutionary technology, Account management, as it had existed in the legacy system world, was dead (or at least dying). The role of the Customer Success Manager would begin to define itself to accommodate the shifting needs of customers – to see real value, or leave. This role continues to be shaped as we evolve in our understanding of what it takes to establish and grow loyalty among our customers.
The Current State of Customer Growth Management
Recall how SalesForce took CRM to a new level. The same revolution is now happening with customer success software as the means for managing customer growth.
- Where the original pioneers used robust analytics engines to provide insights into customer health, they lacked the collaboration and workstream engines required to manage and deliver what customers need to remain loyal.
- The new model for customer growth management lies in technology and people who know everything it takes to preserve and expand their customers, AND are able to collaborate to deliver.
- Customer Success is more than knowing how healthy your customers are. It’s more than just managing relationships. It’s everything you need to KNOW and DO to generate loyalty and growth.
Just as CRM isn’t enough to grow customers, sales-focused Account Managers are no longer the right personnel for the job. We need experts AND the accompanying technology to support the right work of knowing our customers, and doing what they need to first become loyal, and then become our advocates.
Remove Obstacles to Customer Success
Accelerate your Path to Customer Advocacy with the Right Technology
Your customer just signed a multi-year subscription contract for your product, and your sales team high-fived one another. Throughout the sales cycle, the relationship grew in trust and enthusiasm for adopting your solution. Sales handed them over to Customer Success for kickoff. Then came the pause. The gap between signature and kickoff. When the CS team finally scheduled the first discovery meeting, the customer had lost some of their enthusiasm. They had time to second guess themselves. Then it seemed that their assigned CSM made them repeat everything they shared during the sales process…from there it seemed the relationship took extra effort to re-establish and cultivate loyalty.
The handoff offers the first potential for disillusionment, disappointment, frustration, etc. When this happens, it may not be fully predictive of churn, but it certainly disrupts momentum toward gaining a loyal advocate. Frustrations, or fumbles, like these can (and do) happen throughout the customer lifecycle, and can be experienced not only by customers, but also anyone who engages with customers, from CSMs to the C-Suite.
Consider these real-life scenarios:
- You are a CSM. An account manager from your sales team has been reaching out to your customer directly to explore upsell opportunities. He has not kept you in the loop. Meanwhile, your customer has been putting you off for scheduling an annual review meeting, and you don’t know why.
- You are the CCO. Your team is experiencing some friction, and, therefore, performing less productively. Members of marketing are upset with CS because they can’t leverage the relationship to ask for a testimonial to use on the website. CS is tired of their marketing colleagues nagging them to ask the customer for something when they know the account isn’t healthy enough to handle the request. You just know that the result is that fewer customers are becoming vocal advocates for you.
- You are the customer. You’ve made a request of your CSM regarding product direction. You were told she would be reaching out to the product development team. This was weeks ago, and your CSM hasn’t responded. (what you don’t know is that she sent an e-mail, which got lost in the shuffle, and she’s forgotten all about it). All this means to you is that you continue to wait and feel neglected.
These are just a handful of situations that can detract from positive customer experiences, which, in turn, makes success illusive, and customer advocacy unattainable. While we’d like to believe that good communication is the fix to making sure these situations don’t arise, even the best laid communication efforts are only as good as the processes and technology that are used. When teams are working in silos to do their own jobs, they don’t always take the time and effort to know what others are doing, much less collaborate in the interest of delivering consistently with a goal toward success and growth.
Technology alone is not enough
While technology alone can’t fix dysfunction, the right technology can help alleviate some of these frustrations and accelerate your route to advocacy. To be assistive in garnering customer loyalty and advocacy, a technology must:
- Provide integrated data for full account transparency
Everyone who is tasked with engaging with customers should be able to rely upon a single, multi-faceted view of each account. Even though the Marketing team may want to know something different than the Chief Customer Officer, they should have a comprehensive and transparent view of the account with a full history of all interactions and engagements. This minimizes the risk of fumbles and miscommunication.
- Enable collaboration
Whoever is working with a customer should be able to link their work to others across the enterprise. The best technology will enable teams to trigger activities for colleagues in different departments, based upon the centralized data for a given customer. Collaboration creates greater efficiencies for customer engagement by minimizing the need to input data or trigger events in separate tools.
- Support consistency though an agile and automated workflow
Rather than having individuals engaging with customers in an ad-hoc manner, the right technology should support a consistent delivery of your branded experiences. All business units should be able to design and implement their best practices into a predictable and proactive workflow which means that every customer receives a consistently exceptional experience. The technology must also support an agile workflow because changes are inevitable, and you must be able to adjust and adapt easily.
- Facilitate accountability and capacity management
Teams should be able to track their time and activities so that management can monitor the value being delivered to customers and properly manage capacity. Time and activity tracking also provide precise information that can be used in building out a menu of service offerings as you monetize your customer success efforts.
The right technology should be a gas pedal for growth
These are the must-haves for a technology that will add value to any customer growth management approach. Without these features, true cross-functional collaboration isn’t possible and fumbles can (and will) still happen. Even though you can recover from these dips in customer satisfaction, too many of them can erode trust and leave you further from advocacy than when you first signed the contract. The decision to invest in a platform to manage your customer growth shouldn’t be made hastily, and should be done in coordination with rolling out your enterprise-wide plan for customer management processes. Once you’ve adopted the right technology, your path to advocacy will not only be smoother, but growth will be accelerated.
Take it From the B2C Playbook
6 Customer Advocacy Strategies B2B Companies Can Glean from their B2C Counterparts
Whether your customer is an individual or a business, you have a vested interest in garnering their loyalty, and ultimately, their advocacy. While making your customers happy (successful) may require different marketing and management strategies in the B2C space than it does in the B2B economy, there are definitely some lessons B2B folks can learn from their B2C counterparts.
It’s not always rational
“At the core of customer loyalty is a feeling of attachment. Attachment isn’t always built upon rational, calculative decision-making.” (Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations) In fact, loyalty often happens as a result of a subconscious feeling of delight or happiness.
Consider the Dorito commercial contest for the Super Bowl or the VIP programs from your favorite retailer. These marketing initiatives have nothing to do with the benefits of their product, but they work to keep customers either at top-of-mind or incentivized to remain loyal.
The B2B community likes to believe they must focus their efforts on providing the best product and ROI in order to secure and preserve customers. However, the truth is that most of us have very viable competitors with great products – just like ours. For us to keep our customers, we must go beyond simply having an excellent product.
To retain and grow loyal customers, we can benefit from some advocacy-building strategies used by our B2C colleagues:
- Customer Segmentation
- Ease of doing business
- Customer-to-customer conversations
- Strong Basics: good listening, kindness, helpfulness
As a B2C customer you can make a living taking surveys. Retailers rely upon customer surveys to gather data for marketing purposes, and (presumably) informing brand design and delivery. Some customers actually enjoy taking surveys because they get something in return – a chance to win cash or a discount on their next purchase.
Surveying B2B customers can also be beneficial in retention and advocacy-building. While you may choose to incentivize your customers to take a survey, the reason they participate should NOT be about a cash prize, but rather for the opportunity to help inform your delivery and, thus, their experience.
Consider the Net Promoter Score. Used properly in the B2B space, NPS can be a valuable tool in informing customer success best practices, R &D roadmapping and year-over-year reviews with customers. There are some simple best practices that will ensure you glean useful information when you use it:
- The scores should be aggregated such that each account represents a single NPS score, rather than each respondent within each account representing a customer.
- Ideally the scores are grouped by classes of users (i.e. system administrators or power users vs. occasional or casual users) because different user groups can have vastly different levels of influence on the health of the overall company relationship
Not all customers are alike. From “regulars” at the local watering hole benefitting from an occasional free round, to frequent renters getting higher end cars to choose from at the rental car aisle at the airport, loyal customers who keep spending money with you deserve a little extra love.
B2B businesses can (and should) give a little more to their most valuable customers. Whether you have a high touch, low touch, high volume or low volume business model, you still have customers whom you should do more for to keep them loyal.There are numerous ways to segment customers and the perks you are willing to give them.
It can be done in a tiered, packaged manner where blocks of services become better deals when more are purchased, or it can be done through a planned growth model where milestones within a customer journey “earn” them additional services or perks. Regardless of how you segment your customers, planning and delivering rewards and perks to highly valuable (loyal) customers is key to retaining them.
Easy to do Business With
We all have our favorite brands – from airlines to hotels to automobiles. While part of why we choose these brands is because we like their products, we also buy and continue to buy from them because they’ve made doing business with them easy: their website is simple, we know exactly what we’re buying and how to buy it, they’re offerings aren’t confusing to us. B2C businesses know that their customers have choices, and that if they don’t make doing business easy, their customers can easily exercise their options.
The same rings true in the B2B landscape. If our customers find working with us difficult, they know they have choices. Whether it’s that our sales approach doesn’t clearly define what’s “included” and we then continue to “nickel and dime” them for every additional need, or we’ve set up our success management in such a way that customers have to jump through hoops to get the help they need, the harder you make it for your customers to work with you, the more likely they are to attrit.
Have you ever tried calling your cable company to negotiate a new rate? Or asked the hotel reservation clerk if that’s the best deal they can offer? Even if these better deals are hidden parts of their offerings (they just need to be requested), customers appreciate the perception that they are being given something special, not on the menu.
This same perception of flexibility or preferential treatment can (and should be) used in B2B relationships. If a customer is worth bending the rules – even if that bend is already accounted for, find ways to do it, and make sure your customer knows you are doing something special for them. Perhaps, it’s helping them upload data or participating in journey mapping conversations without charging for these services. These extras for valuable customers will come back to reap great rewards. Don’t feel as though you must treat all customers the same.
If you’ve made a new purchase, don’t you like to talk with other friends who are considering the same type of purchase, or have already made it. Whether it’s a new pressure cooker or a new home, people who buy similarly enjoy talking about how they use their new gadgets, or what they like (or don’t) about their neighborhoods. They build community around their choices and then find ways to enhance their experiences with their new product: recipes or use of nearby amenities, etc.
Find a way to get customers (and prospects) in direct conversations with other existing customers, and then step aside. If you’ve done your job well, your customer will do an even better job than you would in speaking about the specific benefits of your solution – without sounding like they’re being paid to do so. Spreadshirt Marketing Head, Adam Lasky, said it well, “Get out of our customers’ way and let them talk to each other.”Think about how powerful it can be if your customers form a community around your brand, and even find benefits and value in your solution that you hadn’t even thought of.
Get the Basics Right
All of these strategies are for naught if you have failed to meet your customers’ basic needs. Even the best products can garner negative reviews if a customer perceives that any one of their interactions with the company is negative: an agent didn’t listen, the bathrooms were dirty, the front desk clerk was rude, etc. Whether your customer is an individual or a set of individuals, everyone has an experience that imprints your brand upon them. Getting basic customer service right – good listening, kindness, attentiveness, responsiveness, empathy etc. – cannot be undervalued and must be embodied by everyone who affects customer relationships. These are the basics of exceeding expectations and making your customer feel good about using your solution, and both are essential to creating B2B customer advocates.
Planning for Growth
A Guide to Creating Customer Advocates at Scale
As individual customers, many of us advocate on behalf of companies whose products and services we enjoy. We introduce a friend to another friend who has posted a job with aligned qualifications. We tell others (in person or via crowd review websites) about the B & B we stayed in on vacation. We promote the book we just read or the movie we saw. Advocacy is not new. In fact, it is the way many people make decisions about what services or products to use.
In the B2B economy, this intrinsic desire to share the good news (of our solution) with others is exactly what we want to create in our customers. We need our customers to advocate for us so that they can feed the top of our funnel with references and referrals.
How do we do this, and do it at scale?
We all know why customer advocates are important, and what great customer advocacy looks and feels like. But, do we know how to manage our team and processes to develop customer advocates? It cannot be a crap shoot. To cultivate customer advocates – and do so at scale, you must manage to this goal.
Where garnering loyalty and harnessing advocacy can be done in ad hoc ways during start-up and scale-up modes, doing so at scale in enterprise businesses requires a customer advocacy management plan. The plan should incorporate:
- Ensuring your customer’s success first and foremost
- Being deliberate about how you foster loyalty and establish a culture of mutual advocacy
- Keeping track of the deposits and withdrawals to your loyalty bank
- Knowing precisely when to make a request (Timing is everything!)
Your customer must be successful with your solution before she can become your advocate
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not uncommon for eager marketing teams to try to get a quote or a review before the customer has realized the first value of their purchase. Even if your contract spells out that the customer is “expected” to provide testimonials and participate in case-studies, you cannot be premature in soliciting these things. If you do, you run the risk of straining a young relationship and not getting what you want. Ideally, your customer lifecycle identifies the timing for when you can expect that they have attained first value, and you can time your requests around that. (It’s even more ideal if your marketing team knows exactly when that happens because they have full transparency into the accounts and the Customer Success teams have identified that the timing is right.)
Don’t assume that your customer is loyal just because he is successful with your solution
Loyalty may be a natural byproduct of a positive experience, but you cannot assume that it will automatically ensue once a customer experiences success. In believing that loyalty is an automatic outcome, you run the risk of complacency that you just have to get them to first value and they’ll say whatever you need them to say. With the end goal of advocacy (expressiveness in sharing the benefits of your solution), you must be deliberate in fostering loyalty. As you operationalize how everyone within the enterprise interacts with customers, consider the importance of these loyalty-boosting measures:
- Be Consistent: Don’t take your customer on emotional and business roller coaster rides.
- Help your customer shine: When you help your customer achieve success in his or her job, you increase the likelihood of their loyalty tenfold.
- Recover from your mistakes with integrity: Don’t finger-point, and do take responsibility when mistakes happen (you will gain credibility, and this goes a long way in building loyal relationships).
- Treat your customers like trusted advisors: Ask your customer for their industry expertise. (People value being heard.)
- Share insights you glean from other customer relationships: Find ways to “benchmark” your customer without breaching confidentiality.
- Be Interested: Keep up on your customers by using built-in alerts (i.e. Google, LinkedIn, etc.) to let you know when they are mentioned in the news or post something.
Just as you must be deliberate in how you cultivate loyalty in all aspects of customer engagement, you should also keep track of what you (and your customers) DO as advocates and partners. This bookkeeping ensures that you don’t overtax the relationship, while still benefitting from the work you’ve done to become partners. Some tactics for measuring and tracking customer advocacy are:
- Set expectations during the sales cycle that your goal is a partnership which results in mutual advocacy.
- Understand the relative value of everything you do for your customer and everything he or she does for you. (i.e. a “like” on a shared blog has a different value than doing a webinar together).
- Have a way to keep track of those things that you do (outside of your contract) to bolster loyalty, as well as those things your customer does to demonstrate loyalty – a loyalty “bank” of sorts.
Timing is Everything
You’re not likely to pursue a referral reward from your new high-speed internet service provider until you’ve used it and can legitimately recommend the service to your friends. Similarly, you can’t expect your customer to be your advocate until he can speak from experiences about the benefits of your solution. Timing is very important in advocacy management. There are two simple “rules” about timing:
- Don’t ask for any sort of advocacy (referral, reference, testimonial, etc.) until your customer has attained real value from your solution and can speak on your behalf without reservations.
- Don’t seek out advocacy from your customer when you are in the midst of tending to a crisis or managing a significant need of theirs.
These guidelines may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketing teams are so eager to get quotes for their website that they ask without knowing where the customer is in their lifecycle. (Note: A platform which provides full enterprise transparency into the state and history of all customers can help minimize the risk of a potentially mis-timed request.)
Even though your goal is to get your customer to help you sell more by serving as your advocate, a culture of advocacy, where customers and vendors are mutual advocates for one another, is ideal. The ecosystem that is formed when great companies advocate for one another is a strong and vital one. Advocating on behalf of your customer not only helps build the relationship but also fosters the growth of a larger culture of advocacy. Think of reciprocating as “paying it forward”. It may not guarantee that your customer will do something for you, but it does set the tone among your customer base that that’s how you operate. This will result in a strong reputation AND a clear expectation that advocacy is part of how you do business.
Creating a Culture of Advocacy
Customer Success is Not Enough
Ask 10 CSMs what success in their job means to them, and they will have 10 answers, ranging from:
- keeping my customers from churning
- onboarding my customers successfully
- helping my customers adopt our solution
- identifying opportunities within accounts for growth
- facilitating my customers’ attainment of outcomes
- managing the renewal process
None of these are wrong. They are all part of many CSM job descriptions. However, to limit customer success to these roles alone is not giving it the true value it has in growing a loyal customer base who end up becoming your advocates.
Customer success – as it’s been defined – is simply not enough
It may minimize some risks or uncover some opportunities, but, if it’s just these functions within a team, it doesn’t go far enough to building customer loyalty, and growing customers – and that’s the ace in the hole.
If Customer Loyalty – the gateway to Customer Advocacy – is the goal, then relegating customer success to a departmental function is limiting. Rather than chartering customer success as a department, it should not only incorporate all aspects of customer growth management, but be rolled out as an enterprise-wide discipline.
Growing customers involves the entire enterprise
When we talk about an enterprise-wide discipline, we start by looking at the many functions (outside of a typical customer success department) that are customer-oriented and impact customer loyalty. Here are a few:
- Delivering targeted thought leadership to existing customers (a marketing function)
- Adapting and updating technology based upon customer input (an R&D function)
- Eliminating the friction in contracting (a sales and finance function)
These roles and functions do not generally lie within a customer success department – nor should they. However, they are all opportunities for customers to experience your brand. They can be either positive or negative experiences. While they may not directly contribute to a customer’s success, they assuredly will contribute to a customer’s loyalty.
Examples of experiences that impact customer loyalty
There are lots of experiences – outside of typical customer success interactions that can have a significant impact on a customer’s loyalty.
- Consider the annoying promotional emails an existing customer still gets even after they’ve onboarded vs. the targeted content that they should be getting to help them adopt your solution, and advance in their own career.
- How impactful can it be for a customer to see product enhancements made to your solution based upon their input? This goes a long way in solidifying the relationship by making them trusted advisors. It may not directly correlate to their success, but it certainly builds loyalty.
While our customer’s success should align with our success, it is NOT enough. Every customer experience affects their level of commitment, and their overall loyalty. Instead of thinking of customer success management as something a team is tasked with, consider it a company-wide mandate that every customer experience leads to an increase in their loyalty.
If Customer Success (as we’ve known it) isn’t enough, then what is?
What does this mandate or enterprise-wide discipline look like?
It does start with Customer Success as it’s been defined up until now – churn mitigation, facilitation of adoption, renewal management, health monitoring, etc. .. This is still important. Without it, we really can’t be assured that our customer is deriving value from our solution. And this is definitely the first step toward garnering loyalty, but it stops short of the goal.
IN ADDITION, we have to look at all customer interactions and align them with a single end goal of cultivating loyalty and advocacy. While this begins with the consistent delivery of an excellent branded experience for your customer, resulting in their success, it takes more.
It requires a culture of advocacy
What if your organization were built upon a culture of advocacy, where every team member saw advocacy as a core value, and they practiced advocacy for one another, as well as the customers? Think about it. When advocacy becomes an intrinsic attitude, a way of treating others – it affects outward behaviors, and infuses all relationships with customers. Quite simply, if you advocate for your customers, they, in turn, will naturally become advocates for you. Advocacy begets advocacy.