Buyer success: The best way to launch & handle your CS program

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This is part three of a three-part series on customer success (CS). In this edition, we’ll cover starting and managing your customer success program. Here are links to the first two posts in the series:

Brief review

What is customer success?

In our first edition, we discussed customer success as a concept, why it’s an important functional area to focus on today, how CS teams work, and how important it is to optimize your CS efforts with a unified CRM.

Prepare to start your customer success program

In the second part we discussed customer success planning. We have provided a six-point checklist that will help you put all of the pieces together to start and run your own program. We’ve looked at building a perfect customer success team, measurable KPIs, and using a unified CRM to support your efforts and overall customer success strategy.

Now, let’s start your efforts and customer success program management. Here are three tips to get you started.

Start your program in three steps

With your team, your strategy, and a solid understanding of customer success, you can start your first CS program. Here are three key steps you must take to introduce your program to your customers and the marketplace.

1. Create buzz & awareness

Treat the launch of your CS program like a new service or product launch. Develop a go-to-market campaign to get the word out. Use multiple channels to raise awareness.

Use the marketing automation capabilities of your CRM to run an awareness email campaign for existing customers. Run a separate campaign to introduce your new offer to potential customers. Maximize awareness through social media marketing. Use any appropriate marketing channel to get the word out.

2. Generate internal excitation

To start and drive a great customer success program, it is important that your entire company adopts a customer-centric mindset. Hold all-hands meetings to walk all teams through your new program and how to get involved.

Make sure you communicate the importance of their commitment to employees. Give them the opportunity to ask questions so everyone is aligned with your customer success goals. Finally, let your Director of Customer Success or a Customer Success Manager (CSM) drive these efforts forward.

PRO TYPE: Once your program has started, give employees feedback channels to suggest improvements or provide general feedback. This will help them feel more involved in the success of your program.

3. Reach existing customers

Talk to existing customers to get the ball rolling. Explain to them the program, how it will benefit them, and discuss the steps to include them in your program.

Manage your CS program in seven steps

Once you get started, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start managing your CS program. Here are seven customer success best practices to get you started.

1. Activate your customer success playbooks

In part two of this series, we looked at customer success playbooks – process documents that summarize the activities that should take place at each stage of the customer journey. Now is the time to put it into practice.

Customer Success Playbooks encompass various customer touchpoints that your CRM solution should automate. Some examples of automated actions are reminders, notifications, automated communications, etc. These are key to building stronger customer relationships along the way.

2. Focus on onboarding

When you attract a new customer, your CS team should start planning their personalized onboarding program. One of your account managers will own this process.

Ideally, you should have a series of meetings with your new customer to fully understand their use case, needs, challenges, vulnerabilities, etc. This allows them to tailor the onboarding to each customer’s unique needs and increase the likelihood of their success with your product.

3. Offer solid workout

Training is critical to customer success. If customers don’t understand how to fully maximize the use of your product, they won’t be using it. You won’t see the value it delivers either.

The training should also be tailored to the individual needs of each customer. Training new customers is critical. However, you should also offer free product training to new users joining existing customer accounts.

PRO TYPE: Make a point to record training and make it available to every customer. The customer can then return and reference these training records when they need to refresh their knowledge on a particular topic.

4. Always be available

You can’t just take customers on board and train them and leave them to fend for themselves. Ongoing support and guidance are key to customer success.

Dedicated account managers

Every customer should have a special CSM that is always available when needed. Offering reliable guidance and teaching clients how to drive their own success is key. So make sure each customer has their own CSM to turn to if guidance is needed.

Multiple support channels

Give customers different ways to contact customer support if they have a technical problem with your product. You can offer live phone support, as well as email support and chatbots, and even receive support queries through social media.

5. Give your customers a voice and listen

It’s smart to open channels for customer feedback and product improvement ideas. When implementing product changes based on customer feedback, be sure to let customers know so they feel their voices are being heard.

Some effective ways you can give voice to your customers are:

  • Submit routine surveys for key insights into your program’s performance
  • Set up a cadence for regular one-to-one check-ins between your customers and their CSMs
  • Create customer advisory board
  • Automate surveys after each customer support case is closed
  • Development of a closed customer community and forum to give customers the opportunity to interact with each other and to propose “ideas” for improving functionality.

PRO TYPE: When soliciting functional enhancement inquiries from customers, refer to these “Feature Ideas” rather than “Inquiries”. This reduces the expectation that each requirement will become a new function.

6. Upselling & Cross-Selling

Your CS team’s role is not to sell or sell products or improvements. However, by teaching customers the pros and cons of the system, your CSMs are explaining additional product features that customers may not have.

If your CS team learns what could be possible if they add a certain add-on module or update their plan to access more features, they accidentally cross-sell and upsell. This is fine, just make sure it isn’t the focus of your strategy.

Customer success reps are there to help the customer succeed, not to have a sales pitch. This can have a negative impact on their performance, as it is critical that customers view CSMs as their advocates rather than salespeople in disguise.

7. Contract renewal management

Customer retention and churn rates are key metrics for customer success teams. When a customer’s renewal date is approaching, your CRM’s workflow automation features should send your CSMs an alert.

This is their queue to activate the playbook to renew customer success. At this point, they schedule meetings with the customer to see how things are going and how they can improve their service to their customers.

If they can reassure each customer that the problems they encountered in the last year have been or have already been resolved, they increase the likelihood of a customer contract renewal.

Performance measurement

Routine reports and metrics analysis are key to increasing program success. During the prep phase, you defined the customer success metrics that you want to track. They also collected baseline data on these metrics so that you know how far you have progressed over time.

We recommend monthly reporting and analysis meetings in your CS team. This way the team can identify areas for improvement.

We also recommend holding a quarterly meeting with other team leaders to share results and open the floor for suggestions on how to improve cross-functional collaboration on your CS program.

Here are commonly used CS metrics to track:

  • Customer churn and retention rates
  • Customer health assessment
  • Net Promoter Score
  • Customer Lifetime Value
  • Product acceptance and usage rates
  • Product upsell and cross-sell rates
  • Contract renewal rates
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer support ticket volume per user
  • Expansion proceeds

Ready to start your own CS program?

Start your program with more knowledge and preparation, and you will increase customer success, as well as customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales growth.

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