We’ve all heard the old adage that “A penny saved is a penny earned,” but have you ever applied that logic to customers at your organization?
Most businesses focus heavily on customer acquisition and generating new sales, but they often forget that keeping your existing customers is just as important and often more important than finding new ones. Existing customers have already said “Yes!” to your product and services – so why pay less attention to them than you do to your next prospect (who may or may not become a customer)?
These realizations have led organizations across the world to invest in the development of customer success teams: a business department whose sole goal is to facilitate customer retention and loyalty by ensuring the success of every customer who purchases a product or service. This article discusses the role customer success teams and employee empowerment are playing in business today, why you should build your own and how you can get started in just eight easy steps.
Why Build a Customer Success Team?
Customer experience is rapidly replacing product and price differentiation as the primary dimension of competition for businesses across many industries. In other words, customers now care more about their experience engaging with your business than they do about the products that you sell. If “customer experience” is a customer’s impression of how your company treats them, your customer success team’s goal is to make sure your company provides the best service possible. Customers who genuinely like doing business with you will stay loyal, grow with you and recommend your services to others. Here are some key areas where customer success teams make an impact:
Customer Success Teams Drive Retention
Your company’s churn rate is a natural indicator of how well your customer success team is doing – a high churn rate simply means that your customers have not succeeded in solving their problems by purchasing your services. A great customer success program reduces churn by playing an active role in facilitating the customer’s success with your solution.
Customer Success Teams Collect Feedback
Everyone at your organization should be focused on meeting the needs of your customers, but a customer success specialist should be on the front lines talking to customers every single day. As a result, the customer success team is one of the most important sources of feedback that you can develop for your business. You’ll find out where your product is meeting the needs of the customer, and what features, updates and fixes are needed. You can even begin to proactively solve problems with your service before you receive genuine complaints from unsatisfied customers. Customer success specialists are in a great position to deliver customer satisfaction surveys to your core customers, helping you learn more about how to meet the needs of your best customers.
Customer Support or Customer Success: What’s the Difference?
Although they sound similar, customer support teams and customer success teams serve different functions. The customer support team has traditionally provided technical support – they often work in call centers, responding to service requests or basic support questions from customers. And while your customer support team might handle complex technical issues for customers, your customer success team members should take customer service to the next level – going beyond addressing bugs or issues to understanding the customer’s business, how the customer uses your product or service, and what the customer needs on an ongoing basis. And unlike a customer support call center where anyone can help the caller, your customer success team members should have clearly defined accounts and customers who they work with closely. The customer success team should clearly communicate to the customer that they are there to ensure that the customer enjoys ongoing success, that they will take the customer’s feedback to product developers and others at the company, and each customer success team member should provide a level of caring and service that creates long-term loyalty.
8 Steps for Building a Customer Success Team from Scratch
1. Start with a Strong Customer Culture
Whether you’re a blossoming start-up with 10 employees or a Fortune 500 company, it’s never been more important to maintain a customer focus throughout all of your organizational activities. Founders of start-up companies who spend the first months or years establishing a product-market fit know the importance of keeping the customer in mind at every step of the process. To build a strong customer success team, your organization needs to establish a strong culture that focuses on meeting the customer’s needs in every interaction.
2. Build a Vision for Customer Success
Customer success is not the same as customer support, and it’s important to draw a line in the sand and define a strong mission statement for what your customer success team is meant to accomplish. It isn’t just about solving the customer’s immediate technical issues, it’s about going the extra mile to ensure that they are successful with your product and ready to grow with you for the future. Your customer success team should embrace their role in the organization and the impact they will have on your business and those of your customers.
3. Create a Process You Can Scale
An efficient customer success specialist can manage a lot of accounts, but only if given the right tools. Customers want their questions answered right away, but your busy team may sometimes struggle when they are pulled in many directions at once. A great solution is to offer integrated online appointment booking that allows customers to quickly and easily schedule calls with their customer success specialist within a short time frame. This service helps the customer get great service and a prompt response.
4. Recruit Effectively
To build your customer success team with all-star team members, you’ll want to look at candidates who have a strong track record of managing a high volume of customer interactions. Look for recruits who can demonstrate a strong background in customer service roles, especially account managers who have managed a high volume of accounts in the past and are looking to transition into a hands-on, service-oriented role. Most importantly, identify candidates who understand how to advocate for their customers. The customer success team is the strongest voice of the customer in your organization, and members need to be passionate about pushing for the improvements and services that their customers want.
5. Create a Comprehensive On-Boarding Strategy
Customer success staff will need to quickly gain knowledge about your product and services in order to best assist your customers. While there will likely be a lot to learn along the way, your onboarding process should reflect your best employee knowledge management archives hosting the most common issues that customers face and how your customer success team can help them overcome those obstacles. Ensure that your onboarding process covers the products, processes and people that make up your company – new hires should understand the products and services that are offered, what processes are in place to administer those products and services, and who they can go to in the company to find services or knowledge that are required to facilitate customer success.
6. Assign Roles and Responsibilities
In the customer support paradigm, any customer can contact the call center and get technical help from any available agent. However, for a customer success team, you’ll want to assign a person or team of agents to each account. Customer success specialists should develop strong relationships with your customers through regular communication and support activities, helping to promote a positive customer experience and grow brand loyalty. Customers should have consistent access to the same customer success specialists, including the ability to book appointments directly onto their calendars.
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7. Build a Knowledge Base
As your customer success team grows, you’ll become aware of the most common issues that customers face and how these issues can be resolved. At this point, you’ll want to start building an employee knowledge base that contains the most common questions and answers that your customer success team discovers when talking to customers. The knowledge base can even be made available to the customers themselves, allowing for some self-service troubleshooting, which may save time for your customer service and customer success teams.
8. Measure Your Success
Customer success teams can improve their practices by measuring their results. Good KPIs for customer success managers include the overall rate of customer churn, how much or how frequently the customer uses the product, and the cost of service. For example, a software company’s customer success team would want to see a high usage of the software coupled with low company-wide churn rates and a low cost-of-service that indicates a positive ROI.
Customer success teams are playing an ever-greater role in facilitating customer retention, loyalty and satisfaction. Customer success teams don’t just fix technical problems – they play an active role in representing the voice of the customer within your organization, and in helping customers solve their own business problems using your product. To build a great team, start with a strong culture and clear mission, create a well-defined process for customer success, recruit and train the right candidates, and build a knowledge base to help make everyone’s lives easier. Remember to track KPIs and celebrate the success of your team and customers!