At some point, we’ve all had to reach out to a company for customer service. And the verdict is in: we don’t love doing it. We dread having to navigate an automated menu or sit in a phone queue for hours. It’s safe to say the idea of “customer support” has a bad rap. Thankfully, it’s undergoing a rapid evolution.
Over the last decade we’ve witnessed a significant shift: the era of subscriptions. We can subscribe to almost anything these days: food delivery, music, tv streaming, beauty products—even razors. The subscription model provides significant benefits for both small and large businesses. In exchange for predictable, recurring revenue, businesses have to work to retain their customers.
The benefits of a subscription model extend to the customer, too. In the past, customers would pay a lump sum for perpetual use of software, then implement companywide. This made it difficult to switch to a competitor if the product didn’t deliver, because they’d spent their software budget. But today, customers aren’t chained to a product if it doesn’t meet their needs or standards.
Now, a company may be required to pay a sign-up or implementation fee, but the cost of software has shifted to a short-term commitment. That means they’re more likely to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, shifting the power from provider to customer. As a result, traditional support has transformed from basic, adequate customer service to a model that exceeds customer expectations, framed around the customer’s success.
Ensuring customer success is more vital than ever, as it’s the difference between keeping them or not. And how can a provider guarantee customer success? By shifting the philosophy of how they support their customers.
Proactivity = Game-changer
The most significant shift in philosophy is toward being proactive. While providers may discover the occasional bug, or a customer may have a question, the truth is that proactivity could prevent many support tickets.
Here’s a good example of proactivity in action: say your support team gets a call from a user. During the course of the call, your team member identifies an issue in the system. Now that they’ve discovered this issue, they direct it to the appropriate team for resolution. That way, future users don’t encounter it. And, the current user can be assured that their issue has been handled. Simple, right?
Why is this so important? Because customers who consistently experience the same issue don’t feel valued, and they’ll remember that come renewal time. So by taking the example above one step further to predict and quickly address pain points, we can resolve issues before they negatively impact customer satisfaction.
First impressions are important. And let’s be honest: when something is unclear to a user, it’s possible that their onboarding process was not as robust as necessary.
That’s right: onboarding is another example of where proactivity is extremely important. Identifying where and how onboarding enhancements can be made means the customer success team can reduce unnecessary tickets. Best of all, users will be up and running faster, making everyone happier overall. There are lots of ways to do this—for example, word-of-mouth feedback from customers to your team or a quick survey to review the onboarding process. You could even track common issues after implementation to make sure you’re covering potential trouble spots from Day One. But we’ll get into that later.
Customer Success Means Connection
When executed properly, customer success can be considered your team’s roundabout—the connection between your customers, your development team, and sales. The development team can focus their approach when they know what customers are saying and what objections the sales team comes up against. On the flip side, when customers (and your sales team!) know which features the development team is working on, nobody gets confused and everyone is on the same page. If utilized properly, the Customer Success team can connect your customers and internal departments seamlessly.
Data Is the Key
So, you have to have customer data to be proactive, right? Check out these different ways to gather that data. Each method provides different insights into customer satisfaction.
Sometimes, you can’t beat a real, live, human conversation. Regularly sitting down with your customers allows you to collect vital feedback and ask follow-up questions. Is the product or service meeting or exceeding expectations? Is the customer seeing an improvement in their bottom line, or an efficiency boost in their workflows? Knowing how the customer measures their business success allows you to focus your efforts to ensure customer success. And customer success means provider success.
Set up review meetings in advance so your customer knows what to expect and can get the right people in the room or on the call. Then, treat your meeting as an opportunity to ensure the customer is on the path to success.
Surveys are one of the most valuable tools in the customer success toolkit. They’re an easy and accurate way to gauge customer health. Surveys also allow for gathering quantifiable metrics, meaning you can track customer health and quickly identify and correct any negative trends.
In addition to tracking customer satisfaction, surveys can provide evidence and justification for internal action. If you’re asking the right questions, surveys could lead your team down a path of hiring additional team members, process improvement, and repositioning items on the roadmap. Incorporating surveys into your business practice is vital to understanding how you’re serving customers.
Knowing how often a customer uses your product is a direct way to identify if that customer will renew their subscription. And how can you determine whether they’re using the tool? By including a means to review their use, either in your product itself or via a third-party application.
This valuable tool will let your success team know if customers aren’t receiving the most out of their subscription. Usage dips can indicate the need for additional training or a review of product features. Perhaps they’ll lead to a deeper dive into the customer’s business needs for your product. After all, no company wants to pay a subscription fee for a tool that’s not being used—and no provider wants to be responsible for the tool nobody uses!
Customer Success is the Future
All-around success relies heavily on your customer success model, and a more hands-on approach is more important than ever. Remember these best practices for your customer success toolbox: proactive review meetings, surveys at key points in the customer journey, and analyzing traffic. And allow your customer success team to function as the connective tissue between your customers and your departments, so your product team keeps customer needs top of mind and your customers always know what to expect.