In the business world, salespeople are often called the “hunters” that bring in revenue. In contrast, customer success people are known as the “farmers” that maintain an existing customer base. Mixed metaphors aside, this comparison offers an easy way to understand the basic difference between sales and customer success teams.
More deeply though, customer success employees are trusted advisors for clients. The primary function of this role is to build trust and credibility. This is so that customers are honest, believe what you tell them about your product, and use your product more. Peerscale member Mike Baggley, the SVP of customer experience at Intelex Technologies, loves this about customer success. So when he hears about companies adding up-sell, cross-sell, and even sales quotas onto customer success, he believes it’s a recipe for disaster.
Getting started with customer success
To get started with customer success, Baggley said that there’s a certain amount of just… starting.
“The first thing you need to start analyzing is your retention number,” said Baggley. “How many people do you still have today that you had the same period last year? That’s going to give you an indication of how sticky your product is… Then you need to start looking at [segments]. Is it happening with customers in a certain industry? Or that have a certain number of employees?”
Once you have an idea of the current state, getting started with customer success can be as simple as reaching out.
“Just start having people reach out [to clients],” said Baggley. “That might start with your sales or account management team, just doing some sort of checking quarterly, or even yearly, to ask if they are getting value from the solution.”
Baggley said just by asking, customer success can take place. You may find out customers need more help with on-boarding. Or perhaps they are stuck in one unique use case but fine in others.
Many basic customer success tasks can be done once the direction is set for the team to implement. Deciding how to reach out and what to say to build trust is something that should be carefully planned. Baggley leverages his Peerscale peer group to discuss new ideas and strategies that others have tried. Continuously evolving the team efforts to align with customer needs and, product offering simultaneously, is vital.
The process of building trust
Knowing which tasks are necessary to increase a specific customer’s success, requires trust. While some clients will open up just because you reached out, others will take time to share feedback. We live in a time where switching technologies is easier and earning someones time is harder. Trust between vendor and client is one of the primary ways to keep a customer coming back.
Intelex is in the B2B software space, so Baggley’s team takes care of multiple enterprise clients that want to minimize their negative impact on the world. Encouraging use of the platform is not just a matter of reaching out. Clients have to trust that Intelex’s customer experience team has their best interests at heart.
Baggley said that Intelex starts building trust with clients by setting expectations clearly during the sales process. That way, he said, clients know the value that Intelex can provide and know what Intelex’s teams will do to ensure value is delivered.
“If you can set that expectation and then follow through and deliver, then you’re going to get trust from the customer right from the get-go,” said Baggley. “And then customer success is going to be easily able to maintain that trust as time goes on.”
Maintaining the trust you earned
One big part of maintaining that trust, for Baggley, is the fact that customer success exists solely to help clients get value from the product. But a new trend in customer success is to add quotas to their job descriptions. In some companies, customer success teams are solely responsible for upselling and cross-selling clients, something Baggley doesn’t agree with.
“Trust and transparency is so much easier to earn when the customer knows that you’re not quota-carrying… that your whole reason for working with them is just to see them get value,” Baggley said. Further adding that trust is significantly harder to get from customers the moment they know you are only paid if you sell them more.
Instead of adding quotas to customer success, Baggley advocates a more integrated system between sales and customer success. He encourages the customer success leaders in his peer group and others to develop an integrated system as he has seen the benefits.
Sharing insights and accountability
Baggley believes that customer success has deep insight into what kinds of customers are the right fit. The team should work collaboratively with sales and account management to bring in better clients over time. With that system in place, Baggley said that the entire company should be responsible for client renewals. Thus ensuring incentives are aligned to serve the customer.
“If you really want to drive retention in your business, make retention something that everyone is accountable for,” said Baggley. “I really like when companies have, as part of their yearly bonus, that every single person in the company has skin in the game when it comes to retention, NPS [net promoter score], or some sort of customer experience metric.
Doing this, he said, keeps everyone focused on the right thing: delighting the customer. “Trying to delight the customer in every interaction they have with you is a great principle,” said Baggley. “I think that’s really, really critical.”
Ready to share your experience and learn from successful peers like Mike? Apply here to take your seat the round table.