Satisfied customers are essential for the long-term success of any business. Unhappy customers churn and share their displeasure far and wide, not only costing your company potential revenue from upsells but also hurting your chances of converting new customers.
Instead of waiting until something goes wrong and reacting through customer support, customer success aims to ensure customers are gaining value from the product or service at every step.
“If you’re ignoring customer success, you are ignoring your clients’ needs,” says Dylan Berno, a Client Success Manager at New Breed. “You’re focusing on what you think is best. You’re not allowing them to influence you. At that point, you’re saying ‘We’re delivering an experience. We’re delivering this strategy. We’re not partnering with our clients. We’re not being flexible or customizing solutions based on what they need.’”
By merely prescribing solutions, you’re treating your customers as secondary to yourself, dictating what you think is best for them without fully taking their challenges and desires into account.
“I think a lot of organizations fail their customer base in success because they say, ‘we’re gonna deliver an experience,’” Dylan says. “The experience belongs to [the customers], so we can only create that. We can’t deliver an experience.”
Instead of focusing on what you deliver, you have to flip your thinking to be centered around what your customers receive.
To achieve customer success, you have to take each individual customer’s needs into account. Look at their needs and their challenges and then nurture them toward their goals.
“If we just start at the foundation of customer success, we have clear goals, we have to create a clear path from those goals and then we need to get clear feedback from [our customers] as we start driving across that spectrum to becoming partners,” Dylan says. “From the organizational lens, we’re creating an experience that we want every customer in our space to desire; we want to nurture them toward partnership. From our customer’s lens, they expect us to be delivering a quality return on investment and progress toward their desired goals.”
Here are four fundamentals your company needs to foster customer success:
1. Set Goals
Without understanding what success means to your customer, you can’t help progress them toward it — so, setting goals is an essential element of customer success.
“At the end of the day, you have to have clear goals to track and report on,” Dylan says. “As an agency or as the designer of a product, if you don’t clearly outline what your intentions or your goals are with the product or service, the end customer, the end-user, isn’t going to understand what it’s designed to do, and you’re not going to be able to drive success.”
At the start of an engagement with a customer, you need to establish what they want your product or service to help them achieve.
Establishing short-term goals is important for reporting on progress, but long-term goals can help adapt the service or product delivery to changes in the market.
“If we understand what our long-term goal is, then it can be on us and we can drive success by identifying short-term opportunities or initiatives that will accelerate us toward that long-term goal,” Dylan says.
So, by understanding not just what their customers are working toward now, but also where they’re growing to in the future, a company can propel their customers toward long-term success.
2. Engage with Your Customers
With B2B products and services, you can't just assume that no news is good news. For example, if your SaaS product has become shelfware, you probably won’t hear complaints from the customer, but they won’t be likely to renew their business for a tool they’re not using.
Both the product or service provider and the customer need to be involved in decisions, and feedback between the two parties is essential.
“If we’re not getting feedback on where there’s a perceived notion of us missing or where there’s a lack of perceived value, then we’re not going to be able to fix that,” Dylan says.
An open feedback loop, transparency and reciprocated advocacy will forge a stronger relationship between a company and their customers leading to better product or service strategy and more successful customers.
3. Prove Your Value
To drive success for their customers, a company needs to be able to deliver a product or service that solves their customer’s challenges and show their customers that their solution is outperforming alternative options.
There’s a lot of data in B2B, and part of a company’s job is helping their customers wade through it to understand how they’re progressing toward their goals with the help of the company’s product or service.
Additionally, companies need to be creative in how they respond to that data to continue improving the solution they’re providing.
“To be unique, we need to be innovative and promote positive change. To be innovative, we need to look at the world or our space differently,” Dylan says.
Technology is changing business norms, and you need to help your customers evolve to accommodate those changes.
4. Create a Superb Experience
Customer experience is a lens that B2B organizations are still working to incorporate into their ideology, but it’s one that’s becoming more and more vital.
Customer experience is the sum of every interaction a customer has with your company, and if they’re having a poor experience, they’re likely to churn.
To create a positive customer experience, allow customers to influence and mold your deliverable into the solution that best overcomes their challenges. Additionally, take their feedback into account and be responsive to any questions or problems they may have.
“Customer service, customer experience, they parallel each other from my perspective. A good experience means they’re having good service,” Dylan says. “If we allow them to influence the experience, that means we’re providing good service because we’re taking their feedback from the service we’re providing and we’re consciously making decisions on how we’re delivering a solution based on their feedback.”
It doesn’t matter if you have the best product or service on the market if you can’t accompany it with a positive customer experience. Customers will rather have a slightly inferior solution if it’s accompanied by a better experience.
“[Customer success] will mean something different to everyone across the spectrum,” Dylan says. “For agencies, it has to be fundamental and systematic. We have to understand our customers’ needs and challenges. We have to recognize and be cognizant of those, and we have to develop that path forward.”
Product developers need to clearly communicate what their product is designed to do and how customers can leverage the product to set their customers up for success. Just like how a client will have trouble obtaining their desired outcome from a service provider who doesn’t understand their needs, a customer using a product they don’t understand will also fail to meet their goals.
“When we’re talking about support, service, experience, success, we’re trying to make human beings feel better in each and every moment, whether it’s our customer or it’s the person you’re serving a product to,” Dylan says.
Customer experience is the future, and it allows you to have a competitive advantage. If you can holistically understand your customers' needs, challenges and goals and use them to inform your product or service, you’ll not just end up with customer success, you’ll also stand out from competitors.
Customer-driven B2C products like Netflix and Uber are thriving, and that same trend is becoming more and more prominent in B2B too. Research from HubSpot showed that 70% of growing companies prioritize customer success as “very important” as opposed to only 49% if stagnant or decreasing companies.
Having a good solution without enabling your customers to leverage it to meet their goals is no longer sufficient, and setting your customers up for success is essential from the start.
“Success is the end of the journey; it’s not the beginning,” Dylan says. “It’s on the salesperson that sells the product, the people servicing the product or the agency servicing the customer — it’s our job to get them to the end goal they desire.”
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content.