4 Ways You’re Approaching Customer Success All Wrong

It may be the new top priority for SaaS companies, but just because more and more companies are investing in Customer Success functions, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily doing it right. In the videos below, Totango CEO and co-founder Guy Nirpaz shares four of the most common mistakes when it comes to establishing a truly productive customer success mindset.

“This is beyond fighting churn. It’s beyond calling you and saying, ‘Hey, we noticed that something bad is going on. How can I help?’ Instead it’s saying, ‘We’ve noticed that good things are happening. Maybe there’s more that you want to explore.'”

— Guy Nirpaz, CEO of Totango


Wrong Approaches to Customer Success

1) Not Realizing Customer Success Demands a New Approach

“The biggest thing that frustrates me when it comes to customer success is when people treat it like there’s nothing new — ‘We’ve done this before. It’s all the same thing.'” Nirpaz says. Many companies don’t see the difference between traditional customer service and support initiatives and customer success — and that’s a problem.

“If you don’t recognize that there are new rules for the game, and you’re playing with the same rules you used for 5 or 10 years ago for virtual software, then you’re not really applying the deep knowledge and learning [you need to make an impact],” Nirpaz argues. “For example, treating customer success as a new form of account management — that’s not going to drive companies far enough, and at some point they will realize that they’re investing a lot of resources and a lot of effort which is not really effective.”

2) Thinking Only Customer Success Managers Play a Part

“I think companies need to start from the beginning, from the customer,” Nirpaz explains. “Build a customer-centric mentality. What is the customer journey? What are the touchpoints? It doesn’t have to be that all touchpoints are being owned by the customer success team. Some touchpoints are owned by support and marketing and sales and product.”

“These journeys need to be implemented in a way that will drive the most value to customers, the most satisfaction,” Nirpaz says. In the end, that’s what will generate all the benefits of customer retention and brand advocacy.

3) Not Launching a Dedicated Customer Success Team Soon Enough

“For startup companies, the ‘VP of Customer Success is often really the founder,” Nirpaz says. “But then when you reach 50 customers, 100 customers, or growth rate is becoming really high, then the [founder or] CEO cannot do that anymore, and this is where you need to start delegating a lot of these responsibilities to other people in the company.”

“Should you have a dedicated team to do that? Yes, definitely,” says Nirpaz. The question is what are that team’s top objectives. While it can be tempting to start off limiting the focus around account management, Nirpaz recommends thinking of the long game and laying the foundational structure for the team to be a true center of excellence around customer success (see “How to Develop a Customer Success Management Strategy”).

Whether that team is large or small will depend on your organization and its needs, but the important thing, Nirpaz stresses, is that the initiative have a clear owner/champion. “You need to kind of centralize yourself around your customers and their success,” he says, “and putting an owner in place is mandatory to start driving the change.”

4) Failing to be Opportunistic (or Thinking Customer Success is All About Preventing Churn)

Nirpaz believes there is common element you see in the majority of best-in-class customer success organizations —  they don’t just understand, respect, and react to your needs as a customer, they anticipate them.

“I think the big Internet companies are proving to be very good at that because they know everything about you as a customer,” Nirpaz explains. “For example, on my phone I received this notification saying, ‘Your iCloud backup is 80% complete. Click here to buy a subscription for a year for $9.99 a month.’ This is very good experience. Although I paid more, it’s a very good experience to me as a customer.”

That example from Apple highlights the effectiveness of proactive engagement that goes beyond the traditional way of thinking about customer service and support, leveraging customer data to understand current usage and offer additional ways to get more value from the product or service. It also shows that your touchpoints with customers can be extremely simple and even automated, as long as they’re relevant, valuable, and timely.

“Did that [notification] go through a personal channel? Not necessarily,” Nirpaz says, “but because [Apple] knew exactly where I am [with the service], they’ve offered me something that is of a value to me, and I’ve subscribed.”

It all comes back to being relentlessly customer-centric.

“I’ve seen things like that from Amazon Prime as well, where you get a refund if the movie that you watched wasn’t 100% HD,” says Nirpaz. “That’s a very amazing experience, and I’m seeing that from a lot of companies that reach out to you and offer you ways to grow beyond where you are, because they anticipate your need. How do they know that? They have this a way to understand what are you trying to accomplish, where you are in your mission, and how can you get to the next step.”

“This is beyond fighting churn. It’s beyond calling you and saying, ‘Hey, we noticed that something bad is going on. How can I help?’ Instead it’s saying, ‘We’ve noticed that good things are happening. Maybe there’s more that you want to explore.'”

The Bar Has Been Raised

As new technology and best practices enable leading companies to provide better and better customer experiences, the fact is the bar is being raised for everyone, whether you’re B2C or B2B.

“These are some companies and examples that I think every business is striving for,” Nirpaz says, “More importantly, because all users and all buyers are expecting these types of experiences. So our challenge, and your challenge, is very, very high. You need to be able to provide this level of experiences, and humbly enough we are here to help you with that.”

Photo by: Koppenbadger

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