From Reactive to Proactive: Transforming Customer Support into Customer Success
April 9, 2014
What’s in a name? For cloud backup and recovery software company Intronis, quite a lot. Learn why a simple rebranding of the organization’s customer service function was the first step towards dramatically reducing churn and improving customer satisfaction.
Editor’s note: This is the first post in a new series featuring Intronis VP Partner Success Jasmine Lombardi on establishing and optimizing a Customer Success function.
In the second and third quarters of 2013, Rick Faulk, the CEO of Boston-based cloud backup and recovery company Intronis (an OpenView portfolio company) saw something in the company’s operating metrics that he didn’t like. The company’s churn — a critical measurement of business performance and a key factor in revenue forecasting — was much higher than Faulk and his management team wanted it to be.
So, Faulk set out to determine why that percentage was so high.
“We found that one of the factors influencing churn was that our support team was entirely driven by reactive customer service techniques,” Faulk says. “There was very little account management, almost no focus on retention, and we weren’t being proactive about ensuring that our partners were successfully using our software to accomplish their key objectives.”
To address that issue, Faulk sought out a new leader for that support team (a group it termed “Partner Support” because the company’s product is sold through a network of resellers) — hiring senior product executive Jasmine Lombardi in September 2013 to help the company restructure, rebrand, and refocus that function.
How a Simple Name Change Had a Big Impact
One of the first things Lombardi did was change the Partner Support team’s name to “Partner Success.” It was a subtle tweak, but Lombardi says it had an immediate impact.
“Before that change, the team’s focus was all about responding to customer service calls within a certain time frame, and the culture was very apathetic,” Lombardi recalls. “Morale was low and the support employees weren’t really being empowered to prevent accounts from churning.”
Following the name change (and a presentation that laid out a new strategy and identity for the function), Lombardi says she noticed a big change in the way her team approached their work.
Team members were more energized — excited by the opportunity to help the company’s partners be more successful, and relieved that they’d be spending less of their time reactively putting out fires.
“The rebranding was more than a name change — it was a change in attitude and outlook,” Lombardi explains. “It was a way to communicate to our internal and external stakeholders that we were pushing toward new levels of knowledge, skills, and responsibility, and that they would have the chance to experience the benefits of that new, positive service culture.”
Internal and External Arguments for Rethinking Your Approach to Customer Support
“The idea was to show the team that they’re more than responders — they’re also thought leaders who are conduits for empowering customer success.”
— Jasmine Lombardi, VP of Partner Success at Intronis
While there were several clear arguments for rebranding the team (from improved morale to stronger market differentiation), Lombardi says most of them fit neatly into one of two categories:
1) Internal benefits
Rebranding in any capacity (whether it’s a product, brand, or an internal team) can have a rejuvenating effect — if it’s executed properly.
Lombardi says one of the primary reasons she made the change was to emphasize the more strategic role the Partner Success team would play, communicate its elevated identity, and show team members that their responsibilities would go well beyond the typically mundane task of answering support calls.
“We wanted our reps to work outside of their comfort zone and begin to expand their presence through blogging, webinars, and other initiatives,” Lombardi says. “The idea was to show the team that they’re more than responders — they’re also thought leaders who are conduits for empowering customer success.”
Ultimately, that vision led to a new mission statement for the group, as well: Going higher, going deeper, going wider. In other words, don’t just wait for problems to arise. Instead, be more proactive about finding them before they become unfixable.
2) External impact
Lombardi also made the change with the company’s partners in mind. More specifically, she wanted to alter the way those partners viewed Intronis.
“We really needed to communicate that we were more than a service provider,” Lombardi says. “We wanted to be viewed as a true partner — a business that caters to customer demands, delivers a superior level of customer service, and goes beyond the usual parameters of ‘support.’”
Intronis also felt the rebranding would help the company differentiate itself in a crowded market. With many vendors engaging in intense price wars and battering customers with promotional clutter, Intronis saw an opportunity to pitch prospective buyers and customers on its commitment to delivering quality services and proactive partner success initiatives.
“We saw the Partner Success team as the public face of the business,” Lombardi says. “It gave us a voice in a crowded industry and allowed us to sidestep competition and increase our market share.”
4 Questions to Ask Before You Make a Name Change
To date, the impact of Intronis’ rebranding has been significant.
According to Faulk, the company’s churn has reduced by more than 50 percent and Lombardi says she’s seen a noticeable improvement in customer engagement, brand affinity, and employee satisfaction. “Our whole message now is, ‘When you’re successful, we’re successful,’” Lombardi says. “Everyone’s really rallied around that and it’s actually made this group one of the more important teams within the company.”
Still, Lombardi warns against other SaaS businesses refocusing their customer support teams unless they’ve asked themselves four key questions:
- Why are we doing it?
- What do we want to convey (and to whom)?
- Is the goal of rebranding a stepping stone (evolutionary) or a milestone (revolutionary)?
- What problem are we attempting to solve?
“You need to have a specific purpose for the change, otherwise you’ll just be changing the name for the sake of changing it,” Lombardi explains. “It’s absolutely critical that your employees and your partners understand why you’re making the change, and why they stand to benefit from it.”
Stay tuned for the next post in the series: 6 Tips for Building a Customer-Obsessed Team.
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Image By Mathias Ripp