Customer experience is a critical part of what keeps businesses running. Yet, there’s not enough conversation about how businesses really take care of customers — the customer success strategy. While agile, SaaS companies often fail to look at the holistic picture of what it means to nurture a relationship the moment a new customer signs on.
As a customer success director with decades of experience, Kristi Punches knows the importance of a seamless customer journey. With a background in education and a passion for consulting and process improvement, Kristi uses expertise to guide implementation conversations, manage teams focused on different products, and develop implementation tools to support customer success.
Based on an excerpt from an interview, here are Kristi’s thoughts on how customer success requires a collaborative, cohesive approach — with the so-called “nest” laying the groundwork for a successful strategy.
Creating a “Nest” for Your Customers
As an organization, you want to build a nest for your customer. What I mean by a nest is a framework by which your sales, implementation, and customer success team work together to ensure your customer is cradled and taken care of. Supporting that nest is all the other areas of your organization: marketing, product development, operations, IT.
Everyone in the organization should have the mindset of building that nest. We are supporting the nest; we are taking care of the nest. That is really how we need to be looking at it.
Now, how do we separate all that out and have the different departments focus on their areas?
Sales is the initial relationship builder with the customer. Their relationship with the customer shouldn't go away when a sale is made. Sales should maintain a relationship with that customer as long as they remain a customer. After all, they’re who you want to rely on for upselling, cross-selling, and introducing the rest of your products.
Sales also needs to partner with implementation and customer success teams. They can't operate in their own silo. They have to be in continuous conversation with the implementation team and with the customer success team. For instance, when sales is talking to implementation teams, they should be talking about the sales they're making, their sales strategy, and their sales projections. From there, the implementation team has the insights to move forward and understands how the sales team will be involved.
The goal of salespeople should always be to make a customer’s life better. Sure, you want to close deals, but you have to be mindful of what your customers can and can’t do. In the long run, what ends up happening is customers will churn if they can't maintain the product that they bought.
Implementation is ultimately going to be who guides the customer, helping them understand what the product does, and how that product supports their processes. To succeed in their role, implementation has to be good trainers and excellent consultors with industry knowledge. The medical industry and education are two industries where you really need to have knowledge to support the customer because you can understand and speak their “lingo” language.
Implementation should be part of the product conversation and be involved with the product team. They need to have consistent meetings with the product team to understand what’s in development and to help the team understand what the customer needs. After all, the product team is not on the front line with the customer every day.
Product people are the creators and guides for your software. They’re not always thinking along the lines of “if I do this, how will this affect another process that my customer uses?” Your implementation team and customer success team can bring that conversation to the product team.
At the end of the day, your implementation team needs to be your product subject matter and industry experts. They need to be forward thinkers and thought leaders like your customer success team.
Customer success is the one that strengthens the relationship with the customer. They reach out to the customer and check in with them to make sure they're satisfied.
Customer success team members need to have product knowledge. Their knowledge will be different from the implementation team’s knowledge, they need to focus on day-to-day user knowledge. That way, they can better understand how the user is using the product and how to build on the conversation started with implementation. They can help the customer even better understand how the products are going to solve their problems.
As customer success is talking to and supporting customers, they're apt to find areas where a customer could use another product. They can relay that information to the sales team, who can then help provide customers with what they need to reach that next level.
Everybody has to have the same conversation to enable customer success. It's about making sure the customer is taken care of because if you're taking care of your customer, your customers will return the favor. They’ll want to remain your customer and tell other people in their group and further industries where your solutions can be useful.
As Kristi has alluded to here, a good customer success strategy requires collaboration. In Part 2 of this guest post, Kristi elaborates on how businesses can create a team and a mindset that successfully supports customers. Stay tuned!