5 Customer Success Lessons and Stories from CSS 2018
There were so many valuable insights from CSS 2018 that my only frustration about the event was that I couldn’t go to everything. Nonetheless, I would like to distill what I’ve learned into 5 lessons that I took away from the Customer Success Summit and that, further, I plan to implement at SendBird.
I’m excited for our customers to have the best journey possible with SendBird and these 5 lessons represent 5 more steps in SendBird’s continuing efforts to help our customers grow and succeed.
1. Use the Golden rule: Listen, Action, Pilot
Did you know that “80% of B2B customers expect real-time communication with companies”?
That means that we need to use the Golden Rule of Customer Success at all points.
Listen to customer feedback. Decide which action to take based on that feedback. Implement that action as a trial and see how your customers respond. It's a cycle, so wash, rinse, and repeat. This is ultimately how the customer journey evolves to involve less and less friction.
Basically: create feedback loops with your customers and iterate quickly on the “Customer Success Cycle,” the process of onboarding, nurturing and harvesting your customer’s success with your product.
2. Organize user panels
Here is a perfect example of how customer success processes are not one-size fits all. One could make sense at one company but not at a different company. When I was leading customer success at my previous company, we didn't have user panels as part of our process. However, at SendBird I think they‘re an essential way to gain valuable customer feedback--not only on where we can improve but also where we are doing well.
There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Interviews with individual customers about their goals, difficulties, and successes.
- Customer Advisory Boards - these can be tricky to get right, but, if you have customers with a serious buy-in to your product’s roadmap, then create a customer advisory board and meet regularly with them about what they need to succeed with your product.
- Customer Panels - Approach individual companies and get a panel of stakeholders together. Speak with them as a group to also see the different needs of individual stakeholders.
3. Use health monitoring tools
Health monitoring tools are critical for giving the customer success team a holistic view of each customer or segments of customers. This is the one item I am most excited about because it is one we can implement right away and begin seeing insights into our customer’s health.
I personally considered Gainsight, ChurnZero, and Client Success, and picked the tools that had all the right features for us at the right price point. I encourage you to check these out and others to find the right tool for your company.
4. Always look for and identify the worst part of your process
This will be an ongoing process for Customer Success at SendBird and it changes regularly. The customer journey is only as good as its worst part, i.e. the part that creates the most friction. Use the golden rule--listen, action, pilot--to identify this quickly.
Honestly, it’s difficult to give examples from SendBird. But, moving forward, we are going to take a clear-sighted look at our customer journey, find the weakest part, and give your customers the right resources exactly at that moment to help them achieve success with our product.
5. Minimize your customer’s friction, the main hurdle to their success
We need to make it as easy as possible for people to use our product and experience its value. This is a crucial yet often overlooked part of the customer journey. So utilizing the health monitoring tools I put into place, I can keep a close eye on this step in their journey.
Stories from Customer Success Summit
I arrived at the Palace hotel in San Francisco around 8AM for the customer success summit 2018. After a quick check-in at the registration booth, I headed upstairs for the breakfast and networking planned especially for the early-birds, like me. The summit kicked off with a 9AM presentation, held downstairs on the main stage of the grand ballroom. This presentation was given by Guy Nirpaz, CEO of Totango (they are sponsoring the summit). Guy is the author of “Farm Don’t Hunt The Definitive Guide To Customer success,” which I purchased after the summit and have already begun reading.
The underlying metaphor seems apparent enough: rather than seek out and acquire customers as rapidly as possible and without any regard to their churn, customer success must cultivate a customers growth beyond the seed that the initial product purchase planted.
Remember that an economy dependent on recurring revenue relies on their customer’s recurring happiness with its product.
The Golden Rule of Customer Success - Nicole Paradise
After those presentations, the last presentation of the morning also happened to be my personal favorite. The speaker was Nicole Paradise, Senior Director of client experience at ADP. She was very articulate, engaging, and put the concept of customer success into practical terms.
The best part of her speech was when she shared her 3 step golden rule for customer success.
“80% of B2B customers expects real-time communication with companies.”
Listen to your customer. Identify the key parts of their feedback.
Decide on the most appropriate action, given your customer’s feedback.
Test out your actionable response to your customer’s feedback and then listen to their feedback again. Continue the cycle.
This 3 step golden rule is effective because it focuses on listening to feedback, deciding what action to take, and then trying out new methods. It's a continuous feedback loop.
Customer Health Monitoring - Diagnostics for Customer Success
The topics ranged across the spectrum of customer success setting up internal processes, reducing churn, deciding the best ways to interact with customers, presenting case studies, and so on. Whatever your interest in customer success, chances are there was someone talking about it. I was most interested in the talks regarding overall customer sentiment and real-time health monitoring. It’s most interesting to me because I believe that a truly good customer success team should notice even the smallest change in customer sentiment and act quickly in order to ensure the customers overall experience remains positive.
As the customer success leader within SendBird, I’m always thinking of the bigger picture in regards to our customers journey with us. I’ve lately been thinking about the best way to implement health monitoring systems and making the most of those health systems by integrating feedback loops into them. We often hear the term “customer journey.” But that is a concept that can be broken down into an actual step-by-step process like onboarding, touchpoints, health monitoring, and survey feedback.
Customer Success: As many facets as there are practitioners
At some point in the middle of all of the excitement, there was a lunch break. I sat down at an empty table with my lunch and began to eat. Within a few minutes, a woman who introduced herself as the the CEO of a design company in Palo Alto, sat down next to me. She was followed by a procurement agent from Philadelphia and then a VP of Customer Success from Indiana. None of us knew each other but as we all started chatting over lunch about the presentations so far, we all quickly agreed on one main thing: customer success is such a new concept that if you ask the same exact question to 10 different speakers, you're likely get 10 different answers. None of us actually did that.
But a great way to demonstrate this fact is to identify where the Customer Success Department fits into the company’s organization. In some organizations, customer success may fall into sales. In others, it’s in business development, and in others, still, customer success is a standalone and, perhaps, the only team allowed to navigate the organization freely in order to ensure success.
The concept of customer success is so new that the industry is still learning what works and what doesn't work. In fact, this is entirely the basis of customer success. To continually listen to your customer and pilot new ways to help. While yes, of course, there are some standards and norms, customer success is, at its heart, a close relationship between company and customers. So there is no one-size fits all approach.
Customer Success at SendBird
For SendBird, especially at our stage, I think implementing a smooth onboarding process and a infrastructure for collecting customer feedback are critical to our customer’s success. Now that we’ve traction among a lot of great companies, we need to continue to hear from them constantly to improve their experience.
These processes are critical because of our product’s nature. One of our products is a client SDK that integrates into our customers apps and websites. And, naturally, there is some engineering integration work that needs to be done by our customer. I include this in SendBird’s onboarding process and it’s critical to me that this phase is as frictionless as possible for our customers.
Another key factor is our feedback loop. We want our customers to continually get the most out of the SendBird product so we want to hear customer feedback about feature requests, documentation, and supported platforms. In my opinion, these two steps in the customer journey are absolutely critical to SendBird, but may not be as critical for a different company that has a different style product where there may not be an integration phase or new features being built.
It’s my job to not only establish our process but ensure that it can scale as we build out our team within SendBird. This meant focusing on the ones who were discussing nurturing the customer journey and the ones discussing the best process implementations. The two I decided to attend were “Creating a CX Focused Company” and “The Do’s and The Don’ts of Success Planning.”
Conclusion: SendBird is ready Listen, Act, and Pilot to your Success
As the only customer success person at SendBird, I have my work cut out for me. Not only am I working behind the scenes to establish our customer success processes and customer journeys, but I am also on the frontlines and responding to customer support tickets and customer emails. That's the nature of any startup though. As the old adage goes, you “wear many hats”.
There were a lot of takeaways (and pages of notes!) that I left the summit with and can’t want to start implementing inside of SendBird. In my never ending quest for knowledge, I’m hoping that what I have learned at the summit can help SendBird maximize the value that we provide to all of our customers!