*This article first appeared on UserIQ’s blog.
When it comes to attracting and retaining customers for your software company, there is no shortage of theories, opinions, and ideas about how to do it. One conversation that has become increasingly more important is “customer-centricity.”
The term “customer-centricity”—defined as a way of doing business with your customers through positive customer experiences before and after the sale in order to drive recurring business and revenue—may seem like an obvious yet vague strategy for SaaS companies to remain competitive. After all, what’s a business without customers?
There’s also no shortage of tools to help businesses become “customer-centric,” with software that helps track customer relationships, collect user feedback and usage data, measure customer health, and so much more. And that’s only growing! By 2024, it’s expected that the customer success platforms market will grow to $2.6 billion. As this trend continues, companies are building and/or prioritizing customer success strategies and departments to “own the customer” and capitalize on the opportunities it has to offer.
Being “centered on customer success” is about so much more than tracking engagement points and collecting feedback, though. True company-wide alignment with a business mindset that’s focused on helping users achieve their unique goals is your best shot at sustainable, long-term success. And it’s what your customers expect.
With their unique positioning for generating more, better, and longer customer relationships that lead to business growth, customer success is kind of like the quarterback for your business. The best ones sweep in during or just after the sale, call the right plays, and drive value to the finish line time after time. If you put customer success at the heart of every decision, it will lead you to victory every time.
Here’s what a commitment to centering on customer success means for your company.
Impact of satisfied (and dissatisfied) customers
Why should everyone in your organization care about customer success? You’re well aware at this point of the benefits a customer success (CS) team can bring to your business, but many companies that have customer success teams still aren’t seeing the business impact of these efforts. Not only is CS still finding its footing in many organizations, but more often than not, the business hasn’t quite figured out how to integrate their success team into the rest of the organization, let alone how to get the entire organization focused on how they can help achieve customer-driven goals.
According to research from Sailthru and Forbes Insights, the probability of selling to an existing customer is roughly 50% higher than the probability of selling to a prospect. Not only that, but existing customers are more likely to try new products and they spend about 31% more than new customers. Existing customers can also become powerful brand advocates that help drive new, more qualified leads to the top of your funnel. If customer retention and account growth are a less expensive and more profitable avenue for revenue growth, it makes sense to drive more focus in this area and make it a key foundation of your growth strategy. And since your customer success team owns the relationship with your existing customers, that’s the place to start.
The customer success team’s responsibility to the user
The most common reason this disconnect between customer success as a department and customer success as a strategy occurs is that CS teams often get pigeonholed into performing a specific tactic (like onboarding or QBRs during renewals) or get stuck in a constant state of firefighting (like churn management). While these tasks are an essential part of their role, they are only a portion. Customer success teams have a broader responsibility to both the customer and to the company. The value they can provide both sides is deeply underutilized or underprioritized.
As they manage and build the customer relationship after the initial purchase (and sometimes they’re even involved during the sales cycle), customer success’s ultimate responsibility is making sure users are empowered to be as successful as they can be with your business and its product(s). That means they need to be the customer’s champion through product updates, process changes, feedback, and more. They are the link between the user and the rest of the company. Therefore, consistent communication between the customer success team and the larger organization is vital for driving a customer success-centered mindset.
Customer success holds the key to user insights
In addition to the customer success team’s responsibility to users, they also hold the key to user insights that departments across the organization benefit from. However, in our 2019 Customer Success + Product Management Alignment Benchmarking Report, we learned that nearly 60% of teams aren’t fully sharing customer data between departments. This is clearly a missed opportunity and keeps teams working in silos, sometimes toward separate or even conflicting goals ultimately at the expense of the customer. Since customers don’t see your company as individual departments with individual goals, they expect a seamless experience that’s all working toward their success.
The way we see it, there are four pillars of customer success: intelligence, insights, engagement, and alignment. These pillars are the elements needed to enable customer success teams to do their best work. With access to valuable, shareable data and insights, the ability to engage users based on that data, and strategies that align them with the larger organization, the CS team becomes the “window to the user” for the rest of the business. It’s important that they are sharing customer wins, feedback, and data with other departments in order to ensure everyone is aligned and working in the best interest of the customer.
How the entire org can use customer insights to grow
Business success stems from a focus on customers—a proactive focus on driving their success and the value of your offering. That means adopting a business mindset that weaves customer success insights, feedback, and data into the fabric of every department.
What exactly does that look like? It all starts at the top. Getting leadership buy-in will ensure that insight-sharing is standardized and upheld. It also means that your CS team is regularly communicating across the company about customer success developments and how that affects the product, as well as how customer feedback might impact sales and marketing strategies. In fact, in our 2019 Customer Success + Product Management Alignment Benchmarking Report, we found that companies with well-aligned teams experience less churn because both teams are working towards the same goals, and it’s fair to say this carries into alignment across the business.
Alright, so we’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, so let’s summarize. Being centered on customer success means empowering the CS team to gather data-driven insights to share across an organization, and using those insights to focus company efforts on customer value, as well as retention and growth. To accomplish this, customer success needs to be a company-wide mindset rather than a single department. This concept is put into action by:
- Giving customer success teams access to data, insights, engagements, and strategies to become the “window to the user”
- Placing a priority on cross-team collaboration so that customer feedback and needs are shared with the product and sales/marketing teams
- Getting leadership buy-in to transform company culture and instill customer-centric mindset from the top down
How is your company working towards customer-centricity and customer success as a growth driver?