Competition is fierce. Customers are more knowledgeable and empowered every day. Differentiation is tough, but many companies are turning to customer experience management and relationship building after the sale to set their product apart from the crowd. Gartner defines customer experience management as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
Last week we talked a bit about the sales process and how that contributes to the customer experience. Today, let’s talk about some teams that get involved after the sale.
The support team at any given company generally has the deepest technical knowledge of how the product works (aside from maybe the engineers who built it.) Their job is to help customers troubleshoot problems, and they often have some boundaries that they have to stay within when it comes to the help they can offer.
You probably work in customer support if this sounds like a day in the life:
- You have a very deep technical knowledge of your company’s product. You went through a LOT of training and answer questions all day every day. Most of these questions come from customers, but you also get questions from the sales team, other support team members, and a bunch of other people at the company.
- You don’t really have specific clients that you are assigned. The most you know about a client that calls is how much money they’re spending and what has been listed in the database that you pull up once you know who they are.
- You spend a lot of time asking questions to figure out what the client bought, what went wrong, what they were doing, and either teaching them how to fix it or what their other options are if they can’t or don’t want to fix it themselves.
- You know pretty well how to navigate the different teams within your company so that you can offer solutions even if they require a customer to pay.
- Sometimes you have a hard time distinguishing between problems you can fix and problems that have to be escalated or referred to a different team because clients try to be sneaky or dishonest to get free help with problems they caused.
- Your company feeds you lots of pizza and gives you a special headset to wear since you’re on the phone so much.
Customer success, or client success, is a fairly new arm of the post-sales world that has begun to make it’s mark. The idea of customer success is to give clients an assigned representative that will help them to get the most out of the product and their relationship with the company. These representatives may be referred to as strategists, consultants, managers, or possibly another title under the sales umbrella, but the goal is the same.
Gainsight’s Lincoln Murphy puts it this way in a Forbes interview: “To get a customer to stay longer and pay more, you have to do something that’s going to help them feel like they’re being successful. You need to help them achieve their desired outcome.” It’s a simple concept, but it’s all too often ignored!
You may be in the business of customer success if you do the following:
- You build a strong, individualized understanding of your client’s needs, background, industry, and the way they use the product that they bought from your company. You usually do this before they come to you with any issues or question.
- You ask a LOT of questions, continually quest to find out facts and new use cases for the products they bought. You may even find problems that can be solved by other items in your product line.
- Your goal is to help your client get the most out of the product. You figure out how they can integrate it into their daily life or business operations so that they will want to keep coming back.
- You know how to navigate the different teams within your company quickly to get the answers and solutions you need to help your clients. You’ve learned to answer the simple and frequent questions yourself, but if something needs to be escalated you know how to get it in the right hands. You also know what resources are available to your clients to help them learn how to use the product and you encourage them to do that often.
- You pride yourself on numbers like retention or renewal rate, not sales. But even more than that, you pride yourself on the relationships you’ve built with your clients.
So why are we seeing this growth in the post-sales realm? Retention is the name of the game. There are hundreds of sales tactics and strategies that you can put in place to try to get people to buy from you, and you’ve probably tried half of them. Unfortunately, if you don’t have the infrastructure to follow through on the promises you make then you’ll lose the people that you worked so hard to sell.
Customers want their purchases to function well and for a long time. If you’re in an industry where a warranty isn’t really going to provide this comfort, investing in excellent customer support and customer success may be the way to go to ensure value and differentiate yourself from the competition.
Here’s a short list of other reasons post-sales support and services are growing:
- Products are growing more technical as time goes on. There is a steeper learning curve for some that is much more difficult to overcome if there isn’t any help available.
- With products being more technical, it often takes the efforts of more teams to completely resolve issues that do arise. Having a post-sales presence means it will be easier for your company to have these teams work together to produce a solution that will stick rather than quick-and-dirty fixes.
- Roles in companies can be more efficient if they’re more specialized. If you’re trying to get your sales personnel to be more effective at making sales, you may want to shift the account management duties to a post-sales specialist and allow your salespeople to focus on selling.
- Customers expect more of companies today. Social media has given customers more influence in consumer groups, so expectations of helpfulness and accountability have grown.
- Brand loyalty has to be earned. Customer retention requires effort on the part of the company to make it clear why the customer should stay and how they are valued.
What are your thoughts on customer success? Could your company benefit from practicing some of these post sale tactics? Get at us in the comments, and thanks for reading!