CS In Conversation: The Ideal Customer Success Platform

June 10, 2014 Pam McBride

Amity sat down with Daniella Degrace, Former EVP of Customer Success at radian6 and Salesforce.com, to talk about customer success and posed a series of questions leading to the ultimate: If a development team were at her disposal what kind of customer success platform would you ask them to develop?

Amity: Daniella, as a Customer Success executive what is critical to you?

DD: Revenue associated with customer renewal and growth. And to accurately forecast, there is a strong dependency on the predictability and consistency of service delivery results. Having timely visibility of logically correlated customer account data from all aspects of the organization is absolutely essential to establishing a life-long healthy relationship with the customer.

Amity: Customers make product choices based on value propositions – even promises – that a company promotes. We’ve even talked about how loyalty begins with a value proposition. Given the importance, how do you know if you are delivering on your value proposition?

DD: Undoubtedly, a key indicator telling us whether we are fulfilling on our Value Proposition with our customer is the visibility we have into the customer’s usage of Products & Services. Profiling their usage behavior against their targets allows us to proactively take action to keep on course, or take advantage of new growth opportunities.  Analytics on customer usage is absolutely essential:

  • How often and what feature is the customer using is a key telling sign.
  • Is the customer on track with their deployment plans, if not, what is causing the delays in ramping up?
  • Is there efficiency loss that requires training, maybe key features that are not being leveraged?
  • Any trends of low usage could indicate product CSAT issues, customer staff rotation, or a customer’s growing concern on ROI.

Amity: So you have the insights into their usage behavior but how do you know that you are meeting their needs?

DD: Now, more than ever, having immediate access to logically correlated data is paramount in meeting customers’ needs, which are increasing in complexity at a speed far beyond what sheer individuals can keep track off without serious business data engineering.

And context is essential. From understanding subscription and billing status; to knowing what tickets and feature requests have been issued; to how/if our product is being used, when, what and by who; to what our latest customer engagements, commitments and associated time lines are; to the latest email campaigns and in-app messages; to the customer’s vision, culture, and plans: every single, highly dynamic, data point is a piece of the puzzle that will be used on the road to success.

Amity: That covers usage and context. Anything else?

DD: The big one – as a VP I still need to have the levers to pull to take effective action. If you were to ask your CSMs “What is the current approach, process and tools you use to deliver on your customer commitments?” – you would certainly get a variety of answers; and as a consequence, the customer experience would be as equality diverse.

The reality is that CSMs will adapt their customer delivery approach depending on their work experience, skills and personality. All these uncontrolled elements often lead to unpredictable delivery outcome. I would be looking for something to provide my entire service delivery organization a predefined activity path (customer journey) that guarantees consistency and provides my managers essential control points and associated reporting performance metrics. I see these in the form of automated workflows.

Amity: Why automated workflows?

DD: Automation of workflow is integral in 3 areas of the business:

  1. Deliver Customer Success

Automated workflows provide a correlated consistent view of where all customers are at any given time; enable the communication of a common plan to the entire company; provide a road map of the customer success team’s deliverables, progress and timelines; identify bottlenecks in the customer experience; raise flags when we are off track and identify where; keep track of every engagement to keep your entire organization in sync with the dynamics of day-to-day information, and its impact on the plans of actions.

  1. Optimize Operational Efficiency

As you scale your staff to address increased customer volumes, size, customer investment priorities and market diversity, workflow automation becomes a necessity. Ultimately, delivering customer success is a function of continuously improving the process of customer operations. Automated workflows help optimize operational cost efficiency by understanding the dynamics in staff assignment at every phase of deployment.

  1. Grow Recurring Revenues

Implementation of automated workflows results in a new discipline in Customer Success Delivery and Operations Efficiency. The net result of this is a switch from reactive to proactive customer management, which reduces churn and increases net revenue per customer. Managing a KPI such as ‘Revenue at Risk’ helps justify and improve the ROI of investing in customer success through targeted upsells, cross-sells and expansion.

Amity: What does this combination – usage, context and workflow – provide?

DD: I can now confidently impact our so-very-important revenue growth by identifying opportunities to increase our value added (internally and to customers), and by expanding leveraged revenue growth by identifying and managing opportunities for referrals, references, case studies, speakers, and advocates. It takes the combination of usage, context and workflow to justify the ROI of a customer success department.

If you have any questions for Amity or Daniella, we would love to field them!

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