Bitrix24 is big on definitions. It’s not because we prefer formality or take pleasure in officialism, but because we believe that things should be simple and clear. For every what, we like to know why before we figure out how. And, we like sharing. If you find our knowledge and experience useful, then we’ve succeeded.
Speaking of which, success is a big buzz word around here. Last time, we tried to define what it means for the customers. As promised, we’ll now try to define what it means for the customer success teams. We’re assembling our own as we speak, and we’re eager to tell you what we’ve learned.
Like everything else, our mission is simple and clear – to make our success yours.
What is Customer Success Again?
Customer success is customer satisfaction redefined. It’s a proactive, orchestrated approach to ensuring desired outcomes throughout the buyer’s journey, at each consecutive stage including marketing, sales, onboarding and support. And, it’s what being customer-centric truly means.
Whatever you’re selling, the desired outcome isn’t it. What customers want is not your product – they can acquire a similar one from your competitors. If the product is a solution to their problem, then the product is merely a destination. What they’re really looking for is the ride.
The way we see it, customer success can only be assured if both the ride and the destination satisfy the customers’ needs. As the product delivers the expected value, the overall experience exceeds their expectations. Only together, they guarantee success for both you and the client.
Why Do We Need It?
Initially, customer success was developed as a defense mechanism against SaaS churn. Constantly being held back by canceled subscriptions, these companies realized that continual re-earning of their customers’ loyalty is their only chance to grow.
Today, with instant and global access to products and information, we’re all deep down in the subscription economy. The same rules apply to all of us, and who are the game leaders? The customers, of course. We either adapt to their way of thinking, or we lose.
So, if the customer thinks “If something goes wrong, I’ll simply unsubscribe”, then what is our best strategic move? To make sure that never happens, whatever the cost. In order to do that, we need more than to simply evolve with our customers, because that’s satisfaction, not a success.
How Do We Achieve It?
Let’s go deeper and try to define what the desired outcome actually is. We’ve already said that the product plays a supporting role here, since the real solution lays in the experience. It’s the process of finding, learning about, adopting and engaging with the product that makes the solution valuable. And who’s responsible for guiding the customer through that process?
That’s right, a customer success team.
A success team is not only a support team (you can read more about this in our previous article
), just as customer success isn’t an entirely separate function of the company. In between support, retention, customer lifetime value, feedback, success metrics, and many other responsibilities, the customer success team has a single growth-driven purpose.
To help customers evolve.
It is, after all, their desired outcome. Finding better solutions, learning more about the product, adopting it with ease, and engaging with it in a more valuable way will guarantee them not only the satisfaction of their needs (the value they expect from a product), but further evolvement of their knowledge and skills (the experience that exceeds their expectations). Below you will find the steps we followed to assemble our first Customer Success Team.
Assembling the Customer Success Team from Scratch (Bitrix24 Experience)
First things first – customer success is not a separate department, but a mindset. Each person within an organization is responsible for helping customers achieve their desired outcomes, which makes customer success not a function, but an operating model, a way of doing business.
That being said, the main responsibility of a customer success team is to drive the change of a company’s mindset. When it comes to their specific tasks, they can be anything from professional services and consulting to onboarding (high-touch and self-service alike) and training to bridge the success gaps. Whatever they do, they take the proactive approach.
Here’s how we’ve assembled our own customer success team, and what we’ve learned in the process. Hopefully, it will help you evolve.
1. Defining Success
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – customer success is not an upgrade on what’s already there, but a whole new course for an entire company. In order to change the mindset, you need to determine what it means for you and why you are changing it first.
More specifically, you need to define who you are doing it for.
Customer success means different things to different companies, simply because it depends directly on their specific customer base. Is yours low-touch and self-serve or medium-touch and assisted-level? Customers’ expectations on the level of your involvement are not the same, which means that their expected experience and desired outcomes are different too.
Take a close look at your customers and start thinking about their definitions of success. Each of them will have their own pain point, their own required solution, and their own appropriate experience. Do that for every customer segment and for every product your company offers. Only then can you reach a common understanding of what success means for you as a whole.
Our definition of success is based on two components: customer satisfaction and sincerity. It might sound too simplistic, but in reality, the company is undergoing serious changes to achieve them. In practical terms, it means a set of rules and practices we will discuss further on.
2. Building Pillars
The role of a customer success team cannot be reduced to a single aspect or department. It’s too comprehensive, multifaceted, and eclectic. Though they are driven by the same purpose – growing and retaining the customer base by helping them achieve their goals – the number of various CSM and CRM tasks that participate in a company’s success program is quite big.
So, we chose to give them some structure and white-boarded a pretty solid architecture. In our experience, support, engagement and education are the three pillars of customer success, each of them an individual one, with its own mission statement, and its own metrics.
For us, the first pillar is the traditional customer support with a more value-driven twist – it provides immediate resolutions to technical and functional queries, but also offers expert advice by helping customers understand every angle of how Bitrix24 works.
Meanwhile, the engagement part of the success team works hand in hand with the sales department, providing customers with a deeper understanding of the product and its separate features. They handle both low-touch user onboarding and one-to-one account management, which ensures a steady growth of the product usage. Moreover, we are developing the Partner Program which helps our customers all over the world get all necessary support and information locally.
The education serves self-service customers who want to learn more through help content, but goes beyond traditional technical documentation. The idea here is to inspire them to achieve more than they’ve expected, by showing them different use cases and new ways of using features. We and our partners regularly hold webinars in different languages to show everything the companies can do to achieve success with Bitrix24.
Together, support, engagement and education cover a wide range of CSM and CRM tasks – on top of these, they are responsible for a feedback loop between a company’s builders, sellers and customers, and accountable for designing an experience that ensures success for all.
3. Choosing Top Players
Customer success is transformative, but tricky, we won’t lie. So, how to make the hard work easier? Choose the right players. Quite frankly, everything we’ve talked about makes no difference at all without people who are eager to help others and able to learn how.
On a paper, a customer success hire of your dreams should have at least a couple of years of experience in customer-facing departments, and possess a set of both sales and post-sale skills. Besides customer-centric, their mindset should also be analytical and process-oriented. Ideally, they should be emphatic and persuasive, enthusiastic and driven, all at the same time.
It may be a lot to ask for, but hey, you’re playing in the big leagues now. The best advice we can give you is this – keep it in the family. The people you employ should know your customers by heart, understand your product better than those who’ve made it, and most importantly, share your unique vision of success. If you can’t find them in your own midst, you can’t find them anywhere.
4. Allocating Wisely
When you have a dream team (we’re proud to say we do), determining who’s the best for which part of the job is pretty easy. The members’ unique set of expertise will certainly help you to wisely allocate different responsibilities, but at the end of the day, customer success is up to everyone. The support should engage and educate, the engagement should educate and support, the education should support and engage, and round and round it goes.
5. Training for Success
It’s clear from this that a member of the team shouldn’t be trained only for the range of CSM or CRM tasks that he or she will be accountable for. The customer success team is a single unit, and should be trained as such. And, presuming its members are newcomers to the company, it should be trained for any possible scenario, and for a really, really long time.
Besides initial obligatory training, our customer success team regularly participates in cross-training with other departments, they share experiences and their best and worst practices. It helps us fine-tune the processes and make all necessary changes at a very early stage.
Finally, since we assembled our first customer success team, we regularly assess the level of their customer-centric approach. We hope that the right mindset, trainings and regular assessment will help our team to succeed.
6. Identifying Guidelines
Customer success is a proactive approach. What this means for our team is that the answers have to be prepared and given even before the question is asked. Sure, this is possible only by building almost personal relationships with customers, and getting to know the product inside out. Customer-centricity exists on actionable data, and so does customer success.
Every other practical guideline is a derivative of this approach. We use canned responses and regularly update our helpdesk. What’s more, we try to improve the communication style of our team so that it reflects our eagerness to help and solve.
Another guideline we all try to follow is sincerity. We don’t make promises we cannot keep. Supervisors check the responses of the customer success team to be sure that they provide sincere and relevant information.
7. Choosing Top Tools
Your stellar team will need stellar tools to make their difficult job a little bit easier. So far, Bitrix24 has been the number one choice of the Bitrix24 customer success team, and will hopefully continue to be so for quite some time in the future. Just kidding, of course it will. Here’s how we use it.
Our team communicates through Social Intranet. It’s like Facebook really, only more exclusive. We’re allocating tasks and managing workflow with Kanban boards and Gantt charts. We’re video chatting in HD and comparing customer notes on Bitrix24’s drive. And that’s only in-house.
When it comes to being proactive, our customer success team relies on our CRM, Open Channels and Ticketing and Helpdesk. Together, these three modules of Bitrix24 help us learn about our customers, approach them wherever they are, and help them successfully reach their goals.
8. Identifying KPIs
If you want something changed, you need to measure it. Enveloping a huge range of CSM and CRM tasks, customer success can never be gauged with a single metric. What you need is a system of them, a slightly more complex calculation that will include LTV, NPS and churn.
Internally, what it all comes down to is every person’s individual contribution to customer success. That’s why we’ve identified KPIs not only for the members of the success team, but for all of the other customer-focused departments. Their impact is important, so measure that too.
9. Measuring the Success of Success
To be absolutely certain that everything goes as it should, take everything into account. The Net Promoter Score (NPS)
is still the best indicator of customer success though, and if followed up by actual feedback, it can tell you whether or not you have to improve, along with why you’ve underachieved and how to be better in the future.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, NPS asks no more than one quantitative question: “How likely are you to recommend this business to a friend or colleague?” It’s effective because it’s simple – while not all dissatisfied customers will come around to actually churn, a huge number of them will be glad to rate their overall experience on a scale from 0 to 10.
10. Keeping it Positive
From here on, it’s all a matter of attitude. Building customer focus across the company is never easy, and is almost impossible without a strong intrinsic motivation and a stress-free environment. This opportunity is also a challenge, so work hard, have fun, and cut the drama.
The way we see it, customer success is not some role you act out as you communicate with customers. More likely, it is a lifestyle of the entire organization. You can also call it a mentality. Don’t just be accommodating, helpful and empathic to clients, but to each other too. Your customer success team has a desired outcome of their own, so don’t hesitate to provide them with both the required solution and the appropriate experience. Help them reach their goal, and they’ll be motivated, engaged, and loyal enough to make your customers successful, and to help your company evolve with them.
We are just at the very beginning of the long path to customer success and many things have to be done or improved. Lao Tzu said, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" and we are happy to say that we have made ours.