Have you asked all your customers lately why they care about you? Why they bought, and why they continue to pay you?
They’re likely to say one of three things…
We need you. We may not admit to this, but we couldn't live without your product. It's removed major pain and would present huge challenges if we lost it.
It's ok. We have your stuff and we're using it. In fact, we've been thinking about alternatives. We just haven't had the time to look at this yet.
Who are you? Oh, that's right. In fact my boss was asking whether we could cut some costs. Let me check with my team whether we really need to keep paying for your product.
When you ask this question, you’re doing a quick customer success test. Problem is, if you leave it this late, don’t weave it in to the fabric of your customer relationships, you’ll be at a disadvantage. That’s why it’s so important to do customer success right.
I spent ten years buying technology as a CIO in several businesses. I always chose the vendor that helped me simplify and measure the value of the work we did together. This kept me honest with my boss, and the vendor honest with their commitments. Crucially, it told me how much the vendor understood the ways they could improve my business. So the most important point in our first meeting came when I asked how they measured customer success.
Like me, your commercial customers measure their success in the same way that you do–revenue, profit, cashflow, perhaps risk mitigation, market valuation or social contribution. Your champions within those businesses may measure themselves on engineering efficacy, leads converted, sales quota, transactions processed, ROI, employee survey results, promotion opportunities, and the like.
If I heard a response in those terms, there was a pretty good chance that we'd finish the conversation over beers and the vendor would become a partner. Unfortunately, too many vendors forgot that customer retention was their goal, not mine. Or that I didn’t measure MY success by the number of tickets THEY resolved. Customers care how long you continue to solve their problems, not how long they continue to give you their business. If you cease to provide value, your contract may not be cancelled immediately, but it will be cancelled. (Do you have any customers in this limbo?)
Sure, it's not always easy to determine the measures that matter to a customer. They may not open up immediately but this conversation lies at the heart of any useful sales process and the trust building and conceptual agreement that follows. No agreement of objectives and value, no proposal. And if the customer doesn't know exactly how to measure their value? Well what a great opportunity for you to help by applying your industry expertise. If you can't, your competitors will.
If you master the measurement of customer success, you'll have the information to know how to invest where your customers, in aggregate, need you to invest–how you sell, design and build your product, how you on-board and support your users. This, in turn, means that your investment will increase the value you deliver in ways that are clear and enlightening to your customers. That opens the door to conversations about better service for higher fees.
Your customer success program should be concerned with only two things–how to connect the value that your products deliver to each customer's relevant metrics, then doggedly pursuing success in those terms. You use the metrics to sell your solution, then to manage the relationship.
When you have a solid basis to measure the value you deliver, you can ask the "why do you care?" question with confidence.
Call one Buyer each day for the next month and ask them why they care about you. As you go, bucket your customers like this:
Recognize the “We need you” group as your ideal customers. Capture why they need you, then find similar prospects in your sales funnel, sign them up and add more.
If the ok group are thinking about alternatives, they need what you do, but maybe not how you do it. If they see a better option elsewhere, they may stay to avoid switching costs–for now. If you are committed to their niche, they present your best area for innovation. Address their concerns and you'll move them up to the need–you category.
The “Who are you?” group have forgotten what you do for them, or their business has changed and you're no longer relevant. Understand their definition of success and decide what it would take to re-recruit them. If there's a win-win, you can re-recruit them–it’ll be easier than winning brand new customers. If there’s no win-win, assume they'll be gone by next year and build your plans around the other groups.
How did that exercise make you feel? How will your findings be reflected in your approach to customer success?
Share your conclusions with me at graham@primeFusion.ca and we can spend a few minutes discussing your next steps.
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