Maria Braune is a seasoned customer success leader that worked on the telecom side of CS before taking her expertise to the marketing industry, first at Salesfusion and now at Liveclicker in Atlanta. We thought Maria was the perfect person to kick-off our blog series interviewing customer success leaders. In this post Maria shares her feedback on industry trends, tips for developing customer advocate programs, and best practices for aligning CS, marketing and sales.
UserIQ: What are trends you are seeing in the customer success environment?
We’re seeing a few trends come to light in customer success industry that we’re excited about. First, sales and customer success are aligning more than ever before to plot out the entire customer experience for prospects. CS is now getting involved in what used to be a strictly sales process, such as demos and trials, so they have earlier indicators of which stakeholders are involved and what their goals are for success.
Next, it’s becoming the norm to have one client success representative take a prospect through the entire buyer’s and customer’s journey – from the demo to onboarding to advocacy. This shift greatly expands the scope of the customer success team’s role and helps diminish reservations the client may have about how many people they have to work with before they can finally use the product on their own.
Finally, we’ve seen an uptick in companies using tools or processes to determine early churn indicators. At Liveclicker one thing we do is create a success chart that shows all new clients the specific wins they should expect to accomplish in their first six months. We jointly determine what the milestones are and tailor a plan unique to each client that shows them how to plot out their first six months with the tool and how we’re going to help them accomplish their goals.
UserIQ: Discuss the importance of developing programs throughout the customer journey to help retain users, expand their accounts and turn them into advocates?
It’s extremely important to have a program that follows customers throughout their lifecycle, but where we really see the biggest opportunity is in the advocacy stage. Many customers use their social feeds to brag about products or services they like and there’s a real opportunity there to have your current customers help you generate new prospects.
Some other great ideas for advocate programs are:
- Mix up the email and phone call check-ins with things like a handwritten note and gift card to customers that have not been responsive.
- Develop a case study program on clients that are using your platform to create something that may be out of the box and send these out to clients and prospects.
- Create a referral program and offer points or discounts on professional services if a customer is willing to serve as a reference or give testimonials.
On the other hand, if we notice a customer is veering off course and not following their success plan, we’ll send them what we call a drive-by email to let them know we’re thinking about them. The emails might reference a blog post or article that’s personalized and relevant to them, but more importantly it lets them know that they are top of mind to us no matter how small of a customer they may be.
UserIQ: What are the top three strategies businesses can engage to increase customer success ROI?
The three that I’m focusing on are:
- Create a strong roadmap for clients so you both know what the expectations are out of the gate. This plays into the drive-by emails to make sure all customers are always top-of-mind.
- Understand what the customer wants their first win to be. What made them sign on the dotted line? Figure that out and help them accomplish this within one training session.
- Make sure you have data to back everything up and that it’s easy to create reports. You don’t need to have clients go down the data rabbit hole or sift through hours of data to have a simple campaign analysis.
- Test all your programs. Show clients what they did before vs what they are doing now and the differences. If they aren’t getting the ROI they need find out how to get over those hurdles.
UserIQ: How does Customer Success align with marketing and sales in your organization? Do you see this alignment getting stronger in the coming year?
To be successful, marketing, sales and CS are the big trifecta. At Liveclicker these departments work hand-in-hand. The marketing team is so focused on clients and their success. We’re also very concerned with having the balance of the right managers and right folks to represent the brand. Sales is also huge advocate for CS and by bringing them into the deal they show CS how valuable their role is to convert them to a customer. In addition if CS is helping to bring in a deal, they understand how hard it is to keep a deal. As much as sales is hustling, CS has to be there to cheer them on.
The support team is another secret weapon. Support and CS need to work hand-in-hand. This is almost becoming the new sales and marketing power couple because they have to work together and be united to gain the client’s confidence.
Overall, it’s the old adage that the client is always right. You have to understand what makes them tick and it’s building that relationship with the customer just like a salesperson builds a relationship with a prospect. The key to success is relationships, relationships, relationships.
If you want to stay updated on our next Customer Success Leaders interview, subscribe to our blog. If you know someone that would be a good fit to be featured, send us an email to [email protected].