The following is adapted from The Seven Pillars of Customer Success.
I think it’s a pretty safe bet that most SaaS (software-as-a-service) businesses know they need to differentiate themselves from their competitors if they want to succeed. But these days, it’s harder and harder for companies to do that through products alone.
To put it bluntly, in our current marketplace, the only way to truly stand out is through the experience you give your customers. As a customer success professional, you hold the keys to do that.
I’ve found, after years in SaaS customer success roles, that there are many ways to create an amazing customer experience—and I want to share six of my favorite strategies with you. The best part is, if you do them properly, not only will they help you create a positive experience for your customers and set yourself apart from your competitors, they’ll also transform those customers into enthusiastic advocates.
#1: Gather Customer Feedback
We’re in a customer-dominated, subscription-driven environment (where retention of the customer is preeminent). Retention and subscription renewals depend on providing elevated customer experiences.
So how do you know the type of customer experience you’re delivering and how your customers feel about it? By listening to them.
It’s crucial that you tap into the voice of the customer—in other words, listen, analyze, and act on customer feedback. By doing this consistently across your entire enterprise, you can retain, expand, and create advocates within your customer base.
There are a myriad of ways to capture information about your customer. Survey responses, escalations, support tickets, email marketing campaigns, or even one-on-one conversations are all great sources of customer feedback.
#2: Look for Commonalities
Once you’ve captured customer feedback, you need to put it in a unified place where it can be analyzed to better understand where the customer is along their journey and what their experience has been with your brand.
Start by looking for commonalities. Take all the information and data you have, and once amassed, look for trends and themes to help you improve. Then work out the challenges and find opportunities to overcome them.
When you take the time to identify the challenges your customers face and provide actionable solutions for them, you provide an amazing experience. Consistently doing things like this will quickly turn them into your advocates.
#3: Use Surveys (at the Right Time)
If you offer a service, consider sending out a survey to your customer every time the service is used. Even if you don’t offer a repeating service, you should still consider sending a survey.
The trick is doing it at the right time, because timing is everything. Consider the touch points and behavior on the customer journey that should trigger a survey.
I recommend gathering feedback through a survey after you’ve onboarded a customer and anytime you introduce a new feature. If you see a change in customer usage or behavior, or if a project has been fully implemented or a milestone achieved, that’s another good time to send a survey.
Of course, you should always be capturing the voice of the customer through monitoring social media, but when you manually send a survey, you can collect context specific feedback in real time. This allows you to better understand whether you’ve hit the mark and made the customer happy.
#4: Respond to Feedback
Whenever you solicit feedback from a customer—whether it’s through a survey or a different medium—you need to respond to that feedback quickly. If you can’t, you’re better off not asking in the first place. For a customer, nothing is worse than being asked your opinion and then having that opinion ignored.
This is especially true if you receive negative feedback. If one of your customers has a disappointing experience, if no one reaches out to them in a timely fashion, it will leave them feeling even more disgruntled.
If you can’t respond to your customers’ negative feedback on the same day, don’t bother. It will only backfire as it shows you’re surveying for internal (vanity) metrics, not because you’re truly interested in listening to the customer. However, if you do respond quickly, customers will take note. It will elevate their experience, and they’ll share that with other potential customers.
#5: Share Feedback With the Entire Company
You also need to share the feedback you get from customers across your entire company. Even though this responsibility is typically owned by customer success, it is truly cross-functional.
If people complain about the product or service, you need to share that feedback with those teams. Inversely, if someone has an incredible experience with them, you need to let the team know that, too.
Your job as a customer success professional is to take the information you receive and disseminate it and share it with the rest of the company. It is up to you to celebrate wins and strategize (with relevant teams) how to remove any friction from the customer’s world.
When you involve your entire company in a customer’s success, they can sense that. It’s a powerful driver to turning them into your advocate.
#6: Escalate Negative Feedback
If you get negative customer feedback, treat it like a product escalation case. For example: “The product’s on fire! It isn’t working and it’s impacting our business!” So everyone jumps on a call immediately to strategize how to address the problem.
As a customer success professional, when you receive negative feedback, remember that it needs to be examined and solved right away. Resist the temptation to sit there and say, “Oh, it’s a shame they’re having a bad experience. Let’s make sure we respond within 72 hours.”
By escalating and dealing with it immediately, the customer sees that you are committed to their success. And guess what? They’re going to share how you helped them with others.
Improve the Customer Experience
Implementing these strategies will not only help you find ways to improve your customers’ experiences, it will also help you demonstrate your value to them. Your customers will quickly see that working with your company helps them achieve the success they’re looking for.
When that happens, they’ll turn around and share that with other people. They’ll naturally become enthusiastic, willing advocates for your company and your product or service.
For more advice on how to improve the customer experience, you can find The Seven Pillars of Customer Success on Amazon.
One of the world’s leading customer success experts and a Top 100 Customer Success Strategist, Wayne McCulloch works with Google Cloud’s entire SaaS portfolio as the Customer Success Leader. He’s a keynote speaker and the recipient of multiple industry awards with more than twenty-five years of experience in customer-focused roles. Wayne began his software career at PeopleSoft and Vignette before becoming an SVP at Salesforce, the Chief Customer Officer at Kony, Inc., and the VP of the Customer Success Group at Looker. For more information about The Seven Pillars, including downloadable templates and training and certification materials, visit www.cspillars.com.