Customer Relationships

Integrating Customer Experience Into Your Customer Journey

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By Jeremy Gillespie

There’s been a hot debate between Customer Success and Customer Experience. Customer Success professionals believe customer experience is a subset of customer success. Customer Experience professionals believe customer success is a subset of customer experience.

We’re not going to solve this debate today. Instead, I’m going to lay out 3 simple steps to ensure that the customer experience is an integral part of your customer journey. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about the difference between customer success and customer experience.

Customer Success vs. Customer Experience

The difference is can be a little confusing, so rather than trying to explain it in my own words, I’ll let industry leaders articulate the difference.

The Customer Success Association says Customer Success is about customer relationship, retention, and optimization, and the most effective way to keep your customers is to make them as successful as possible in using your products. Essentially, in their words, customer success is based around the value customers get from using your product.

On the other hand, Forrester defines Customer Experience as “every interaction, or touch point, your customer has with your brand. It not only includes the whats (the interactions), but also the hows (perceptions, feelings) of the customer experiences.” Rather than the value customers receive from your product, customer experience is about how customers interact with your brand, and ultimately how your brand makes them feel.

The interesting part here is both impact one another and are often intertwined.

So how do you make sure Customer Experience is at the core of Customer Success? Well… it starts with your customer journey.

Step 1 - Map your ideal customer journey

Mapping your customer journey is the first step to defining outcomes and experiences at each stage of their journey. Typically, the focus is to define the measurable outcome at each stage, which makes sense, but I’m going to go a step further.

I think it makes sense to use the think-feel-do framework here. This is a framework often used in marketing to develop persuasive messaging, but it translates well to customer success. As CS professionals, we are often concerned with “Do.” This is the change or action that you want a customer to take at a specific stage in their journey.

To incorporate the experience more, we need to also define what the customer should “Think” and “Feel” as well.

Step 2 - Define the experience at each stage

Just as you define plays and processes to work toward a desired outcome for the customer, you need to do the same for “Think” and “Feel.”

Think refers to how the customer perceives your product and how it will make them better at their job. Your goal is to have your customers think about your product in a specific way at each stage of their journey. Think of it as a new “lightbulb” that goes off about how your product supports their goals.

Feel is all about the emotions they feel at each stage. While this is tough to define, when you knock this out of the park, it’s virtually impossible for them not to take the desired action. At each stage you need to define how they should feel and what emotions they should have.

So just as you map your desired outcome for each stage of your customer journey, go back and also define what your customer should Think and Feel. I know it sounds a little fluffy, but having these defined will make sure everyone is on the same page about not only what success looks like, but also what experience they should have.

Step 3 - Gather feedback on the experience

So how do you know if you’re meeting the customer experiences you’ve laid out in step 2? The beauty here is you do not need to implement any new platforms or measurements; you can use the existing measurement techniques you’re already (or should be) using. Here are three ways to measure your Customer Experience across your customer journey:

  1. Net Promoter Score - the percentage of your customers who would—or wouldn’t—recommend your company to their friends, family, or colleagues.

  2. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) - the average satisfaction score that customers rate a specific experience they had with your organization—such as getting an answer from customer support or returning a product.

  3. Churn - the percentage of customers who either don’t make a repeat purchase (for transaction-based businesses) or cancel their recurring service (for subscription-based businesses).

When you integrate Customer Experience as part of your customer success journey you should see all of these metrics improve. Most notably, you’ll see success at each stage improve, which will reduce churn and increase your customer lifetime value.

Need help weaving Customer Success with Customer Experience in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers both customer journey mapping and process design engagements. Please visit TheSuccessLeague.io for more information.

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Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth marketing expert who loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. By leveraging data and technology, he excels at creating innovative retention and expansion marketing programs for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Jeremy is a founding advisor to The Success League, and is also the founder of Built to Scale, a Bay Area consulting firm focused on helping businesses build scalable customer acquisition and retention programs. He holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University. He's a proud former Pittsburgher, currently living in San Francisco.

Customer Fit (or Know When to Fold 'Em)

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By Steve Schwartz

I spent a few days last week at a conference in the desert oasis known as Las Vegas, but all too often referred to as Lost Wages. When I had a break, I found myself down in the poker room facing off against casino regulars, tourists, and other conference-goers. I’m a very patient player and have lots of time to think while folding awful hands. One thing I realized is that poker hands can be a lot like the three types of customers that I’m sure you all have experienced: perfect fit, good fit, and bad fit. You may not know what type of customer you have when they first sign up, but as more information is revealed about them, you need to act accordingly.

The shortest primer on Texas Hold’em I can offer is this: each player is dealt two cards that only they can see and a round of betting commences. Each player will use those cards and five community cards to attempt to make the best hand possible. There’s a round of betting and then three community cards (the flop) are revealed. There is another round of betting, then one more community card (the turn). Then another round of betting, and a final community card (the river). Finally, there is one more betting round before either one player remains or multiple players show down their cards to see who has the best hand.

PERFECT FIT CUSTOMERS

You look down at two tens and raise the pot only to be re-raised by another player. You call and the flop brings two more tens and an ace. It doesn’t get much better than quads (four of a kind)! While you’ll have to invest some money for them to pay off, you’re confident you’ll be rewarded in the end.

Perfect fit customers don’t come along as often as you’d like, but when you find one, you want to maximize their value. That means that you’ll certainly want to invest heavily in their success in order to reap the profits of case studies, white papers, speaking engagements, and references.

GOOD FIT CUSTOMERS

This time you look down at an ace of spades and a king of hearts. It’s one of the better starting hands so you raise your opponents. You get a few callers and the flop comes king of spades, with the ten and 9 of diamonds. You’ve got a good hand, but there are still two cards to come and anything can happen. Someone could already have a straight or have a high likelihood of beating you with a flush. You’ll have to pay attention to the signals from the other players as the rest of the cards come to decide whether to keep going with your hand or to fold and give up.

Similarly, the most common customer you’ll find is a good fit. Their goals align well with your product offering, but things can change as their needs change or as they learn more about what your product can and can’t do for them. As you gain more information about your good fit customers, they may need significant investment in product enhancements to stay a good fit. At this point, you need to decide whether you’re willing to make those investments for the greater customer base, or let this particular good fit customer slip into the realm of a bad fit.

BAD FIT CUSTOMERS

In our final hand of the night, you look down at two sixes (clubs and hearts) and call another player’s raise. The flop brings a jack, nine, and eight, all spades and there is a bet and raise before it gets to you. If another player has two spades, you’ve got a less than 3% chance of winning the hand. You could certainly invest more money and try to get lucky or bluff the other players, but most of the time you’ll cut your losses and fold the sixes.

We’ve all had bad fit customers, but sometimes we don’t realize it until we’ve invested far too much and can’t let them go. They ask for enhancements that aren’t worth investing in, their product usage doesn’t look healthy, and their expectations don’t align with what can be delivered. Just like our sixes, sometimes the best decision is a quick fold so you can focus on the next customer.

Whether with customer success or poker, it’s always difficult to make a decision when you’re heavily invested in a customer or a potentially good hand. My advice is to always use as much data as you can, whether it be product investment costs versus potential lifetime value or odds of catching the cards you need to win versus cost to see those cards. And remember, don’t believe the phrase “it’s better to be lucky than good.”


I’ll bet you didn’t think you’d learn all about poker reading a customer success blog! The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers training and coaching for customer success leaders (and those who want to be). Check out our Leadership page for more information on our programs, and learn when to hold ‘em and fold ‘em!

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Steve Schwartz - Steve is a customer success leader who enjoys starting and building high-performance teams at early-stage startups. He has worked in startups for the past 14+ years in a variety of customer-facing roles. By engaging with customers during the sales cycle, he ensures customer expectations are fully understood and can be exceeded. When not writing for The Success League, Steve is co-leading Customer Success at Carrot Fertility. He holds a BS from Tufts University and an MS from Virginia Commonwealth University, and spends his free time with his wife and two kids exploring the Bay Area.

The Building Blocks of an Account Plan

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By Ashley Hall

Account Plans. They are just like going to gym: We should be doing more! Just like exercise, the more you schedule your account planning time and respect that time on your calendar the more successful you will be.

No single account plan can fit all clients across all industries, and compliment all platforms and services. Try as we might to have a standard approach to all our clients, at the end of the day they truly are all unique. Luckily, regardless of the variables, your team can define the basics of a comprehensive account planning approach.

Here are my non-negotiable requirements when it comes to building an impactful account plan.

Org Chart

My first step to building an account is always defining the team and their titles. Understanding your customer's internal organization is a huge part of your role. It’s your responsibility to be able to tell the story of the client and define their roles and goals. Think in terms of who is your main point of contact, your “champion,” their peers, and also two levels of leadership above them. The more contacts and touch points, the better.

Reasons for Purchase

Understanding their motivation for purchase helps set the tone of the relationship and gets you started on the right foot. That understanding sets you up to deliver upon their first success criteria. I love being able to look back on those original struggles or challenges months down the road and tout how we were able to solve for them. In other cases, if they are still struggling with those same challenges, you can highlight some red flags to tackle.

(Evolving) Success Criteria

In addition to the original reason for purchase I always like to highlight 2 or 3 other areas where they are trying to improve. This way our calls are impactful and goal-driven, not just “check in calls.” Again setting these criteria, and achieving them over time, fuels the content for future impact reviews and QBRs.

Red Flags

Highlighting red flags is another huge part of your role. You shouldn’t be solely responsible for solving them, but these are important to raise up to your management. Staffing changes, a high volume of feature requests, and escalated support issues are prime examples of red flags to monitor.

Initiatives & Next Steps

Next steps are such a huge help for me in my day-to-day. They are a reminder of what we are working on, and if I owe an action item or waiting for the client. Initiatives can be unique to our working relationship or their current team. Being able to recall and support a larger initiative of theirs will show the customer that you’re aligned with their current needs and supporting their bottom line.

Account plans provide your team and your clients continuity and structure. Account plans allow you to collaborate with your team internally, and are the basis of knowledge-sharing when it’s time to transition accounts from onboarding, to success, and at your next promotion. While they can sound daunting at first, this is an important initiative to begin. Start with the basics and you can always revisit and refine over time.

Looking for more tips on how to build account plans? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops, including our upcoming classes on Customer Goals & Outcomes and Kicking off the Relationship, which are both a part of our popular CSM Training Program. For most information on this and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management and success teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos to working directly with customers. She is passionate about helping customers achieve goals. With an eye on the future she is a powerhouse in building scaleable frameworks that support and drive growth. Ashley is one of the founding advisors to The Success League, and serves as a regular instructor for the company's CSM Training Program. She also serves as a customer success manager for ProsperWorks, and brings her work experiences to her articles and classes. Ashley holds a BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder and enjoys living in San Francisco while traveling all over the world.

Customer Success: You Messed Up, Now What?

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We are delighted to be joined again by guest blogger Manoj Jonna, from YayPay, with his perspective on mistakes. We know you'll find this helpful!

By Manoj Jonna

“To err is human.”

Businesses make mistakes, often. Customer success teams are one of the first groups to bear the brunt of business missteps. But what happens when customer success teams make mistakes? What do you do when you are the pitcher and the catcher?

We’ve done many things right here at YayPay. As a budding customer success team, we’ve also had our moments of introspection and learning. We learned that adopting a standard strategy can help you bounce back from your mistakes and turn things around.

5-Step Model

We’ve distilled our strategy into a repeatable 5-Step model. The model has the following key components – the five A’s.

  1. Assess

  2. Acknowledge

  3. Analyze

  4. Assist

  5. Amend
     

Assess:

When you get a disappointing note by email or a dreaded phone call from your customer, pause for a second. Fight the urge to react at that very instant.  Although the need for speed is key, we need to balance expediency with thoughtfulness. This is the time to assess the nature and gravity of the issue. This is not the time to analyze in-depth because you don’t have access to all the information. Perhaps your customer simply wants to be heard. Perhaps the problem is more serious that you anticipated. You do, however, need to have a baseline understanding of the issue at hand.

Acknowledge:

The next step in the process is to acknowledge what your customer has to say. Stick with the medium of communication that your customer prefers. You know your customers best. Pick up that phone, get into a car, type that email. Whatever you do, ensure that your customer feels heard. In many cases, the situation may very well warrant a sincere apology. This stage is also your opportunity to gather any missing pieces of information from your customer. Once your customer feels heard, you will have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Reassure your customer that you will resolve the issue and provide a timeline for resolution.

Analyze:

This is stage where you get to take a breather. Your customer is appeased, for now. You are equipped with the right information. You can now move from a cursory assessment of the issue to a deep-dive analysis. Break it down into chunks. Determine what went wrong, how things went wrong, why things went wrong, how things will be fixed, who will make the fixes, and how similar issues will be prevented in the future. Communicate your findings with your customer. If you need to make changes to your resolution timeline, this is time to let your customer know.

Assist:

This is the most straightforward stage in the model. Your analysis is complete and now it is time to execute on your findings. Work with your internal teams and your customer to resolve the issue. Don’t fall into the temptation of assuming that the issue is resolved. Confirm with your customer and get complete buy-in.

Amend:

This is by far the most important part of the process. The 5-Step model is built on implicit trust between you and your customer. In Step 2, when you acknowledge your mistake, you also make an implicit promise that you won’t repeat that mistake. You only have one bite at the apple. Amending your existing processes, product, or technology so that you won’t repeat the same mistake closes the feedback loop. Without this key step, the model falls apart.

While there is no perfect recipe that solves all customer success challenges, having a repeatable model will provide much needed structure in times of crisis.

Need practical tips on how best to approach your customer once a mistake has been made? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers online training and workshops, like our upcoming Difficult Conversations class (8/9). For more information for this and our other classes and workshops, please visit TheSuccessLeague.io 

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Manoj Jonna - Manoj Jonna is Vice President of Customer Success at YayPay, an Accounts Receivables Automation Platform. After spending nearly a decade working with fast growing early stage and mid-market companies, Manoj has developed a keen interest in finance transformation. Prior to YayPay, he worked as investment banker at Deloitte Corporate Finance where he represented businesses on M&A transactions. As a former CPA at Grant Thornton, Manoj worked closely with CFOs on business process improvement. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law.

Practical Approaches to Customer Outcomes

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By Kristen Hayer

The word I hear most in customer success is “outcomes.” We often hear phrases like “focus on customer outcomes” and “outcome-based account management.” The problem is that the term “outcomes” is used inconsistently across teams and companies. It’s ambiguous. Even if you’re clear about what an outcome is, it can be challenging to know what a customer is looking for and how to help them get it.

For the purposes of this article customer outcomes = business results. Not your product’s results or the results of initiatives specific to your solution. Real, business results. It can be intimidating to talk about your customer’s business results because they are somewhat removed from your product and they are usually at least partially out of your control. However, these are the results that matter to your clients. When you are able to help your customers achieve real business results, those outcomes turn into renewals, expansions, and referrals.

Here are some practical approaches to uncovering the outcomes your customers value most, and helping them achieve the business results they are looking for.

Understand Each Customer

First, keep in mind that every customer is different. It can be tempting to buy into your own marketing rhetoric and assume that every customer buys your solution to solve X (or Y or Z). The reality is that every customer expects a unique set of business results. It is the job of customer success to uncover those expectations and help the customer achieve the outcomes they want.

  • Do your Homework – use your customer’s website and press releases to learn about their business and the initiatives they care about. This can help to start the conversation.
  • Ask Questions – ask about their major business goals, and about the results they hope to see from your solution. Be sure to probe for their expected business results, not just what they want your product to do.
  • Discuss Expectations Regularly – plans, priorities, and initiatives change frequently. Even if you collected information about expectations at the beginning of your relationship with the customer, you need to repeat this discussion on a regular basis.

Plan Together

Once you’ve uncovered the expectations and values of your customers, you can move on to step 2, creating a plan to help them achieve the outcomes they are looking for. Two really important things to keep in mind during this process: First, this is a project you work on together. This isn’t you dictating to your customers the goals they should have. Second, their metrics are more important than yours. You’ll need to work with your customers to gain access to the metrics they want to measure.

  • Create Goals – work with your customer to create goals that will get them to the outcomes they want to achieve. Use SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  • Develop an Account Plan – once you have SMART goals, combine them to create an account plan that spells out the month-by-month or quarter-by-quarter metrics you will work with your client to achieve.
  • Measure Results – since you’ve worked with your customer to build an account plan, asking them to share results with you should be a part of the conversation. Work together to gain access to the results that aren’t a part of your solution.

Review Results

Once you’ve created an account plan, you can start tracking results. This can be a little intimidating. What if a different client initiative throws off your results? What if you miss your goals? Is your customer going to be upset if you underperform? How do you talk about the hits and misses? Keep in mind that your customer is going to be thinking about all of this, whether or not you bring it up proactively. By being the one to initiate the conversation, you have much more control over the outcome.

  • Be Candid – don’t try to mask or hide negative results. First, if you’re talking to an executive, they expect negative results sometimes. Second, if you try to hide things, your customer will know.
  • Don’t Get Derailed – if you do have negative results, focus on reasons and solutions. This will keep the conversation from getting into the weeds or turning into a complaint session. Ask the customer for their suggestions as well.
  • Celebrate the Positive – it’s easy to forget about the wins, especially in the face of negative results. Don’t gloss over the good stuff you’ve done. Highlight and celebrate your win and the outcomes you’ve helped your customers to achieve.

Customer outcomes are just business results. By focusing on your customer’s business, you can zero in on the things that matter to them, and make sure they achieve the outcomes that will tell them they made the right decision in choosing your solution.

Does your team need help uncovering and outlining the outcomes that your customers are looking for? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers consulting engagements, onsite workshops, and online training to help your team create accounts plans that drive retention, expansion and customer satisfaction. For more information visit TheSuccessLeague.io

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Kristen Hayer - Kristen believes that customer success is the key to driving revenue, client retention and exceptional customer experiences. Her areas of expertise include developing success goals and metrics, designing the optimal customer journey, selecting technology, training teams, and building playbooks. Prior to founding The Success League, Kristen built and led several award-winning customer success teams. Over the past 20 years she has been a success, sales, and marketing executive, primarily working with growth-stage tech companies. Kristen has her BA from Seattle Pacific University and her MBA from the University of Washington.