I was interviewed by Jayaram Bhat, Squelch Co-Founder, and CEO and we talked about the latest trends in both customer support and success. We examined the more proactive role that supports teams are playing and then introduce the concept of the portfolio success manager.
What are some of the biggest trends in customer support today?
One of the biggest trends we see is the emergence of customer support 2.0, which infuses customer success concepts into the traditional support framework. Forward-thinking support teams that embrace support 2.0 methodologies tend to leverage customer data to proactively reach out to the customer with a potential solution when issues arise based on usage data. They can proactively share proposed resolutions by sending an automated email with links to relevant knowledge base articles or videos that help users resolve issues in a timely manner. In other words, support 2.0 embraces the transition the team needs to make from being reactive to customers’ queries to getting in front of potential issues and offering proactive solutions by serving the right content at the right time to the right user. For example, when an issue is identified automatically, an email might be sent out to say something along the lines of, “Hey, Mr. Customer! I saw that you had an error message, or I saw that your file load failed. Have you considered doing XYZ?” As a result of this proactive outreach, software vendors are able to significantly reduce their number of support tickets. Finally, teams that adopt support 2.0 methodologies tend to work in better alignment with other teams. Support 2.0 teams tend to have processes in place that help them consistently share timely usage and ticket trends with other internal teams. For instance, they can share trends with the product team to ensure the proper priorities for solving certain bugs or trends with the education team to ensure training materials are developed on topics where most tickets are created due to a lack of product knowledge.
What about trends for customer success?
From a customer success perspective, value playbooks have become a hot topic. We see more time and resources spent on understanding how customer success managers (CSMs) paint a roadmap for customers and ensure customers know how to maximize value with their solution. In past years, the traditional view was that CSMs should carefully pay attention to the reasons a customer signed up in the first place and ensure that they achieve that outcome. But recent trends show that CSMs need to focus on a longer-term vision and additional outcomes. Customers’ goals and business priorities change over time and so do the outcomes the product can help them achieve. As such, CSMs must shift their conversations with customers. In other words, once they achieve the outcome that a customer initially signed up for, CSMs can proactively offer additional use cases that might be applicable for the client and continuously expand value as their strategy and focus change year over year.
What are some of the changes we can expect to see in customer success over the next several years?
I believe the customer success industry is going to evolve and become more standardized on the most effective way to manage accounts with multiple product portfolios, as well as how we could have a single CSM manage such accounts in a scalable way. As organizations go through mergers and acquisitions, we end up having multiple products in our portfolio of solutions. The question is, “How are we going to tackle that effectively and efficiently?” Earlier this month, I co-presented at TSW in San Diego on this topic with one of CSM Practice’s clients, Patrick Wells, Global Head of Functional Customer Success for SAP Preferred Success at SAP. We shared how to support this model by leveraging client data and specialized roles that feed the CSM with proper playbooks at the right time for the right account. From what I’m seeing, I believe more companies will embrace this notion of “portfolio success managers” especially after going through M&A or as they extend their product offerings. Right now though, this concept is fairly new, and most customer success leaders don’t think about portfolio success management as a viable option or know how to properly implement it within their organization. To clarify, a portfolio success manager is typically responsible for a very large book of business or a large portfolio of products. I initially introduced this concept when I co-presented with Greg Tate, VP of Customer Success at Salesforce at TSW 2017 in Las Vegas. At our session, we unveiled how Salesforce adopted a portfolio success management methodology to ensure adoption, expansion, and retention for their long-tail customers. In their situation, each portfolio success manager typically owns a couple of hundred accounts, and they are responsible for them just like a General Manager who owns its own line of business. These portfolio success managers regularly “touch” their customers through email campaigns and other one-to-many programs. In addition, once a quarter they will identify 10 percent of their assigned customers and deliver high-touch playbooks as needed. Again, I believe that this customer engagement model for portfolio success management will continue to be developed and embraced more widely over time.
Let’s switch gears a bit to wrap up our discussion. Do you have any CX book recommendations?
For those who are interested in developing a more comprehensive approach for their long-tail customer segments and really double down on customer marketing, I’d highly recommend Subscription Marketing: Strategies for Nurturing Customers in a World of Churn by Anne Janzer. You can download a free chapter, which focuses on the synergies between marketing and customer success and is highly relevant for any team that wishes to leverage customer marketing to scale. The book is well written, comprehensive, and focused on customer success versus marketing campaigns in general. I specifically appreciated how it focuses on strategies to fight churn for the tech touch model. This blog post was previously published by Squelch and has been reposted with permission.
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