Customer Success is an ethos, not a department – Michelle MacCarthy joins DisrupTV
The role of Customer Success – and the roles of the people working in it – are evolving rapidly. And that’s no surprise – right now we’re all working hard to chart new courses and models that are fit for purpose in a very different world.
In this environment, it’s the responsibility of the people who own the customer relationship to figure out how their organization’s products and services fit with the new reality. And challenge both their colleagues and the customers to push their offerings to new limits in order to create value.
To help businesses understand exactly how they need to approach customer success, our Global VP Michelle MacCarthy recently joined Ray Wang and Vala Afshar, hosts of DisrupTV, to share tips for the future and explain how Unit4’s strategy in the space helps our customers thrive. DisrupTV is a weekly show covering the latest digital business and innovation market trends.
Here’s some of our favorite points:
Customer Success is an ethos, not a department
The job of the customer success team is to uncover what your customer journey actually is. It’s not enough for this most important of processes to be dreamed up in a PowerPoint presentation if it’s never actually experienced by the people who are supposed to be taking it. Rather than an abstraction, the customer’s journey must be understood as the sum-total of all the interactions they have with our brand and products on the way to purchase, implementation, and use.
Rather than trying to force customers to accept a particular journey, our focus should be in learning where they’re going, and staying with them every step of the way. Not necessarily to upsell, but to upskill – helping them understand our platforms, its capabilities, and giving them support to find better fits and use cases and to anticipate their future needs.
In the current climate we’re experiencing huge growth and change – CS is being seen more and more as a critical function and being entrusted with more and more investment. This is because when things get tough, businesses must rally around their customers and support them. To this end, Unit4 has invested heavily in helping our customers feel safe and to feel trust in us – by creating more touchpoints for direct contact and creating community spaces (like Community4U) that give them opportunities to connect and share knowledge with each other. This is not only helping our relationships but providing the ingredients and insights that help us develop more and better solutions.
Is the customer success role gaining more prominence?
As well as a continually expanding remit, we’re seeing a change in focus from requirements gathering and problem solving. In particular, we’re seeing an evolution towards a focus on onboarding, the key implementation period, and knowledge transfer, ensuring our customers have the best possible framework for deriving value from our solutions.
As a field, we’re also moving towards new ways of working and the implementation of more dynamic models with our customers. At Unit4, this translates to more dynamic ways to go to market as customer centricity grows and we develop an ever greater understanding of customer journeys through better and better data.
Every company is a healthcare company now – how can you protect stakeholders?
COVID-19 has made everyone much more conscious of safety, and vendors are expected to have a plan for keeping customer people – and their own people – safe and healthy. This is part of a cultural transformation that’s changing the way we define customer success. When companies create a culture of care for their employees, they feel more valued, become more engaged, and the feeling manifests itself too in the culture of customer success.
Making our customers feel properly cared for is a key part of Unit4’s strategy. It’s why we have a “voice of the customer” council to more effectively gather feedback on our performance.
And once we’ve gathered that feedback, we really listen to it in order to close the loop and create real value. As we’re completing this process, we also help customers understand exactly what the output of their feedback will be. All of which helps us understand their safety needs and create pathways to accommodate them.
What traits do you look for in customer success managers?
Aside from the obvious answer – that a people-first discipline should be looking for those who are good with people before anything else – it’s important to talent scout for the following traits:
- Curiosity – choose people who like to ask questions; particularly the hard ones.
- Listening – good listeners who take the time to truly understand customer pains, ambitions, and needs.
- Resilience – customer success managers need to be resilient both to change and to others’ emotions to arrive at good solutions in the face of adversity.
- An appetite to challenge – both their customers and their colleagues alike.
How to maintain KPIs and brand promise as we shift to digital
The evolution towards a fully digital way of working creates some challenges for customer success performance and what we promise to our customers as a brand. But they’re far from insurmountable.
Map your customer journeys, map your entire team’s accountabilities (the RACI model is your friend here), and make sure that everyone understands when and how they’re involved in the process, and how their individual efforts can contribute to landing deals, improving customer outcomes, and setting the stage for future success.
The one thing we do have in abundance in a fully digital world is data. Make use of data, make sure data is connected – make sure everyone across the organization sees it and can act on it in a meaningful way. This will help everyone understand the impact their actions have on customers - and encourage them to orient their actions to support their success.
In fact, the data available should enable us to much more accurately track engagement and advocacy in real time – rather than relying on three-month “pulses”, we anticipate being able to dig much deeper into everything we want to know about how our customers see us. And how we can best push them to adopt more of our platforms, derive greater value from them, and uncover all new opportunities and use cases.
But we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface. Our ability to help customers and improve decision velocity will only grow as data handling maturity grows. This means that the scope and ability of customer success teams – and especially our own customer success team at Unit4 – is only likely to grow further as time goes on.