By Andrew Field
Customer success focuses on customers’ needs, goals, and challenges throughout the customer journey – instead of just rushing to close.
This approach puts customers first – building a great experience and turning them into advocates. At PFL we put customer success first and have been doing it for more than 20 years. The truth is, changing your culture to put customer success first isn’t something that happens overnight.
It has to be part of your corporate DNA. It has to be a priority in every department. It has to be your North Star. Our software solutions that put personalized, meaningful gifts into the sales process were internal tools long before we refined them to work in CRMs for everyone else as part of our software offerings.
The bottom line is this: You have to build customer success into every corner of your business. It takes a while, and it takes everyone. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Know your customer.
Customer success hinges on acquiring the right types of customers – the ones you can actually help. Ideal customers are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes, stay with you, and become advocates. But do you only have a fuzzy idea about who the right customer is?
Identifying how you can help a customer will help you know who you can help. Now filter the “who” – can they afford you? Are they showing the signs of growth you need? Are they a path into a new industry? Be as specific as you can. By focusing on the kind of customers you want to attract, you avoid chasing leads that are unlikely to develop into strong ongoing relationships.
2. Understand your customers’ desired outcomes and create a step-by-step plan to get them there.
To achieve customer success, you must help lead your customers to their desired outcomes. In the end, however, they must do the walking. Ask yourself what your client really needs instead of focusing on your sale. Remember, no one needs a drill: they need to make a hole in something. The drill is just the tool that gets them to that goal. Keeping this in mind will help you stay on track with prioritizing your customer at all times.
Depending on the complexity of your product, customers may need demos, support, training and follow-up to achieve their desired outcomes. Follow your plan and monitor your customers to make sure they are progressing toward their goals.
3. Show your customers that you understand them and the challenges they face.
The best way to look like you really care is to really care.
It’s easy to get caught up focusing on your next point while your customer is talking. But it is essential that you resist this urge and pay attention to what your prospects are telling you about themselves and the challenges they face. Great salespeople know they only have one shot to gather the information they need, and that prospects tire of telling them the same information twice. Demonstrate that you are a worthy business partner by listening and then follow up in a way that shows you understand them and care about their needs.
4. Make your customers’ experience exceptional.
Building a great experience with your customer starts on day one. This means treating prospects like they’re already customers while not forgetting to treat them like humans. If you’ll be meeting your client personally, consider bringing food or a small gift. Actively reach out to new clients to answer questions and help them with problems. Monitor your customers and continue encouraging and problem solving until they have achieved the outcome they wanted.
5. Use technology to ensure you stay in touch.
A core tenet of customer success is that you don’t forget your customers once they’ve made an initial purchase. Follow up with them periodically to find out whether you are still meeting their needs and if they have new challenges or goals. Set task reminders for these follow-ups in your CRM – or, even better, implement a team dedicated to ongoing customer success.
6. Turn your customers into ambassadors by exceeding expectations.
Research shows that reviews and testimonials by current customers are a deciding factor for today’s B2B buyer. Sharing on social media provides social proof that also boosts new sales. Build these ambassadors with a great customer experience.
Many companies confuse customer success with “customer service” and relegate it to a customer service department or a subset of the sales team. But the sales or customer service staff can’t ensure customer success alone. Other teams and departments also must play a role in getting customers to their desired outcomes.
You can start building a culture of customer success one step at a time. Sales and marketing are the teams most likely to make a quick impact, spreading to customer service (obviously). But, for the idea to take root and grow, everyone has to make it a guiding force.
Andrew Field is founder and president of Printing for Less (PFL), a marketing technology company providing printing, mailing, and fulfillment services, as well as software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness.