As we begin a new year, strategy, planning, and goal setting are top of mind for executives.
At the same time, the customer landscape has shifted over the past two years, adjusting to the realities of the pandemic. Meetings, onboarding, and processes for retaining customers have changed. And while we may not be back to the old “normal,” there are a few priorities beyond the obvious that will set chief customer officers up for success in 2022.
PREPARE AND BUDGET TO MEET CUSTOMERS IN PERSON
During the last two years, in-person interaction has become a lost art form. Video conferencing on equal grounds (driven by company and customer) has made it possible to maintain business with customers. It allows for easier interaction, but it’s somewhat limited in the ability to develop deep relationships the way in-person meetings can. With the hope of once again embracing face-to-face connections, organizations have invested in developing protocols and policies that keep employees and event attendees safe. Moving forward, CCOs should re-evaluate practices necessary to build those deep connections with customers in person and should prepare their schedules and budgets accordingly in 2022.
It is important to think about what your company will require from the team in regards to travel. As uncertainty remains, and in light of the Great Resignation, it is important to listen to feedback from employees and take into account their comfort levels when putting guidelines in place. Be sure you have a clear process for understanding and adapting to COVID protocols, which are often rapidly changing and vary between regions. Additionally, because of the pandemic, travel costs were largely removed from budgets. It is time to factor those costs back in so they can be allocated as necessary.
Finally, prepare to sharpen your team’s in-person as well as online interaction skills. Put together a few best practice workshops for making the most of their time at conferences, dinners, and office meetings to build lasting relationships with customers and peers in this evolving world.
INVEST MORE IN AUTOMATION AND THE DIGITAL EXPERIENCE
While a quest to help more customers realize value faster is well-intentioned, one-to-many relationships have limitations. Investing in digital customer success is a strategic and necessary investment to drive scalability and efficiency. Automation and data insights enable CSMs to retain customers with confidence, drive adoption to accelerate value realization, and spot upsell opportunities.
At its core, digital transformation has a few pillars:
1. Digital education: self-paced and on-demand, versus instructor-led education.
2. In-app education: drive product adoption with automated engagement tools within the application. Best for addressing specific segments and customer profiles with digital education and in-application guidance during onboarding and adoption.
3. BI and AI: insights into customer usage or lack of usage are key to focus attention and determine the right programs to increase adoption. Correlating all the data points, renewal history, risk factors, utilization, and engagements can help prioritize activities to drive value, retention, renewals, and upsells.
MAKE THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY PREDICTABLE
It’s the responsibility of the CCO and customer success teams to make recommendations and help guide their customers on the path to adoption—and to success. To do so, you need to understand and discuss what success looks like, and your customers’ desired outcomes. What will make your champion a hero?
Make sure to align with those insights as you’re building the customer journey. Additionally, provide the customer with clear product roadmaps and work with them on building project plans. It is important to outline the roles and responsibilities of your customer and your team so they know who to turn to when they have requests or challenges.
Throughout the entire journey, understand your customers, their behaviors, and their needs. By making the journey more predictable, customers will better understand early in the process that they can rely on the customer success team’s guidance and support. This transparency is critical and will help customer success teams build trust and rapport with the customer.
BE A CUSTOMER ADVOCATE AND WORK CLOSELY WITH THE PRODUCT TEAMS
To ease the journey for the customer, it is critical to work closely with the product and engineering teams. The CCO and customer success teams are typically the ones getting direct feedback from users. It is your duty to both company and customer to serve as an advocate on behalf of the customers, and to be the voice of the customer internally. Providing customer-driven feedback to the product team will keep your product relevant with new, innovative features and services that satisfy your customers’ needs. This will not only ease customer pain points but may also lead to new sales or revenue streams as your customers become advocates for your company.
The field of customer success is always evolving, but there are steps CCOs and their teams can take to set customers up for success in achieving their 2022 business goals. Prioritizing these best practices will bolster your customer success efforts, fuel innovation, and empower your team to build and sustain exceptional customer relationships throughout their product journeys.
Sharon Eilon is the Chief Customer Officer at Aqua Security.