A discussion about the importance of providing a seamless (or joined up) customer experience as customers move through their journey from initial idea to purchasing to implementation and finally to value realization, and the role of the CSM in ensuring this seamless quality is maintained.
The Role of Customer Success Managers in Providing a Joined Up Customer Experience
What is a joined up customer experience? Put simply, it’s one where the customer doesn’t experience any issues around continuity of the quality of service being delivered to them as they undergo their customer journey with your company.
To step back briefly for one moment, let’s first define what is meant by a “customer journey”. The customer journey is the sum of everything that customers experience as they go through the process of engaging with your company to understand what your company offers, explaining their requirements, selecting the solution, negotiating the price and any details around customization or professional services, waiting for the solution, receiving the solution, installing and configuring the solution, preparing employees for using it, receiving help and support with any issues arising from using it and finally actually using the solution to generate value.
Now let’s also define what is meant by “customer experience”. Customer experience refers to the experiences that customers are subject to as they interact with your company at each step in their journey. This customer experience might be anywhere from highly positive to fairly neutral to highly negative, depending upon what happens in those interactions.
The overall customer experience for the entire journey is the sum of all positive, neutral and negative experiences that the customer has experienced throughout the customer journey. This overall customer experience is an important measurement for companies, since it relays to the business the likely attitude that customers will have towards the company after having undergone that journey, which of course is a very strong indicator as to whether they are likely to renew their contract or purchase more of the same product or service, or even think about purchasing additional products and services.
Because the customer journey includes so many different aspects of the business, it takes a joined-up approach throughout that business to enable the best possible customer experience. No part of the business should be ignored, since even those parts of the business which do not directly interact with the customer may well still indirectly impact the customer. For example the Legal department can make contracts either simple or complicated to understand, the Distribution department can either ship products quickly and carefully, or slowly and carelessly, the HR department can either employ staff based upon their attitude towards and ability to communicate with customers and provide additional customer service-related training or not, and so on and so forth.
Businesses these days need to take customer experience very seriously. Within many organizations there exists a Chief Customer Officer or VP for Customer Experience, or similarly titled position. The job of the CCO or equivalent is to align the entire company from beginning to end around providing a positive customer experience for customers as they undergo their customer journey. It’s not so much about having a separate “customer experience team” it’s more about ensuring everyone in their existing teams is more customer-aware and more customer-centric in their outlook, attitudes and actions.
The customer success manager plays an important part within the overall customer journey – which generally speaking will be the part that customers undergo as they move towards the end of their journey and need to deal with onboarding, adopting, utilizing and measuring the value from the solution they have purchased. Therefore, CSMs need to ensure that before they start interacting directly with customer stakeholders they are well briefed by those who have already been assisting these stakeholders to ensure that they are well informed and prepared in terms of their understanding of who the customer is, what they have purchased and why, what outcomes they are looking to achieve, where in the overall journey they are currently up to and (very importantly) any problems or challenges that have been experienced so far on this journey and what has happened or is happening to resolve those problems and challenges.
In this way, CSMs can insinuate themselves into the customer journey seamlessly and without causing the types of customer frustrations that may well be experienced if the CSM is not fully briefed on any of the above points, and can then add their value by performing their role of assisting the customer with those onboarding, adoption and value creation and realization processes, thus contributing their own part to providing a positive overall customer experience.
About the Author
Rick Adams is an independent author, trainer and consultant, specializing in helping technology companies deliver measurable business value for their customers. Adams has over 25 years’ experience of working in the IT industry, including owning his own startup software-as-a-service business which he sold in 2012 to focus on writing, training and consulting. Having delivering training and consultancy to many hundreds of businesses and thousands of technology professionals in over 30 countries across four continents, Adams is now based in the rural west coast of Ireland where he lives with his two dogs Zeus and Terri.
Adams’ recent work includes the development and delivery of a global certification program on customer success management for Cisco Systems Inc. His book titled Practical Customer Success Management: A best practice framework for managers and professionals is now available. His current interests includes helping individuals and companies develop best practices in customer success management and in business outcomes focused selling.
He can be contacted via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rickadams01/, via Twitter at https://twitter.com/RickAda84728077 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.