Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

“Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” While this wise quote may have come from the unlikely lips of Drake (award-winning hip-hop artist for the uninitiated), it couldn’t more accurately describe the importance of Customer Success (CS). In fact, it’s also a solid place to start answering the question of what is customer journey mapping.

If only we encountered more companies who embrace a similar mindset when it comes to knowing how customers experience their products and services. We would see impressive strides in customer engagement and customer retention.

However, so many businesses rely on reactive measures —when the actual goal should be identifying customer journey mapping tools and proactively defining what success looks like to customers at each stage of the customer lifecycle.

Put the “pro” in proactive

We can’t entirely blame teams within those companies though. There are times when you have to play the proverbial hand your dealt — from limited resources to tight budgets — but it is possible to overcome the stumbling blocks forcing them to rely on reactive data.

That said, it is possible to still go through the step-by-step exercise of understanding what your customer experiences at every turn.

But why? Because we said so! Actually, it’s a fair question. The simple answer is to create a blueprint for success to reap the following benefits:

  • Acquire appropriate data to establish high-water marks
  • Harness the power to constantly assess incoming data
  • Justification to systematically and strategically advance your company
  • Discipline to avoid random micro changes with minimal impact
  • Freedom to flex resources to capitalize on opportunities and course correct

Overcoming stumbling blocks

The path to developing a customer journey map is littered with obstacles. Diving into a lifecycle exploration requires vision and drive. Just a few to watch out for along the way include information overload, analysis paralysis, and imbalance between planning and action.

Prioritizing your strategy is key, and journey maps help organizations enhance customer experience improvements.Answering some fundamental questions can clarify your prioritization process quickly:

  • Which improvements have the biggest impact?
  • Which improvements have the highest degree of complexity with the shortest/longest time to accomplish?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to improve a process point?
  • Where is the lifecycle performance weakest/strongest?
  • Where are the gaps between what customers say and their behaviors?

Typically, when organizations take the time to ask tough questions, the results can be game changing. The areas of improvement often fall in two key buckets (1) lack of organizational alignment and (2) not ready or willing to face the brutal truth.

The customer journey map blueprint in four steps

Moving from reactive customer support to proactive customer experience isn’t easy.So take a candid assessment and follow a blueprint for getting started.

1. Promote organizational alignment:

Build a cross-functional team, with representatives from the groups that own sales/marketing, support, policies, operations, product development and other services that drive what the customer sees and experiences.

2. Confront the truth:

Uncover and activate the insights that haven’t been identified. Gather external research that’s relevant to your market. Interview customers, analyze data from your systems, and gather analytics on web traffic, and more.

3. Move from reactive to proactive:

Changing your core customer philosophy from reactive to proactive is the biggest obstacle your company will face. It’s also the one that bears the most fruit.

4. Put your company on the map:

The customer journey mapping process will spotlight organizational gaps, help you figure out where you need help and reveal growth and retention strategies you could never have discovered any other way. Gartner predicts that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their enterprise relationships without human interaction. It’s time and resource intensive and corners just can’t be cut. But it’s the best way to put your company on the map.

Ready to embark on the customer-mapping journey? Download our white paper, Putting Your Customers (and Your Company) on the Map, to take a more in-depth look at what’s required to put your customer on the map and your company on the road to a better destination.

Learn more – Learn how to build an effective customer journey map. This guide will help you.

How do I increase customer retention? It’s one of our most frequently asked questions. Although the answer is multilayered and complex, one of the essential building blocks to answering it includes Customer Success Managers (CSM).

A career field that barely existed five or so years ago, CSMs make up ground zero for all CS functions — that includes keeping customers. And as C-level decision-makers work to understand the significance of CS in their business models, the need for CSMs continues to climb.

Now, you might be asking the very same questions C-suite has to ask once they embrace the need for CS and therefore CSMs. Chief among them is what qualities define an ideal CSM and what are Customer Success best practices. That’s why we’ve developed a top three list of our must-haves.

The top three traits of an awesome CSM

#1. Ownership: They own customer successes… and failures

When issues pop up, awesome CSMs don’t pass the buck. They own it and they troubleshoot it without losing focus on their mission to turn customers into brand advocates.

#2. Perspective: They understand what customers need to be successful

Awesome CSMs know where potential hurdles lie in wait. Customers expect and need help with training, integration, troubleshooting and, most of all, improved performance. They want answers — how do we reduce time spent on X, lower costs on Y, gain greater insight on Z. Reactive, shortsighted CSMs miss the bigger opportunity to be proactive and make their customers look good… like rock star-level good.

#3. Goal-oriented: Successful customer outcomes > happy customers

Of course awesome CSMs want “happy” customers, but they know there’s more to actually keeping a customer. That’s why their end goal is a happy AND successful customer who has their benchmarks met and exceeded because of their CSM.

So where do I find these unicorn CSMs?

All of this is well and good, but what you might be asking now — especially if you’re an HR specialist or recruiter who has the unenviable task of trying to find top-level talent in a small, still growing pool — is how do I find CSM candidates with all of this awesomeness?!

Well, you can vet out that pool trying to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Alternatively, you can outsource your Customer Success.

Yes, outsource it.

Companies like ESG have done the heavy lifting for you. We understand the nature of the CSM role and creating clear and practical best practices for it. We’ve developed the role of Virtual Customer Success Managers (vCSMs) — trained professionals who engage with customers to help them better understand and utilize the full capabilities and features of your products, while helping your business achieve your desired outcomes.

You should know, though, outsourcing CS roles does so much more than just reducing hiring headaches. It also:

  • Mitigates budget risks
  • Guarantees maximum productivity
  • Ensures enhanced customer relationships
  • Improves everyone’s ROI
  • Increases customer retention

So what? I already have a CS team full of superstars.

If your company is one of the lucky few to have a CS staff possessing those must-have traits, we often find that still isn’t enough to fully service your customers.

Teams tend to be too small to cover 100 percent of their customers. The coverage breakdown usually goes to the top 20 percent because they’re generating the bulk of the revenue. However, that leaves 80 percent of the customer base out in the cold. That’s where companies like ESG come in to augment your existing team. We work within that 80 percent to uncover missed opportunities and lost revenue potential.

Don’t try to build everything from scratch. As they say, don’t reinvent the wheel. And if you’re wondering what other traits make up successful CSMs, take a look at our latest white paper, The 10 Simple Traits of an Awesome CSM.

Learn more – We’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates and have developed a pool of talented professionals who possess the key attributes that define a successful CSM. Learn the ten traits we recommend for the perfect CSM and how to ensure your team embraces them in this guide.

A Director at a successful SaaS company recently approached me about the role of marketing in customer success. This leader understood that the marketing team was a valuable resource when developing customer-facing communications but wanted more.

As we discussed possible options for the “future state” of a marketing + customer success partnership, it became apparent that there was no one-size-fits-all solution. So, in an effort to educate myself (and help my friend build a business case to reallocate marketing resources), I posted a question to the members of the Customer Success Forum on LinkedIn.

The question wasn’t complicated. I merely asked if anyone was willing to share what worked/didn’t work when building an alliance between customer success and marketing. I was expecting maybe one or two responses. What I got was a string of thoughtful and creative ways CS leaders are using marketing to their advantage.

There were A LOT of really good ideas, but three stood out. Here’s what caught my eye and why it’s worth considering for your organization. Note: I’ve tagged the concepts with the names of their creator, in case you’re interested in following these folks on LinkedIn.

1) Marketing as a sales enablement function for CS teams

LinkedIn: @azimnagree

Why I love this: All too often, marketing’s responsibility to internal customers, (e.g. sales, customer success, etc.) is overshadowed by the pursuit for new business. If we know that personalized attention from CSMs drives deeper and more valuable customer relationships, then why wouldn’t marketing supply assets to CSMs for better 1-to-1 customer conversations? The answer is likely due to resource strains in the marketing and customer success teams. However, the concept is still important to recognize. CSMs need the right collateral to have informed, value-centric conversations. Marketing can help.

2) Customer marketing should live in the customer success organization

LinkedIn: @billgoocher

Why I love this: This may or may not make sense depending on the depth of your organizational chart. But, aligning post-sale marketing resources to an organization devoted to customer engagement post-sale just makes sense. As Bill mentioned, “the CSMs have a much better handle on where each of their customers are within the lifecycle…” Understanding your audience leads to better content development and more meaningful campaigns that produce positive results.

3) The content delivered matters more than the role

LinkedIn: @robertdunn

Why I love this: It’s true! Don’t get so caught up in org charts that you lose sight of what’s valuable. Customers expect proactive engagement from the point of sale forward. This means certain plays need to be run, regardless of who’s running them. As Robert shared, “…The proven low hanging fruit of Customer Marketing tactics: Newsletters, Case Studies, Blog Posts, Videos (educational – how to use), Meet-ups. It matters less who does these things than it does they get done…”

It’s probably worth mentioning that all these ideas seem to hint at hiring additional headcount. Keep in mind that hiring isn’t the only option. Consider partnering with a service provider who has expertise in customer marketing (AKA account-based marketing) strategy and execution. These service partners often have access to a deeper pool of qualified talent and can offer you more for your money when compared to hiring a full-time employee.

Learn more – Learn how to build a business case for more Customer Success resources with this handy guide.