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I’d be preaching to the choir if I droned on about the importance of segmenting customers to snag results. That said, in this ever-changing world it is easy to miss the boat on how to effectively do that — even for the biggest data hounds among us. It requires us all to think differently and do differently.

The Goldilocks sweet spot: Quality metrics + invested analysis

It’s easy to miss segmentation issues. They can often look like problems caused by a thousand different things that aren’t remotely related to segmentation. At the end of the day though, when your segmentation is on point, you won’t see customer loss and stagnated growth. So if you aren’t seeing the results you expect, it’s time to take a long hard look at how you’re segmenting your customer base.

That’s when you start thinking differently. Evaluate your analytics from new perspectives and dig deeper into them. Look at indicators like:

  1. Health score
  2. Utilization rate
  3. Revenue growth per customer

Identify high-risk customers before they even know they’re a risk

When you take a hard look at the overall financial value of your customer in comparison to those indicators listed in the last section, the level of customer churn risk begins to crystallize.

Even better, as you glean potential problems or rising issues, you’re then empowered to develop nurturing processes around them to course correct. Begin with three simple questions:

  1. Which customers are scheduled to renew this quarter?
  2. How many are currently engaged in a strategy to keep their accounts?
  3. How many have requested cancellations?

Answer these questions, and you can then map necessary touch points to the segments that need it most. As you do that, new metrics will emerge to track conversions and successes.

Check out our white paper, Success Through Segmentation. Learn how to identify, prioritize and address issues that lead to high churn risk.

Look beyond whether users have logged in and how often they’re using your product. You need to know so much more. As a for instance, dial into:

  • Number of activated seats
  • Types of user roles
  • Volume of support requests
  • Utilization of features and functions
  • Level of on-boarding engagement

From there, you can determine the appropriate CS approach to begin segmenting your customer base.

Three bear dilemma: the workload is too big, the team is too small

Everything covered above is awfully big talk. I get it. Delving in deeper, increasing your level of data analysis, and then building in added processes and touch points is enough to break the strongest of resource-strapped teams.

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you know our solution by now. It starts with an understanding and acceptance of the 80/20 Rule. (Read more about it in our blog post here.) To find real gains in CS, you have to be able to scale. That starts with prioritization and ends with an experienced partner.

When you have a partner who truly understands the nuances of Customer Success and microcosms that support (or hinder) the customer lifecycle, it is possible to scale without incurring additional overhead, employees and workload.

You get to continue with your hands-on service earned by your top customers while a partner *ahem like ESG* can evaluate what’s happening with those top-tier customers, determine what can and cannot be replicated for your lower tiers, and will look for meaningful opportunities to engage with even your smallest clients through a balance of tech and human touch. (Check out this white paper to learn more about that.) With an opportunity to deliver significant returns and overall cost savings, it’s a low risk/high reward proposition for any company — including yours.

Clearly there isn’t a singular segmentation formula out there that will solve everything for everybody. Each customer journey is unique to the product and business, and each business is looking for particular outcomes. So while there are similarities that can drive the process for identifying appropriate segmentation approaches, a level of customization to achieve optimal results is still required.

Learn more – Discover how to identify, prioritize and address issues that leads to high churn risk. Download our white paper, Success Through Segmentation.

Newsflash: Most Sales and Customer Success (CS) professionals can’t read minds.

Okay – that’s probably not surprising. But it seems to be a common assumption when there is no defined strategy for handing off a customer from Sales to CS.

Nailing this hand-off is critical to ensuring the customer experience is positive from the start. When you get it right, your customer (and your team) reach desired outcomes faster. When you get it wrong, a host of issues arise, jeopardizing your customer’s perceived value of your products and services…which, of course, negatively impacts renewal.

In a recent LinkedIn article, How to nail your Sales-to-Customer Success hand-off, Manish M elaborates on the risks that can become a reality when the transition is rocky:

  1. “The Customer can feel misunderstood and unappreciated when the Customer Success Manager (CSM) enters the account without proper context. The momentum built during the sales process and the excitement the customer has for using your product can dwindle rapidly.”
  2. “Going in unprepared and asking redundant questions to the customer can severely diminish the CSM’s credibility. The CSM starts off on a completely wrong foot, and most of his time is spent firefighting and re-building trust with the customer in addition to performing the onboarding tasks.”
  3. “Lack of accountability for the hand-off tasks can lead to confusion within the Sales and CSM teams and leads to finger pointing when things go wrong.”

So how do you get it right? Sheik Ayube, Director of Business Development at ESG, recently approached members of the Customer Success Forum for advice on transitioning a customer from Sales to CS. His request garnered a lot of interesting opinions and some enlightening personal experiences that illustrate common (and avoidable) pitfalls. Yet when I boiled it all down, three common themes stuck out.

Communication

The need for communication between Sales and Customer Success is a no-brainer. However, how to communicate effectively is a bit more complex. Hands down, the biggest communication complaint involved requests for information that was either unnecessary or already known. Trent Young suggests, “Keep it succinct and focus on key factors for success. Ask for insight that isn’t easily found, like who or how decisions are made…Show up to the customer call with this information and validate key points, don’t ask things which are already known to your organization.”

Likewise, having a defined internal communication process will help ensure the right information is passed from Sales to CS. Julie Weill Persofsky explains, “The internal transition should cover the situation, pain, impact and critical event uncovered in the sales process. The most important thing is to make the client feel as though you have gotten up to speed on everything they shared during the sales process and aren’t starting from scratch.”

Documentation

Process and documentation go hand-in-hand. Developing a process is meaningless if it isn’t documented to ensure consistency and accountability. Where should you start? Ian Hurlock advises, “Firstly, implement a handover form that salespeople must fill out before closing the opportunity in the CRM. This adds accountability and will capture most of the context from the sales deal while it’s still top of mind. I would then recommend implementing an internal handover meeting to get more context on key contacts, champions and blockers and then have the salesperson on any customer kick-off call to make sure that you can keep the customer and the sales team accountable for any verbal commitments that may not have been captured in email or the CRM.”

Customer point of view

Customers typically don’t see themselves as doing business with different units within a company. They bought a solution from a company and expect to be trained, nurtured and supported by that company – regardless of org charts and silos. So, the transition from one point of contact to another throughout the lifecycle can be confusing and discouraging if not handled properly.

Don’t let internal issues cause you to lose sight of the ultimate goal – helping customers be successful. As Dave Jackson points out, “The better question is, ‘how do you bring the organization together around a single journey that encompasses the entire buyer lifecycle?’ Don’t solve your problem; solve the customer’s problem.”

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to smoothly transitioning customers from Sales to Customer Success. What works for your customers and your teams will rely on a bevy of factors. What I’ve laid out here is only a small sample of the ideas shared in Sheik’s thread.

Learn more – Can the caliber of your Customer Success Managers impact the quality of your Sales to CS hand-off? Check out our white paper, 10 Simple* Traits of an Awesome CSM to explore the key attributes that define a successful CSM and how to ensure your team embraces them.