Published On: Tue, Mar 26th, 2019

How Successful Companies Embed Customer Success in Their DNA: And What it Means for Their Bottom Line

The age of customer service is over. Organizations that relegate their customers’ happiness to a single team inevitably drive those customers away.

Instead of customer service, savvy companies are investing in something more impactful: customer success. By infusing a philosophy of advocacy and commitment into every part of the business, companies can reduce customer churn, increase lifetime value, and create a more engaging customer journey.

photo/ carlos pereyra

The Problem With Customer Service

On its own, customer service is not the issue. People still appreciate the respect and help they receive from great service teams. However, the management philosophies that lead companies to silo their service do more harm than good.

When one team is responsible for keeping customers happy, other teams are not. That lack of direction leads employees to think about projects, tasks, and responsibilities first — and the needs of the customers second. Now that the customer experience is more important than price, that strategy is unsustainable.

According to research from Esteban Kolsky, founder of thinkJar, 91 percent of customers who are unhappy with a brand disengage without complaint. Companies cannot provide great customer service if customers don’t give them a chance. That’s not the customers’ fault, though. Companies are responsible for ensuring that decision to leave never happens, and to do so, they must embrace a culture of customer success.

How to Become a Customer Success Champion

Switching from customer service to customer success is not just semantics. Companies obsessed with customer success truly want their customers to live better, richer lives for having engaged with the brand.

Costco, for example, famously empowers its employees to accept nearly any return, responds quickly to customer feedback, and actively reaches out to customers who buy recalled products. That’s not just customer service: it’s a business strategy that depends on exemplary relationships.

To adopt a philosophy of customer success (and reap the benefits of doing so), companies should follow these best practices:

  1. Look Beyond the Customer Service Team

Every employee in 2019 is responsible for some part of customer success. The back-end IT crew empowers other teams to provide better, faster service. Marketing teams put the most sensible products in front of people who need them. Frontline reps solve problems and make sure customers feel personally valued.

“Customer success is not a function,” says Nick Mehta, CEO of customer success company Gainsight. “It’s everything your company does across product, engineering, sales, marketing, support, finance — literally everyone in your company — to create strong outcomes and experiences for your clients.”

According to Gainsight, embracing customer success is the most effective way to reduce customer churn. When the business makes the success of the customer its ultimate priority, why would customers want to go anywhere else?

  1. Get Proactive About Solving Problems

If Kolsky’s claim that 91 percent of unhappy customers leave without a word is true, companies need to get better at detecting and reaching out to customers before they reach the breaking point.

Internal data is a vital component of customer success. How do customer behaviors change before they leave? Do they engage with the brand less? How much time passes before a customer goes from unhappy to considering competitors to gone? The quicker the company steps in, the more likely it is to retain the customer.

Don’t have tools smart enough to measure customer success? Find some, fast. AI and machine learning are taking over the world, and companies that fail to keep pace will find themselves outwitted by more customized competitors.

Keep all outreach focused on the customer’s needs, not the company’s sales goals. Customer success is not about what the business wants. If the company can no longer meet the needs of a customer, acknowledge that fact and make the separation as amiable as possible. Not only will a clean breakup make the customer more likely to return, but he or she will talk about the experience, making others more likely to consider the brand in the future.

  1. Never Settle for Good Enough

Newsweek’s America’s Best Customer Service 2019 awards didn’t go to companies without cultures of customer success.

Warby Parker, for instance, topped Newsweek’s list and became a $1.75 billion unicorn because the company goes well beyond customer expectations. The products are fashionable and high quality. The service, when customers need it, is responsive and informed. Even the revolutionary try-at-home sales process oozes with customer appreciation. If a startup like Warby Parker can use customer success to take on an international titan like Luxottica and win, every company in the world should take note.

Other companies that made Newsweek’s list this year share similar qualities. Ally Bank, for example, scored the top spot in the online banking category for its customer-centric philosophy. Its industry-leading savings accounts, lack of fees, and personalized service make Ally another champion of customer success.

Companies like these understand what others fail to realize: pursuit of profit at the expense of the customer journey inevitably leads to failure. Customer success leads to financial success, not the other way around. To boost both profit and reputation, companies should quit thinking about customer service as a one-team job and start thinking of customer success as the primary mission.

Author: Anna Johansson

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