Building a true Customer Success Organization

success

One of the main challenges with Customer Success function is how it can be positioned within the Eco-System of the current organizational structure? how it can add a new value without affecting the current cost stream? how the reporting lines should align in order to orchestrate properly?

Well, to answer the question of how to position Customer Success?, we should go back to the previous question of why to create Customer Success?. A clear answer to this “Why” question may help much in answering the “How” question

I have stated in previous posts the strategic value of adopting a Customer Success function, let me be more clear about this putting in bullet-pointed answer..

Why to adopt a Customer Success Function?

  • To achieve a true Shift from a sales oriented strategy to customer centered strategy
  • To maintain and optimize sensitive customer related KPIs that normal functions can not focus on ( Satisfaction, Health, Growth Potential…etc)
  • To create more selling situations, accordingly more leads
  • Customer Success warrants more focus for other organizations to do what they can do better as it takes the hassle of maintaining customer relationships from them like persisting requests and business challenges that always occur post the sales process. so then, the sales can sell, the development engineer can code and support can fix product bugs..etc

The name “Customer Success” has a deep indirect value to customers, its not “sales or Account Management or business development” which all customers in most of cases is valued by the amount of business they generate

It is not also Customer Support, where customer business and current account situation is not taken into consideration in most cases

So, understanding this function very well, can make the mission of positioning it much easier

Back to the main question, how to position customer success?

In a reply to a post written by Nick Mehta on LinkedIn (CEO of GainSight) where he asked for some answers to this same questions, I explained briefly part of my vision or approach. Nick post copied below

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My approach for this function is to ultimately achieve “Success”, a mutual Success for both customer and business

When sales numbers step over all metrics, we may encounter medium-long term business risk. High sales figures without continuously increasing customer satisfaction means long term failures

The strategic idea here is to change the reporting lines of sales organization to the top Customer Success Organization, by this change the overall business picture will be more realistic and mature to both reflect the real situation and project the future shape of engagement with customers

So the name I propose for this is Chief Success Officer (CSO), where this role can have an executive dashboard/health-score of all accounts

Then two main reporting lines under the CSO

  • Director/VP of Customer Success
  • Director/VP of Sales

With Such top structure, I believe there will be a great deal of balance with what is sold vs what the customer real situation is, thus, maintaining high and stable sales figures while keeping a growing customer attachment

Another naming conversion I have came across, which is the Chief Customer Officer, it sounds very reasonable and more attractive as it includes the “Customer” name which implies a great deal of attention to the “Customer”

My only take on the “Chief Customer Officer” is that it will be still separated from Sales organization so it will not diffuse the right needed power to embrace the voice of the customer, and yet the Customer Success function will be more of a supporting function than a core one

The only way to have a true Customer Success execution is to put in an equal KPI valuation with sales to measure the overall success of business, which is what the “Chief Success Officer” can achieve much more than “Chief Customer Officer” for the reasons I mentioned above

Copying my Reply to Nick Mehta’s post below

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How Forrester Featured my Customer Health Score Formula

In August 16th 2017, Forrester Research published an official report titled: “How To Build A Viable B2B Customer Health Assessment”

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In this Report, Forrester selected two formulas among a list of these companies

  1. Adobe
  2. Alfresco Software
  3. BMC Software
  4. ChurnZero
  5. Cisco Systems
  6. Customer Success Association
  7. Pro
  8. An education software maker
  9. eSpatial
  10. FDB (First Databank)
  11. Gainsight
  12. Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  13. IBM
  14. Infogix
  15. Kahuna
  16. Okta
  17. RainKing
  18. A recruiting software vendor
  19. reDock
  20. ServiceSource
  21. Shift Health
  22. Totango
  23. Workbooks
  24. Zycus

Among these 24 companies, two companies were selected by Forrester team as “best examples” of customer health assessment

The first one of these two assessments is the one I created for my current employer

I captured the screen shots that feature my formula from this Forrester Report

  • The first one explains the formula in broad explanation
  • The second one features the three color coding criteria

F1F2

I posted my formula in a previous post, it can be viewed here

For readers who are interested in downloading this Forrester report, it can be accessed here.

 

 

 

 

Forrester Research to officially feature my Customer Success Formula

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As per my previous post, I had a very interesting conversation with two senior analysts at Forrester Research over a trending topic now around customer success which is the Customer health/Success Formula

In the past, we have seen a lot of efforts on sales and sales increments, and on the other side magnificent innovations on service quality and customer care enhancements occurrences

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The real challenge I saw among many WW top notched organizations is that the two directions do not go synchronously together, where multiple organizations celebrate sales numbers without paying the same amount of attention to customer relationship innovation or quality improvements. Same goes with the other side of the river, where multiple organizations (especially SMBs) do the larger side of the effort on the customer experience and quality without fueling it with much sales to generate the aspired for revenues

What I see is unique in my Customer Success Formula is that it binds both worlds in one simple vision that can be used by CxOs to making sure the overall situation is visible, monitored and well enriched

I will share the official slide from Forrester Research featuring my formula as soon as it becomes public

 

Customer Health Score Formula

health

I had a meeting with two senior Forrester research analysts for around one hour, the whole meeting focus was about how to think of a way to measure customers’ health from a customer success prospective.

I have a model that I developed personally through my years of experience, I believe the model answers this dilemma very well and transforms the kind of qualitative data, activities and engagements into solid quantitative figures that can be used by executives and subordinates to trace, diagnose and fix issues when needed

I explained this model to them and and interesting discussions started!!

I am summarizing it below, with the assumptions made in the Disclaimer section; hope you will enjoy reading it

 

Disclaimer

–          This formula is not intended to measure customer satisfaction by any means, yet it gives a great indication on customer satisfaction that can be taken into account in any other applications that might be interested in customer satisfaction part

–          This formula is targeted for large business-to-business engagements, where multiple entities/individuals from the vendor deal with one account

–          This formula’s interest is to measure how healthy the customer business is with respect to the vendor’s products and services usage

–          This formula cannot be used for accounts of age less than one year

–          Data to be gathered in this model are to be gathered on yearly basis

health-score

 

Customer Health Score formula

Measuring the health of any account is a sophisticated task that should take into account multiple and diverse metrics

This formula can assess the performance of mostly all departments that deal with the customer, and how the customer is perceiving their engagements, like:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Support
  • Customer Success
  • Other Supporting departments

It concludes the health of the account into four main categories as following:

  1. Stability
  2. Maturity
  3. Innovation
  4. Adoption

Each category has set of sub-categories that are scored as demonstrated below, the output number is normalized to a base of 10 so the overall health of the account is finally measured as a value out of 10, each value range is mapped to the following three statuses:

–          Healthy: if the score is more than or equals to 7.5

–          Infected: if the score is more than 5 and less than 7.5

–          Sick: if the score is equals to or less than 5

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAXgAAAAJDY5MDFiNjllLWEzNWYtNGVlYS1hZTU1LWY5OGMyMzZjOGE2Mw

 

The scoring and definition of the four categories and their sub-categories are defined below

1-          Stability (5 points)

 Stability is concerned mainly on outages rates, integrations health and enhancements delivered to the customer, as per the following:

–         Outage (weight is two points)

What is the percentage of severity-1 cases with respect to all support cases count? (Total outage cases)

o   %5 and less: 2 out of 2

o   >5% <20%: 1 out of 2

o   >20%: 0 out of 2

–         Integrations (weight is two points)

Are all integrations with our applications working well?

o   All working well: 2 out of 2

o   Most are working well: 1 out of 2

o   Few are working well: 0 out of 2

–         Enhancements (weight is one point)

Number products Enhancements delivered per year to the total submitted Enhancements (i.e. if 4 are delivered out of 10, then score is 0.4)

2-          Maturity (5 points)

This is to measure generally how the customer is using our products; and what is the level of engagement they have with our people as a whole

–         Update-ability (weight is two points)

Are all products are on latest major versions?

o   If 75% and more are yes: 2 out of 2

o   If 50% to 75% are yes: 1 out of 2

o   If less than 50% are yes: 0 out of 2

–         Utilization / Shelf-ware (weight is one point)

Any shelf-ware or unused products?

o   Yes (0 out of 1)

o   No (1 out of 1)

–         Participation (weight is one point)

Has the customer participated in any events or special technical forums online?

o   Yes (online and events) : 1 out of 1

o   Yes (online only or events only): 0.5 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–          Reach-ability (weight is one point)

Does the customer know whom to talk to within our organization?

o   Yes (1 out of 1)

o   No (0 out of 1)

3-          Innovation (5 points)

This is to measure the level of advancement in using our products generally, whether new or existing ones. And how this is evaluated with respect to our special reference and exclusive programs we offer

–         Earliness  (weight is two points)

Does the customer has two or more of our new products?

o   Two or more: 2 out of 2

o   One only: 1 out of 2

o   Zero: 0 out of two

–         Development  (weight is one point)

Does the customer have in-house applications integrated to our products?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–         Referencing (weight is one point)

Is this a reference customer?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

–         Exclusiveness (weight is one point)

Does the customer participate in any special programs (Beta testing, brain storming…etc)?

o   Yes: 1 out of 1

o   No: 0 out of 1

4-          Adoption (15 points)

This part’s focus is on how successful are we in selling our products/services to our customer (adoption level), the assumption here is that if the account health is good then it should be reflected to the sales figures

However,  this part could be taken out of the health calculation if we assumed that only heath is measured on the delivery/usage sides

–          Licenses/cloud/subscription sales

Have we achieved all planned new licenses/cloud/subscription sales opportunities in last 4 quarters?

o   All Yes (5 out of 5)

o   Partially yes, then normalize the sales percentage to 5 (i.e if 80% of sales achieved, then score is 4 out of 5)

–          Services sales

Have we achieved all planned services sales opportunities in last 4 quarters? (support, education, professional services..etc)

o   All Yes (5 out of 5)

o   Partially yes, then normalize the sales percentage to 5 (i.e if 80% of sales achieved, then score is 4 out of 5)

–          Vertical sales

Any upsells (licenses/cloud expansion or services expansion)?

o   Yes (5 out of 5)

o   No (0 out of 5)

Overall health score

As explained above, the total score is divided by 30. Then the final score can be categorized as following:

–         Healthy: 7.5 and above

–         Infected: between 5 and 7.5

–         Sick: 5 and below

This could be color coded and presented to top executives, corrective actions can take place by tracing the scoring losses.

 

Customer Success & Shelfware

bussiness-setup

The larger the size of the organization gets, the higher the probability of encountering less utilized customer applications or totally unutilized applications (unused)

Both ways, this is Shelf-ware!

One of the ultimate goals of Customer Success function, is to make sure that customer’s environment is utilized at upmost standards, shelf-ware is one the silent killers that each Customer Success Representative should work with his/her customers to decrease or eliminate its existence

A Cause and Effect analysis I made on Shelfware is demonstrated in the figure below that shows why Shelfware is dangerous!

Slide3

For some customers, shelf-ware is more than 25% of total install base, that could be a huge Unrecognized value which has a lot of implications and direct impact on achieving vast customer success KPIs like adoption, renewal values, overall satisfaction…etc.

One of the smartest solutions is to offer some options to convert from install base licensing models to cloud base models exactly like what Microsoft did with its WW customer base

I am introducing this Go-To-Solve model in the diagram below that can be used to address the Shelfware problem, this model does not need any extra new systems investment so it can be used directly without any overhead cost on the orgnization

The model has basically five main steps:

  1. Track
  1. Identify
  1. Review
  1. Plan
  1. Propose a solution

Slide4

Each step is explained in the diagram below

Slide5

With such model, it can be highly possible to overcome this problem with your customers; achieving high overall success criteria and making sure all organization’s stakeholders are viewing thus addressing this pain area

Building a WW Digital Sales Strategy

business-strategy

In this article I will demonstrate a top executive level design I made in 2016 for a WW Diginal software sales strategy, it was based on mainly six strategic directions (themes), this design lays the foundations for this Digital sales organization, subsequent programs and plans should be designed on later stages….this strategic map called “Hex-Go” consisting the six directions (themes) below:

Hex-Go strategic directions

  • Revenue
  • People
  • Partners
  • Marketing
  • Customer Experience
  • Interlock, Incubation & integration – I3

six themes

Each of these themes is identified by three metrics:

  1. Objectives
  2. Actions
  3. Measures

 

The difference between Digital sales and Direct sales is basically the market size and nature of the targeted customers

Currently, Direct sales organization makes most of the revenue through working directly with large customers, however, Digital sales organization deals with SMBs thus makes less revenue

This Strategic plan is focused on increasing the Inside (Digital) Sales market share through vertical upselling to existing customers and horizontal selling to new customers (As shown in the figure below)

MarketShare

Going in further details, I demostrate each of the six themes and its assosiated metrics

Revenue

Objectives

  • Increase number of bookings by XX %
  • Achieve YoY increase by YY %

Actions

  • Incrementally build on the current sales methods
  • Foster rapid, energetic and innovative sales plans
  • Boost vertical and horizontal sales acts

Measures

  • Review sales numbers on quarterly/monthly/weekly basis

Revenue

 

People

 

Objectives

  • Having a highly skilled and well trained sales force WW

Actions

  • Select, Build, empower and foster a strong organization culture
  • Training and enablement
  • Incentives and rewards

Measures

  • Business reviews and Employee reviews
  • HR analysis/metrics

 

people

Partners

Objectives

  • Increase number of partner bookings/leads (where applicable WW) by XX%
  • Partners as brand ambassadors and secondary/primary sales force (per region)

Actions

  • Build a partners ecosystem WW
  • Integrate with local partners managers WW
  • Review Partners business margins
  • Leverage partners recognition and rewarding

Measures

  • Regular Review partners sales numbers
  • Partner surveys

Partners

Marketing

Objectives

  • Marketing department to widen sales horizons
  • Marketing department to be part of total customer experience

Actions

  • Manage the quality of customer data (scope + details)
  • Apply appropriate segmentation methodologies (segmentation matrix)
  • Usage of state of art marketing tools and adopt innovations

Measures

  • Communication and media KPIs
  • Customer data quality review
  • Events/activities impact on direct sales and user experience

 

Marketing

 

Customer Experience

 

Objectives

  • Create a total customer experience that is simple, reliable and innovative
  • Review customer experience journey among all entities

Actions

  • Work on more innovative customer online experience
  • Appropriate customer management tools to be in place across all functions
  • Review with customer success/advocacy organizations

Measures

  • Customer reviews
  • Customer online traffic/interactions
  • Analysis against competition

 

CE

 

Interlock, Incubation & integration – I3

 

Objectives

  • Inside sales to be fully connect with other BUs internally
  • Inside sales force to have clear access channels to other BUs

Actions

  • Kick off the communication with all BUs WW
  • Implement internal support models/methodologies
  • Recognition to other BUs

Measures

  • Review calls/activities with other BUs
  • Monitor Metrics and KPIs

 

I3

The inside sales (Digital Sales) organization must be aligned with other BUs, this can demonstrated in the figure below

 

I3picture

 

 

 

Presenting to a CxO? Here is what you need to do!

For any customer facing role (whether sales, consultancy or service delivery..etc.), conducting face-to-face presentations is an integral part of your job! You might be meeting your customers on weekly or monthly basis, less or more! However, CxO presenting is something that most of us do not do with the same frequency, even if you do, you will always need to be ready for a meeting that is absolutely different than the regular the meetings you have with other CxO subordinates

The scope of this article is about meeting and presenting to CxOs; whatever is there in the X. Meeting a CxO can be simply a maker or unfortunately a breaker! You may have only one chance -that might not come again – to pitch for what you stand for; if this did not go well, it might not go well for long or forever! If it went right, you absolutely have opened the right gate!

Accordingly, preparing your CxO meeting should be different; and if you are presenting, that needs another special preparation as well.

So, whether you are an experienced presenter or still in the beginning stage of learning presentation skills, you will have some interesting take aways out of this article…

Let me breifly discuss the three main stages of these kind of meetings before going into deep details of each of them:

  • Before the meeting, you need to be well prepared with what can all serve your purpose
  • During the meeting, having the right level of attention and engagement is all what you can hope for a good beginning that will cut most of the way to a positive end, upon finishing, the story doesn’t end, it is just the beginning!
  • Post the meeting; make your story! Do the right follow up, fire the right spark and continue the journey of business you have been looking for

Let me get more into that !

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Before the meeting

Do the homework

If you are going to speak about an ongoing project, know all facts and review the progress in details. Check with your team what milestones have been achieved and what are the challenges in place, you need to know the overall situation 100%, most probably, other people will be in the meeting room with you, and you never know what questions you might get!

If you are presenting a new proposal, study the current situation about the company you present for and speak to other stakeholders inside this company as much as possible. Know their vision, struggles and aspirations. This will help you so much while pitching in front of the executives so that you can link their needs with what you are showing!

Know something interesting!

It can be very positively distinguished if you leveraged your knowledge before the meeting about something interesting for the audience, like new update on the market, insights about the competitors, new trend…etc

Knowing about your audience background is very useful, their personal interests, their career path, their area of expertise…all these and more

Your presentation: Design, design and flow!

Your slides have pivotal importance in your meeting, there are tons of advices  about designing and presenting, however, for CxO presentations, the prospective is much broader and consideration should be taken into higher level !

Humans use their eyes before their ears! So your design is absolutely the first thing to consider if you don’t want to be forgotten! A proper, interesting and storytelling flow keeps your audiences attained and less consumed!

So you can reach to the goal you came for!

  Therefore, a Design must be…

  • Catchy in a modest way: Your CxO needs to see a difference than other presentations, but not too much!
  • Very limited smart animation: Or no animation at all!
  • Fewer contents per slide: Otherwise, the eyes will get lost, accordingly the focus!
  • Avoid putting too much data: As much as possible! To avoid draining your audiences’ energy too quickly!

In addition, for a proper Flow…

  • At the beginning: Story-like start, more incidents and less data
  • In the middle: More facts less numbers
  • Before closing: More talk about the future!

Dress-up!

Cultures are different, accordingly, every way of dressing. Normally – for a woman or a man – a suite works everywhere in the globe, but it is not just the suite, it is rather more about the details of how your look implies…instead of going into fashion dilemma, I want to discuss why you need to be dressed-up! And, what impressions and ideas you want to foster out of that!

  • You need to look acceptable to the audience
  • You need to show respect to your audience by dressing well!
  • You need to avoid looking too slicky or too perfect!
  • You need to catch the eye sometimes, but not too much!
  • You need to look smart and attractive!
  • You need to feel good about your look before your meeting! This boosts the confidence

So no matter what you wear, it’s your talent to choose what can serve the goals above!

Shake hands genuinely

The first thing when getting into the meeting room is to greet your audience, they look at you first before saying Hi, a first impression takes 5 seconds, and this might last until the end of the meeting!, the first 2 seconds when they look at you, and the rest is when they shake-hand with you and say “Hi!”

Shaking hands is a human way of communication where people agree to open up for something, whether a short conversation, a meeting or just a greeting. Shaking hands in all cases is an agreement between two people to communicate, showing the right interest by looking in the eye genuinely and shake hands can be the best way for the other party to positively begin to “Accept” then maybe “Like” you and be ready to start the meeting!

During your meeting

Position and gestures

Stand in a position where your audience can see you comfortably as much as possible, your physical posture builds subconscious impressions among your audience, simply a normal, open and interactive posture is all what you need to lock-in your audience eyes

Avoid rolling your eyes or head to side directions; this implies you are either embarrassed or unfocused. You need to generally look in an angle where you can grasp everyone, and to avoid giving too much attention to one person, even if he/she is the CxO, however, you can shift your eye focus to the CxO direction from now and then if needed

Opening

Opening your presentation is the core of your pitch! When you present to a CxO your ultimate goal is to grab the attention from the very beginning, a strong, bold and factual opening is sometimes the best approach for that, a short story telling is another good idea, and there are many techniques that you can use! Just ask yourself this question in order to know how to open up for your presentation:

Why does this executive may want to listen to me?

Because you supposedly will solve a problem, or your will add value

But this is not the right answer! Many others believe they can fix problems and add values; you are just one of them here!

A CxO may want to listen to you because you will convince them that you have the best or the most unique solution for their issues, or you will add a new and interesting value for their business! Planting these ideas in your audience minds and hearts is best done during the opening part of your presentation!

Diversify your communication

Changing the communication style helps in two main things:

1- Refreshing your audience energy of attention, so they can keep up with your presentation

2- Unlocks your audience conscious doors by using different communication keys that can open the way for your ideas to flow

This is generally an act of training, talent and experience, if you cannot do it now, you will definitely can do it later if you kept working on it!

Briefly, maintain a medium, acceptable and clear tone of voice that can elevate to higher levels while using proper body gestures to support or explain the ideas you are presenting, a good way to test you audience attention is to move around a bit and see how they will cope with your move!

Ask!

Assuming you and your presentation slides are interesting enough, the audience will get engaged properly with you and you will be asked questions during your pitch, if not, then you will need to ask them a question from time to another to elevate or maintain their attention level

The catch here is that if you asked this classic kind of questions: “Is everything clear?” “Any questions?” you will not probably get the right level of engagement you want, also, you need to avoid asking too much provoking questions or teacher-student like questions: “Does anyone know why I am putting this instead of that” or “who can tell me…?” these kinds of questions must be avoided, you are speaking to executives!

Nevertheless, there is a type of questions that is very efficient; I call it the topic-opening question. It is when you ask the audience about specific parts of your presentation and refresh their minds on what you presented, For example, questions like “Do you need me to talk in more details about the KPIs part?” “Is the executive summary covering all queries you have in mind?” “Does this optimization feature links to a current issue you have?” ..etc., I recommend using this kind of questions especially in the parts where you need them to absorb your contents most

Your answers should be clear, short, comprehensive and informative, and then offer to speak in more details if needed. This approach shows that you are aware of what you talking about while maintaining an executive focus

Close with a summary and an idea!

Your closing is the last thing you leave to your audience, giving a brief summary before closing is as important as giving an interesting opening. With the summary, you aggregate all contents into something compelling, simple and easy to memorize, best to use one slide-summary with more visual contents that are easier for the eye to capture

At this time, state the whole idea that made you have this meeting, there is a difference between goals and ideas. You should have mentioned multiple goals during your presentation, so now it’s the best time to make your audience thoughtful or heartfull about what you talked about. For example, if you are presenting to a mobile operator CTO a new service to launch for their IT Service Catalogue, it is the best time before closing to say that the only way to keep leading in the competition is to offer unique, robust and continuous services to your customers, which is why you came!

The importance of such kind of closing is that you bind your audience with a strategic idea aligns with what you have presented, in such way, you get closer to convince this crowd with what you came for without being too persuasive or desperate

After the meeting

Post meeting chats!

Now the presentation is finished and people start to move off their chairs, kicking off some side talks and some action can come to your way!

You might get comments or questions about your presentation or anything else, this opens great chances to build one-to-one rapport with your audience, answer the questions that you know and promise to get back with answers later for the ones that you do not, in both cases; write these questions down in your note. Reply with more details later to any comment you might get, be nice and attentive all the way

Strike while the iron is hot

It is very important to send a confirmation email with your presentation slides (if applicable) and short summary to your audience within one day after finishing your meeting, you need to keep this channel on by sending this summary within the right time window before being forgotten! State the questions you got, confirm the answers you said and promise to get back with more details if needed

Offer multiple options if possible, be flexible and supportive

Confirm any important statements mentioned, articulate your summary so that it looks simple to read and easy to understand

Fire the internal spark

In most cases you will be asked about things that you need to act on, this is where you get your golden chances to show commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm to your customer

Your ultimate goal at this stage will be to get the most detailed and comprehensive answers for your audience, you may need to work internally within different stakeholders/organizations to get these answers for them

Make sure you are doing the right internal follow-up, make sure your audience get the answers they are looking for, send complete answers; that may open another questions to be asked and keeps a positive attention moving forward

If you got a one-to-one question, make sure to send a one-to-one answer, if you got a question by one to all, make sure to send your answers to all. This is one of the secret keys to establish a strong personal bond with your audience

Aligning with different internal resources in your company is vital, without that, you may encounter delays or communication gaps, which will put you in a difficult situation to commit on what you have presented, thus firing the internal spark is needed to be around your customer as complete as possible

Make your story!

Meeting a CxO or a senior executive is just a story that is part of a continuous journey. Make your one easy, interesting, valuable and profitable so that you can sustain long lasting relationship with your customer. When you pitch for a presentation, you are building the most important part of your journey; that should be a memorable success story for you, your business and your organization to share and talk about!

Your customer satisfaction is more important than your revenue!

“The Sales rep is always the gate opener, but the Customer Success Rep is the only gate keeper!”

Why? How?

Here are the main points that I need to discuss about that

  • Why customer experience is the most important aspect to consider

Because simply, a bad experience will kill any sales achievements, bad product quality can even be fixed if the right support and adequate customer success process is in place

The attention to customer experience touches all aspects of the business; this should be part of all organizational strategy

  • The trap of overselling!

Selling and overachieving is amazing! And the only way to continue with this achievement is to focus on customer experience, the trap here is that many organizations celebrate sales numbers too early without putting enough investment to growing the customer success organization, which unfortunately is main reasons for sales numbers to decline later on!

 

Concept: Successful business trend. Happy talented businesswoman

  • How CSM can do that?

Main strategic themes for a successful customer experience strategy start with C the customer!, I call it the 5C Model

  • Cognition: Knowing, learning and analyzing everything about the customer, deep cognition warrants long-term retention!
  • Centricity: The CSM should put the customer in the center of every activity being made, this should be very comprehensive yet expandable, a more successful CSM takes customer needs to new dimensions!
  • Continuity: The core importance of the CSM role is the continuity, the customer should always be engaged, helped and from time to time mabye challenged!
  • Continues improvement: putting proper customer feedback mechanisms, agile actions to feedbacks and promoting new ideas
  • Co-working: CSM should be interlocked with all other functions inside the organization; a methodology should warrant that without encountering any conflict of interests!
  • Innovation stills the ultimate key!

Ye,s it is still and will always be the ultimate key for any product or service to start and grow, innovation patterns are unlimited same as customer needs!!

For already established business, Shifting from a sales oriented to customer oriented  strategy is the only wayout from the “oversales” dilemma! If your company suffers from this, invest in the CSM organization!

Face to face meetings and group performance

I had a nice chance last week of meeting more than 40 team members of my organization in a beautiful meeting facility in Germany, for continuous 5 days we have talked, laughed, worked and shared a lot of insights, then at the last day we checked hands wishing to see each other again next year or may be later!

Working with people who are distributed around the globe makes it so difficult to have everyone under one ceiling, the feeling of having such gatherings is always different than any virtual meetings and the outcomes of such gatherings worth more than its cost!

 

Clarity of Direction

For technology industry, change is the name of the game!, the rate of change in this industry is higher than any other, that is not too bad in sense of expansion and business growth.

However, with this continuous changes, people sometimes loose direction, feel dispersion and slow in following industry dynamics.

One of the most tasks of any manager is always to keep the focus and maintain clarity within teams, that is not only applicable for tech industry but for any other fields as well, nevertheless, within the tech industry the effort is higher!

Working on large geographical regions could be a challenge for leaders to infuse the right sense of direction and clarity, even with video and audio capabilities nothing can beat face to face communication!…yet!

Having one team in one real room definitely makes is a lot easier to foster and maintain the right sense of direction thus to have everyone copied with the what the whole organizations goals are with much clearer message

one-team

 

 

Accelerating performance

One of the fantastic benefits of team face to face meeting is having the right feeling of motivation within everyone, people came from different geographic areas to sit in one room together the get the right sense of alignment and engagement

Clarity of goals is one key value, followed by  having the right fuel to energize achieving these goals should assure proper performances

Performance of any human being is subjected to lows and highs, the key of successful teams is to keep and maintain high level of performance within teams, each one is different than the other and that is normal, however, having everyone in one place to deliver clear message can make people more motivated than anything else

For any leader, the most important aspect is to keep people motivated, motivation could be the most important ingredient to embrace and accelerate performance, having such physical meetings assures right acceleration to the common one team direction!

accelerate-performance

 

Discover talents

People have always different and sophisticated types of talents, singularity is very good sometimes to embrace innovation, also team work has outstanding benefits to leverage ideas and overall performance

However, in a lot of cases, people talents are only visible to management in such meetings, good speakers, innovative thinkers, thought members active listeners, or even quite and high performers, seeing and feeling the presence of the team will make it visible to managers and leaders to discover talents, ensure everyone is in the right place. This can help in any future realignments to match each one’s goals and talents, so a leader can identify who needs more training, who needs less supervision, who needs higher attention, and a lot of more of discoveries!

Ideally, all organization behaviors scientists agreed on diversity importance, thus not to fall in one single culture dominance which might inhibit other strong team values. Making sure of having such diversity in place will in return make people more eager to speak, interact thus to innovate

Talents that emerge in team meetings are essential for any leader to acknowledge and be aware of thus to be considered for any current or future changes

discover-talent

 

Leverage team spirit

Sense of belonging! company citizenship! the manifestation of all these concepts are outcomes of many factors, having face to face team meetings is definitely one of them, the effect of positive team spirit has been always tied to high performance and job satisfaction

team-spirit

Conclusion

 

Team buildings, face to face meetings or common group activities are always important for any successful team, the value reaches areas beyond normal business purposes where human talents can embrace, collaborate and bond like no other kind of meetings

 

Selecting the right support model for your organization

support excellence model
Support Excellence Model

Selecting the right software solutions for your organization could be one of the most difficult decisions that any IT leader might take, as the market is usually very high on Enterprise IT solutions offerings yet low on deep knowledge or vertical analysis of choosing any of these solutions, however, after selecting the suitable solution, the story is not finished yet, there is another important round, which is selecting the right software support model that fits your organizational business needs, as an IT leader, you don’t have much options in selecting support services as you will be tied to the vendor whom you bought your software solution from, so, knowing the services offering from your vendor before purchasing any software solutions is very crucial to properly be in control of your applications and anticipate growth potentials

Putting the most suitable support model in place not only warrants having your top critical IT business services available, but it enhances and continuously improves your services to be ahead of the steadily changing customers’ demands, expectations and their business needs as well, in the dynamic IT world, improper selection of support service may not only affects your IT services availability and quality, it also may hinder your organizational business objectives and IT strategies success

What I will discuss below, the broad and most important aspects to think about while selecting best suitable software support model that matches your business demands…

Delivering the right service should be governed by a clear and well described Service Level Agreement (SLA), this is the only method to making sure you are getting the expected service, having a clear and well acknowledged SLA shorten the distance to solutions, clears any blurry areas and ensure clarity of delivery

Looking at support service from a single angle is one of the pitfalls that we sometimes see in the market; it’s not a one side simple service, there is a lot more that should be taken into consideration for a proper and well conducted service

This could be clarified in a four aspects model as illustrated in the diagram below, each of these is a must to be regarded while thinking about adopting any support service:

  • Financial Side
  • Technical Side
  • Communication
  • Reporting

Software Support Excellence Model

1. Financial side

Where you must find answers to all your finical related questions, like how much will be the cost of support service, how payments will be scheduled over the service period, what will be the return on support service (ROSS), what will be the payback period (or breakeven point)?

What I want to briefly emphasis here is calculating the Return On Support Service (ROSS) as it might be one of the most complicated yet important factors to consider

In order to have an estimate calculation of ROSS, It should be measured over a specific span of time divided into 2 periods, the first period (let it be period 1) could be a year…more or less, this is the period before having support service in place, the second period (let it be period 2) is the period following period1 after support service adoption, they both should be equal in length, calculating the ROSS depends mainly on the tool used for that and the details of the information available, I am introducing a simple formula here that could be used as a guideline

ROSS= Return value /support service price

The Return value could consist of the following terms summed up:

  • Difference in the cost of downtime before and after getting the service
  • “Return on Quality and Service enhancements”, this might be a bit difficult to calculate, however, it could be the increase of your direct service sales between both periods
  • Cost of saved man hours in restoring and optimizing, this is also very important to consider as your team should consume less hours in restoring any down service, these less hours must be added to the return amount, less time in optimizing and less time as well in almost the daily administrative or operative tasks

So, the Return could be formulated like this:

Return value= Cost of Downtime before support (period1) – cost of Downtime after support (period2) + return on Quality and service enhancements (in period 2) + Cost of saved man hours in restoring/optimizing the system after support adoption (in period 2)

For the payback period, it generally indicates when you should expect a profit from the service, this must be within the range of you overall business goals and profit time metrics, if the payback period is beyond your planned gain timeline it then might affect your overall IT profitability

2. Technical Side

Here you should consider all the details of the technical delivery, this must be also the main part of the support contract SLA, the below points mainly discuss what you will need to consider in this aspect

Personalization and expertise(s) technical level

It is essential to stand on the skills of the personal being engaged in delivering support to your organization, even if there is a huge team in the background, making sure of having the rightly skilled and experienced support candidate as your organization’s first point of contact will warrant saving a lot of time and effort in solving problems and overall support quality level generally

It is also viable to consider asking some questions that will help in deciding the delivery shape that suits you best…Do you need to deal with only one technical consultant as a single point of contact or to generally deal with a board of support engineers? What is the technical level of the people who will pick up your support cases? Entry or intermediate or advanced?

Dealing with one person could be the best option for many, however, dealing with a pool of support experts is also a favorite option for others, there is no better choice here, it is you who decide how this to be conducted; personalized support anyways should be an option for you to choose from and it is your decision to select what best matches your organization

Scope of the technical engagement

Standing on the scope of the technical delivery must be well known, it is to answer how far or how broad can the technical engagement be, it can never be limitless; will it cover only support on product defects? Will it cover information sharing? Will it cover licenses installation? Will it cover customization tasks? Will it cover integrations? These are samples of many questions that could be raised here depending on your business needs, being aware of the technical engagement scope is a crucial part so that you can make ready of what to expect from support service, thus avoiding any frustrations or dissatisfaction resulted from wrongly built expectations

Technical tools used

Here we are focusing on knowing what will be the tools that the service provider will use to access your systems and provide support, will it need any special security permissions? Will there be any security vulnerabilities? Are these tools sufficient for a fast problem troubleshooting and fixing?

Sometimes we see delays resulted from customer’s inability to use support tools that most of the time essential for a proper and seamless delivery

Bug fixing and code changing process

Fixing Software vulnerabilities and responding to code change requests are carried out by the service provider’s development departments, having your application bugs fixed must be a priority for your service provider, knowing the process of getting your application fixes will help you having a clear understanding of how your support cases will propagate till the coding level within your service provider

3- Communication

I believe that the communication portraits more than half the service overall shape, having clear and effective communication plan saves everybody’s time and prevents service losses, the brief points below will help defining the communication aspect of the support service you can expect

Defining the communication channels

Some questions to raise here, Will the communication be only via emails? What can be the frequency of phone calls? And how can you reach your support service provider technical personal? Will this be covered through a 24×7 model? Do the communication methods change along different times of the day?

Communication hierarchy and Escalation process

This is mainly to define how will your support cases propagate within your service provider’s different support teams, What are the escalation channels and processes, how to approach the escalation team And what should you expect from the escalation process

Frequency of meetings and visits

Here to define whether you will have onsite meetings during your support period or not, and how this will be quantified and what will be the scope of these visits

Generally, as a customer you expect a FAST response to your cases and queries from your service provider

Thus FAST is Fault targeted, Accurately communicated, Solution oriented and Team based

Fault targeted: Support response should be very sharply targeted to the fault as to restore the service in shortest time

Accurately communicated: To avoid any miscommunication, or communication gaps, support communication should be shared with the right stakeholders who have direct attention and authority on your systems in a clear and efficient way

Solution oriented: support communication should have an ultimate goal that is always to fix the problem regardless of any political or other external factors

Team based: a one man show can never continues for long, a stable and strong support service should be backed with teams that must be aligned with your support personal

4- Reporting

Reporting is usually a favorite for top management, it broadly enables interesting executive overviews of the systems and gives indicators of the quality of the service; it can also contribute in pointing to top management the next strategic initiatives, control methodologies and even enable more proper people management

In other words, reporting is the mirror of your overall IT structure performance, it should serve and enable you understanding the overall situation with your environment, with the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), agreed reports contents and proper trend analysis you can make a better understanding of how reporting you need should look like, they are all important parts to consider for efficient reporting

KPIs

Management needs usually reports that show the overall statuses of systems, so you will have to define with your support service provider the key KPIs that you are interested to know from your organization’s support historical cases trends and analysis, most commonly requested KPIs

  1. MTTR: Mean Time To Restore, it’s the average time needed to restore back your services/system, this mainly a viable indicator of responsivity
  2. RCA: Root Cause Analysis of errors occurred, having this metric reported is an essential core for continuous service improvement process and knowledge management
  3. TTFC: Time To First Contact, this defines the Service Level agreement you get from your service provider in responding to your support cases according to severities, comparing the actual TTFC with the agreed TTFC is one of the key elements that you will need to stand on the quality of the support service you are receiving
  4. ACLT: Average Case Life Time, this mainly defines the overall lifetime of your support cases from being opened till getting closed

Reporting contents

You should agree with your service provider on what metrics you are expecting to see in the reports that will be sent to you, these metrics can contribute to other area’s of development for your organization, problem management, knowledge management, release control…etc.

Trends and analysis

Reports that are just numbers centric are not that important to management, analyzing numbers and trends is what matters most; providing trend analysis in reports helps a lot in having a clearer overview of the overall performance, and shaping of strategic future initiatives

Conclusion…

Software support is a very important piece of your overall IT infrastructure picture, considering the main four aspects discussed above, will make it easier to take the right decision adopting the most suitable model for your organization, keeping your services up and ready for expansion

All rights reserved to the author Mohamed Nada