Customer Success After the Sale

Businesswoman shaking hands with client.

Success means that you are responsible for the outcomes promised by your marketing and sales teams. Everyone wants to grow their business, we know that. The natural first response to the question of how to grow is to invest in sales or marketing in order to generate net new customers.

But we know from experience that it costs five to 25 times more to generate a net new customer than it does to keep an existing one. Smart companies are changing the growth question, asking instead: How do we hold onto and become more indispensable to our current customers?

Many companies think that they can adopt a tactic like content marketing or social media, or buy an ad or list and immediately reverse sluggish sales or lagging market adoption. If you choose these activities, though, don’t expect any meaningful change if you are not simultaneously shifting the way you deal with your existing customers. Adopting a few new digital tactics for your marketing and sales efforts will not help you match the changes in buyer behavior that are causing problems in the first place.

The reason that the classic growth approach for getting net new customers fails more often now than in the past is that it doesn’t address the fundamental problem at hand — buyers and the buying process are changing considerably. Smart companies — those making use of inbound strategies — will make sure their customers are successful with the solution they bought and are achieving the outcomes they expected. To do so, everyone must be aligned with the idea of solving for the customer.

The foundation of inbound organization is straightforward: Everyone in the company must consider how their role influences the customer journey in order to enhance the consumer experience. Everyone in the business, not just the marketing and sales teams, are responsible for keeping customers happy and coming back for more.

Understanding Inbound Organization

An inbound organization understands and thinks about creating a customer experience that covers the entire customer journey, from prospect to lead to first purchase through each subsequent interaction. “Customer experience is the new marketing,” says Brian Solis, a principal analyst at Altimeter Group.

Research shows that this is true, yet few companies apply inbound thinking to the entire customer journey. Do you create content to attract and connect with people on your blog but then force them to struggle to find information about the product or service after the sale? The same commitment to helping, educating, and connecting must remain in place long after the purchase. Marketing, selling, and service are about helping, and this must apply to the life of the customer journey.

Buyers will pay for a better experience, but most companies have yet to adjust to this expectation. In fact, 86% of buyers will pay more for better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet expectations.

Do you think you do an excellent job with your service and support? The data shows that most post-sale interactions harm the relationship between buyer and supplier. For example, 80% of customers leave a service interaction less loyal than when the relationship began. And 91% of unhappy customers don’t even complain; they just go find an alternative.

People have never had more choices or more available competitive options, which means customers also have more ways to leave you. This applies equally to B2B and B2C companies. Your future B2B buyers are those kids heads-down working away on their mobile phones, and they will insist on a great customer experience — more so than your current customers. Today’s customers are used to dealing with Amazon, Apple, and Facebook, you’ll want all of your interactions to meet these consumers’ high standards.

So, ask yourself:

  • Do you understand your customer’s journey with your company, or do you deliver and then wait for the phone to ring when they need something?
  • Do you plan each step of the onboarding, installation, or startup process so that new customers never doubt the decision to start a new relationship with you?
  • Do you track, study, analyze, and improve the startup process?
  • Do you measure customer loyalty not just by sending a survey, but using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) to measure, track, and improve?
  • Do you continue to educate, help, and market to your customers with useful information on a regular basis?
  • Do you have an up-to-date database of all of your existing customers housed in a centralized tool, accessible to everyone?
  • Are your marketing and sales teams aligned, and do they share with your after-sale management team the specific goals, expectations, and promises made to the customer during the pre-sale process?

Your Biggest Risk

The most significant risk is not the competition or disruption from technology. This biggest risk for most companies is self-inflicted — not taking care of your customers and therefore allowing them to leave.

You may have heard of inbound marketing and maybe even inbound sales, but to succeed today and beyond, becoming an inbound organization will set you apart in the eyes that matter the most: your customers — the ones that already believe in you, love what you are offering, and are begging you to keep helping them throughout the life of your relationship.

Customer success begins when the customer reaches Day Zero. Nate Munger, customer success manager at Contentful, defines Day Zero as “the moment when a customer has completed the necessary tasks so they can start to realize the full value of your product for the job they are hiring it to do.”

Day Zero occurs after the sale is made as the buyer move from startup to usage. Once your customer is using your product or service fully, they have reached Day Zero. Day Zero is the start of your customer’s success. They are actually using your product. Day Zero is when you start delivering on the promises made in the pre-sale process.

Aligned with the idea of Day Zero is the time to value of your product. Time to value is the interval between Day Zero and the time it takes your customer to begin seeing success with your product. For some products or services, the amount of time between startup and the time to value is very short. For instance, the time between a customer downloading an app (Day Zero) and using it for its intended purpose (receiving value from their purchase) is typically very short.

Most B2B products and services have a much longer time to value. Many products or services have a time to value measured in months or even years. Complex software, like enterprise resource planning

(ERP) tools, can often take a very long time to reach their time to value. In cases like this, Day Zero is also more distant from the purchase decision. It may take months to install, train, and begin using the software.

Whatever the time between Day Zero and time to value, customer success can be greatly impacted in the interval. An inbound organization understands both of these concepts and intentionally manages, maps, and improves the customer experience in the time between Day Zero and time to value. Creating a project plan with expectations clearly laid out gives both your team and the customer a path to success.

Once you have delivered the expected value to the customer and they have started to achieve the desired outcomes, you have the chance to enter a value loop. You are now in a position to offer additional products or services and grow your influence, impact, and revenue. The loops never happen if they do not see the initial success promised.

Positioning Yourself for Growth

Remember that growth is a mindset, not a tactic. Create amazing experiences with your customers, build on your successes, and modern buyers will become your best salespeople, helping you generate even more net new customers. Ignore customer success and those same customers will never come back, and, even more importantly, will give your company bad reviews, ratings, and comments. This attitude leaves you in a defensive position, forcing your team to start the journey all over again with new prospects in the hopes that you can stay where you were before you forgot to ensure customer success.

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