By Gregory Schern
The enterprise software industry is in the midst of a transformation that is redefining licensing models, time to value expectations, and the delivery of services. The shift to subscription based licensing and SaaS has transferred the risk of adoption, optimization, renewal and expansion to the vendor. This change has led to an entirely new discipline, Customer Success, and forced companies to focus continuously on delivering exceptional customer experiences.
To address these changes, many companies are taking steps to consolidate post-sales activities aligning delivery, services and support groups into a singular customer success organization, effectively knocking down the silos and focusing on the customer’s perspective. Bain & Company emphasizes, “Companies that aim to create an excellent experience will have to break this paradigm of functional silos and their associated metrics. They need to analyze the experience through the customer’s eyes...” (Gerard du Toit, 2017).
Seemingly overnight, large legacy enterprise software companies have been forced to think differently, emphasizing the customer’s point of view, a consistent experience framework and a clear measurement of success. This serves to not only assure effective adoption and optimization leading to expansion and renewal, but ultimately elevates the company’s reputation and earns customer loyalty.
7 Steps to Delivering a Consistent Experience
Knowing what the customer expects is a good start. Ultimately however, a company is measured by the collective actions of its employees, not on its vision. Delivering a high value experience requires the company to act consistently, in all interactions with its clients. We recommend companies utilize the SPARCCS framework that drives alignment, mutual commitment, and execution with a defined outcome:
Understand the (S)ituation.
An exceptional customer experience, in which the customer trusts its vendors and recognizes they care for them, requires proactive situational awareness. This demands new tools, organizational structure, and the discipline to ask targeted questions to truly understand the customer’s desired operational and/or business outcomes.
Align on the (P)roblem or opportunity and the impact of it.
This can be done simply by repeating back to the customer the perceived problem or opportunity and listening intently until both parties are using the same language to describe it. There is nothing worse than creating solutions for problems that don’t exist while the real challenges remain unaddressed.
Listen carefully for the specific (A)sk or demand.
The specific ask or demand can sometimes be different than the problem or opportunity. For example, a customer may be requesting a new product feature that is critical to achieving a stated business outcome, but the specific ask may only be that a plan for the new feature and a timeline be communicated for an important upcoming management meeting.
Qualify the associated (R)equirements or need.
Understanding and fulfilling the needs, complementary yet different from the ‘ask’ is usually what most clients will think about when evaluating their experience with a vendor. It is worth spelling the requirements out clearly to establish the best mutual understanding of the overall situation and define the right delivery expectation.
Agree on a mutual (C)ommitment.
Mutual commitment is the key to making sure both parties feel like they are on the same team. They are aligned and engaged on resolution of the problem or the pursuit of the opportunity, understand the specific ask, have clearly identified the associated needs and are working together towards an agreed upon and rapid outcome.
Deliver and (C)lose the loop.
Delivering the agreed upon services and communicating completion effectively closes the loop. The form of this closure may be as simple as an email or as complex as a full technical review.
All vendors look for metrics to assess and improve client satisfaction, loyalty and referenceability. Soliciting feedback upon closure helps the client think about that particular interaction. This provides an opportunity to openly discuss both positive and negative issues and address them in real-time, further reinforcing and cultivating the relationship.
Measuring the customer experience is the only true way to understand success. PTC subscribes to the idea that Net Promoter Scores (or NPS) are a leading indicator that help indicate the likelihood of renewal and customer loyalty. According to Bain, “Analysis shows that sustained value creators – companies that achieve long-term profitable growth – have Net Promoter Scores two times higher than the average company. And Net Promoter System leaders on average grow at more than twice the rate of competitors.” (Bain & Company, n.d.). Net Promoter Score focuses on a single question often forgotten in today’s high speed world, “How likely is it that you would recommend the company to a friend or colleague?” Companies in a subscription model rely on strong response to this question, underpinning a shared commitment to their customers’ success and ensuring they deliver exceptional experiences.
About the author:
Gregory Schern leads PTC’s Premium Customer Success Management team focused on ensuring effective adoption, optimization and delivery of rapid outcomes to key strategic customers. Greg is a hands-on leader and accomplished entrepreneur passionate about the customer experience and driving an agile workplace.