There are a number of ways that software vendors are approaching the space commonly known as Customer Success Management. Each approach will potentially mesh differently with a Voice of Customer solution.
1. Focusing exclusively on product usage data
One of the approaches to Customer Success Management is to focus almost exclusively on product usage data. This approach is often taken by vendors whose origins are in the free-trial conversion space. In the world where the goal is to analyze free trials for the possibility of conversion, this approach makes perfect sense.
Almost everything you know about the prospect has to do with how they are using your product during the trial. Vendors who started there, and then realized that the same analytics could be valuable to Customer Success in preventing churn, will typically live in isolation from Voice of the Customer software.
Both are important in understanding customers, but there is no necessary link between them. The linkage will often take place in the CRM system where both vendors will try to integrate their data to provide a complete picture of the customer. In the Salesforce world, that would often mean that there will be two separate custom objects created and the summary information for those objects will be embedded in the Account Object.
Because this first approach has some obvious shortcomings, a second approach is emerging which is both simple and logical.
2. Integrating Voice of Customer results directly into the CSM solution
If the goal of Customer Success Management software is to improve overall visibility into each customer in an effort to improve retention, why not integrate VOC results directly into the Customer Success Management solution? This makes perfect sense and is not terribly difficult to do.
Most Voice of Customer solutions allow results to be exported to CSV, and virtually every system has a way to upload CSV files. The problem, of course, is that this is a manual process, and is prone to not getting done in a timely fashion.
The bigger problem though, is that even when these separate pieces of data come together in one place (just like in the first example where they come together in the CRM system), they remain isolated pieces of data. Because the two solutions operate independently, bringing the results together, while better than not doing so, does not result in integrated action being taken with the customer.
Each system will typically be designed to create a closed loop with the customer. Anyone who does surveys, always intends to close the loop with each customer after they respond. Customers expect this, and vendors try to do it. Similarly, a Customer Success Management solution will strive to close the loop with customers who are headed down the path to churn – not using the product or not getting full value out of it – or perhaps they will be identified as upsell opportunities. In either case, some kind of customer touch should be the result. Both systems, operating independently, are doing the “right” thing, but, even when the data is integrated, the actions are typically not.
This, of course, leads to the third approach.
3. Using a CSM solution that is designed from the very beginning with VOC as a critical component
Let me do a quick aside here regarding the voice of the customer. Years ago, when VOC solutions started to become popular, they really did represent the total voice of the customer. Things have changed today. The voice of the customer is louder than it has ever been. Our customers are speaking to us, not with a megaphone, but with a sound system that would make Metallica proud.
Everyone understands that customers and vendors are in a relationship. Relationships require communication to thrive. There have been hundreds of studies conducted about human communications, and one of the better known conclusions is that 90% of all communication between two people is non-verbal.
The same is true for the customer-to-vendor communication. Yes, it’s extremely critical to hear what they are actually saying to you verbally. But it’s equally, if not more, important to hear what they are saying non-verbally. The first two approaches above bear that out – bringing VOC/survey information together with product usage information provides a better understanding of the customer. The obvious conclusion here is that the true voice of the customer today, is all of that communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
Non-verbal communication includes not only product usage, but also things like contract value and contract growth (or decline), invoice history (are they paying their bills on time), Customer Support history, reference information, Community interaction, and more. This list goes on and on but each element is part of the overall voice of the customer.
Now, back to the third approach. Customer Success Management solutions that integrate the full voice of the customer and coordinate the actions necessary to close the loop across all communication, verbal and non-verbal. It would be hard to argue that your Customer Success team would not be better off if they had a system that alerted them when a customer’s usage dropped, or a customer responded to a survey with a low score, or they stopped doing references, or their current invoice is 60 days past due, or, or, or.
If information is power (and it is), more information (assuming it’s relevant) is more power. That’s why the best Customer Success Management solutions integrate all your customer information, and provide notification and workflow to make sure the loop is closed and nothing falls through the cracks.
Each approach, and each solution, has its place (and price). The choice is obviously driven by value, and the value of a solution is directly tied to the value of your install base. What hidden churns, or unknown upsell opportunities, reside in your customer base? What is the value of integrated customer data across your entire company? What are 2, or 3, or 4 points of retention worth? What would the costs be if you attacked that challenge with people instead of technology? Answering those questions is important. And if your recurring bookings are approaching 25% of your overall company bookings, it’s critical. Act now. Choose wisely.