A good many companies, especially SaaS organizations, are adopting Customer Success Management practices and doing a reasonably good job of it. It’s clearly needed and companies that do it successfully help their bottom line. However, Customer Success (CSM) at its core, is merely account management with metrics. This all fits neatly within existing (and easy-to-silo) org charts. Yet, while there may exist robust feedback loops to the product teams, CSM is primarily a corrective action-based exercise. You may object, given the customer onboarding process most of these teams take, which help the customer get the most of the product in question based on their specific needs. But the product already exists at that point, and the CSM usually only has web-based metrics and conversations with the customer (often not even the end user of the product) with which to inform future product development. Their hands are tied, albeit loosely.
Customer Service Management is an incomplete approach to the overall Customer Experience (CX), and one shouldn’t make the mistake of confusing the two. CSM can be a key part of CX, but it’s definitely not CX.
Customer Experience concerns itself with service design–how the customer’s interactions with the product or service and the company relate and are a cohesive, consistent experience. This spans from research to purchase, implementation, instruction, use, support, and possible repurchase. CX therefore looks at the customer’s experience from a holistic, preventative and corrective, viewpoint, and has built-in communication methods within a company to share customer experiences at each touch point in a way to design the overall experience. Obtaining all this data about each touch point is done through customer journey mapping.
How do you go from a CSM-centric organization to a CX-centric one? One initial, and very effective, exercise is called contextual inquiry, a form of ethnographic research that reveals how actual users interact with a product or service in their natural environment. This can be an enlightening experience for product designers and developers, who often build in a vacuum, all the way to the CEO, who is typically removed from seeing how actual customers really use their products. This starts a culture of empathy, a prerequisite for successfully implementing CX within an organization.
Proper CX implementation requires top-down vision and support for a customer-focused organization, and while divisions and departments are essential to organize team activities, still requires an executive with an overall view of the customer experience and the ability to influence peers and subordinates to modify their internal processes as well as the product design itself. This is often a new position within most firms, and where implemented with thoughtful care, has significantly contributed to a firm’s bottom line as a result of vast improvements in their overall customer experience. Moreover, it often minimizes the inherent battle for budget and promotion competition within the various silos, because every department has one goal in mind–to improve the customer experience. A great read, Outside In, discusses this in greater depth.
So why concern yourself with CX in addition to CSM? Research shows companies that successfully employ CX consistently enjoy greater customer success and satisfaction, which translates to lower costs and an improved bottom line. The best (and worst) part about all this? Very few organizations design CX well, so within your market, you have a wonderful opportunity to compete in a way you never thought possible.