At the beginning of each year, many, if not most, of us take the opportunity to reflect on events from the previous year. Some people use this time to express gratitude for the experiences, and others use the time to set new goals for the year to come.
Working in customer success as the customer advocate, it is not uncommon to want to use this time to set professional goals for yourself and for your customers.
In customer success, the overall goal is to help the customer reach their goals through the use of your product and by leveraging your partnership.
But customer goals can change during the year, and this, naturally, affects progress, product engagement, and communication.
In this article, I will discuss four tactics to better align customer goals with your goals as a customer success professional to unlock true success potential and drive customer growth.
What are Measurable Goals in Customer Success and why are they Important?
Setting goals in the B2B space is usually defined by creating a business process with clear definitions, established timelines, and measurable objectives.
What’s important to note about these goals is that they are measurable and therefore easily trackable.
Unlike the unachievable new year’s resolutions we are all guilty of trying to follow through on at some point in our lives, these goals are clear and do not leave room for interpretation.
This is extremely useful for those working in customer success because it helps better prepare for upcoming renewals and account management.
The difference between setting goals as a customer success manager versus another role within the business is that the likelihood of you achieving your personal customer success goals depends heavily on the outcome of the customer’s performance.
What are some customer success goals you should be focusing on? Well, there are numerous areas that CSMs focus their energy on depending on customer life cycle, but, for this case, let’s look at the following:
Generating a measurable increase in the following areas:
-Customer happiness and satisfaction
Generally speaking, success in these areas accounts for success for both parties.
Understanding and tracking the development in each of these particular areas is paramount to the success of your customer, and, let’s face it, only the successful customers renew!
And why is it important to set these goals in customer success? Simply speaking, it all comes back to revenue.
At a Gainsight Pulse conference, Lincoln Murphy, Gainsight SaaS expert and Customer Success Evangelist, stated:
If you want to do business with a customer more than once, you should be thinking about customer success. This applies whether you have a one-off sale or subscription, a high- or low-price product or service, or high-touch or low-touch relationship. Here are two specific examples:
Your Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) reduce. Your customers become advocates and raving fans of business, which means you get more bang for your marketing buck.
Your Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) increases. Your customers stay longer, buy more, and pay more to use more of the product.
To quickly summarize, with these particular goals in focus, you improve your unit economics building a viable business model and it becomes easier to manage customer success KPIs.
Segment your accounts by customer health score or another success vector to easily plan what you want to achieve with each account and how you are going to get there.
For example, we can increase MRR/ARR with X account by 100% in the next six months by doing x,y,z, or increase number of healthy accounts by 25% in the next quarter if we do x,y,z.
But before diving right in, take a step back and make sure that your goals are structured using the LAP Model (Listen, Action, Pilot).
During Userlane’s Customer Success Roundup Interview, CX Expert Nicolle Paradise strongly supported this model, stating:
I have said before that having empathy for what our clients experience and their friction points directly leads to a certain level of loyalty. When someone listens to us personally or professionally and actions on those pain points there is a level of loyalty and that loyalty leads to advocacy.
Now that you know your goals, what about the customer’s goals?
Four Smart Ways to Achieve Customer Goals
In a client-facing role, there are certain expectations set from both sides of the spectrum.
On the one hand, you want to do everything that is in your power to be the most dedicated customer advocate that you can be.
On the other hand, you have your own KPIs, metrics, deadlines, contract limitations, and quotas that you need to consider each fiscal quarter.
And at the same time, you need to know what your client’s actual goals are.
Across your customer base, it is common to work with clients with clear and attainable goals and also with those who are the complete opposite.
Clients with clear goals already understand the outcomes they want to achieve and can tell you the specific milestones they expect to reach along the way. Their goals are S.M.A.R.T. Goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-focused.
But there are also customers who have weak, ineffective, or nonexistent goals. The reasons for this varies.
Sometimes business models completely change and the client needs to understand how their own business wants to define success. Sometimes there is turnover or new management on the client side. Whatever the reason, low/no goal customers should be a glaring red flag for customer success managers.
Let me explain why this is particularly dangerous for customer success managers.
Without set goals, not only will you, as the customer advocate, fail to properly show the true value of your solution, you will also struggle to establish if your client made any progress with your product.
This is going to lead you to an unfortunate situation when it comes to renewal discussions.
How can you argue that your product had a positive effect on the client’s specific needs when you were both unsure of what the needs actually were?
Sadly, this is one of most common misunderstandings that occurs between CSMs and clients and usually results in a down sell or complete churn.
While it isn’t always easy to promote or encourage more communication with every client, there are a few ways to better align customer goals with customer success goals.
Encourage open communication
- This starts from the very beginning during the onboarding process. Set up bi-weekly check-ins and make it known that you are available for conversation outside of the meetings as well.
- Don’t wait until the next QBR to bring up a concern. If anything is unclear with the partnership or if you notice that product usage has decreased significantly, it’s time for a phone call.
Tackle resistance head on
- Ask insightful questions without interrogating, use questions that spark critical thinking such as:
- What exactly do you intend to achieve using our solution?
- How do you define success with our solution?
- How will our solution support your business initiatives?
- Asking these kinds of questions show that you are on the same team, show you have a proactive mindset geared toward success, and also highlight that you are an expert in customer success.
- Don’t let them “go dark” on you. I found that customers who are resistant to phone/email communication are often open to an onsite meeting.
Address Realistic Goals vs. Unrealistic Goals
- Recognize and address achievable vs. unachievable goals immediately. If you already know that the customer will not be able to achieve their goal of improving key feature usage by 50% in three months, it makes sense to have “mini-goals” to hit milestones earlier in the process and conceptualize micro-wins.
- It’s always great to dream and to know what the best case scenario would be, but, at the same time, you need to know what is achievable. Be honest about what you know can happen in a certain time frame.
- Use previous data as benchmarks for the customer to understand where you are coming from. If you can, compare this info against other internal benchmark data you have to further support your strategy.
Return to Sales
- When all else fails, find out what brought them to you from the start. Review your CRM and speak with your fellow Sales counterpart that brought you the account. What can they tell you about the customer that you haven’t discussed yet?
By doing all these things you can:
- Prevent churn
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Increase the likelihood of expansion
- Achieve goals by providing business value
Goals of Customer Success: Seizing the Opportunity
Not only will setting clear goals increase the chances of a SaaS renewal, they will also show you what your client is capable of achieving, thereby showing you where you have more opportunity to support their growth with your business.
Using these tactics will strengthen your relationship, prove your value as a business partner, and increase the likelihood of retention.
Remember, improved performance leads to improved customer satisfaction, which leads to retention.
By aligning goals, you will have the insights on what you need to not only define success, but also to drive success in your organization.
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