Apr 21, 2016

Read Time 6 min

Stealing Customers, Anatomy of Connected Customers & CSM’s New BFF


Fighting Churn Newsletter

Many of us have been in this situation: a prospect is interested in your product because they previously used your competitor’s product but it “didn’t do what they needed it to do.” While at first this might seem like a golden opportunity to take advantage of a competitor’s missteps, in reality the churn potential for such a prospect is very high. If the prospect didn’t achieve their desired outcome with the last product and ultimately blamed the product (and the company behind it), it’s fairly likely that they’ll blame you if they don’t achieve their desired outcome while using your product. Even worse, the odds are high that they won’t stay with you as long as they did with your competitor; they are coming to you with one foot already out the door.

So what should we do in these scenarios? Should we view customers stolen from our competitors as a great opportunity or as a potential problem?

In most situations, stolen customers will start out as a high churn risk but, if handled correctly, they can be transformed into success stories. To make this shift, there are two critical points that the Customer Success team must champion:

  • Understanding context – What are the customer’s goals and experiences to date? What is their desired outcome with your product? How did the competitor support and push them – and how did they not?  Fully understanding the customer’s context will allow you to design a personalized plan for the customer that will avoid repeating bad experiences.
  • Managing expectations – If expectations are managed correctly – and you’re clear about their role in their own success – even if a customer’s desired outcome isn’t achieved they will be less likely to blame you since they knew what they needed to do. At every step in the process, from pre-sales through onboarding, be sure you are setting – and holding them to! – clear goals and milestones.

The anatomy of the Connected Customer

Customer Success is a growing, changing field and to be truly customer-centric, CSM teams are often required to “invade” other parts of the company; successful CSMs do a bit of Sales, a bit of Support, a bit of Services, a bit of everything. But when you consider the anatomy of a Connected Customer, the necessity of delving into all of these areas starts to make sense, as each of these areas addresses a distinct part of your customers’ personalities. And feeding every part of a customer’s personality is central to achieving a long and fruitful relationship.

Check out this great infographic that walks you through each “organ” of a Connected Customer and provides tips and techniques to fully acknowledge each part:


New BFFs: CSMs and Product Managers

The relationship between Product Management and Customer Success can be contentious; Product wonders why the CSM team can’t properly teach customers how to use a product they believe to be strong, while the CSM team is baffled by how Product misses customer painpoints they believe to be obvious. But to consistently produce meaningful outcomes and experiences for your customers, it is vital that these two teams become allies.

The fact is the the CSM team is uniquely well-positioned to help Product develop, improve and update products. But the CSM team needs to make sure they are purposeful and thoughtful with their feedback; Product deals with a lot of noise from all departments, so the CSM team needs to put in extra effort to not be lost in the mix. Here are some ways that your CSM team can ensure that Product is their new BFF:

  • Provide the right kind of feedback – Product is constantly fighting the Product Dealth Cycle, also know as asking your all customers what features they want and blindly building those features. While listening to your customers is certainly important, you can’t listen to everyone. Instead you need to focus on the needs of your ideal customers – and luckily the CSM team can help deliver focused feedback from only customers identified as ideal. This will help Product Management prioritize the right features and improvements.
  • Informed onboarding features – Many Product teams are trying to positively impact retention by creating features to help customers onboard – but they are often guessing about what those features should be. The CSM team can and should be an integral partner in determining what the ideal onboarding experience looks like and in designing features that will facilitate the achievement of key milestones.
  • Free trial optimization – In the same vein as helping with onboarding features, CSM teams can also provide Product with great insights on how to optimize free trial experiences. CSMs interact with trial customers each and every day, they have a strong sense of what the most important sticking points are and how to improve them.
  •  Lightening the load – The weight of customers finding success (or failure) has sometimes rested on the Product Management side – via answering support tickets and questions or getting roped into customer support for anything and everything “technical.” CSM teams can lighten the load by providing educational materials that help customers find success both inside and outside of the product.
  • Customer support with a customer success twist – Product Managers may think that if users complete the functional aspects of the product, they’ll be “successful.” Well, with the “success gap,” that clearly isn’t always the case. Customer Success can help with this by using customer support tickets to uncover gaps in how and why customers aren’t finding success with the product. These insights can help Customer Success, Service and Product Development find out whether there are functional reasons or educational reasons behind these gaps and create a better overall user experience.

Hyper-growth through Customer Success

Changes are – especially if you work in technology – you are familiar with at least one of Atlassian’s products, be it JIRA, Confluence, HipChat or SourceTree. But what you may not know is that Atlassian achieved it’s status as a hyper-growth company by putting customer success at the center of their business. In a fascinating interview with Jay Simons, President of Atlassian, it is a common theme that customer success is in their DNA – which is music to our ears! The entire interview is certainly worth a read, but here are a few of our favorite points to get you started:

“Customer Success is in our DNA. We take it very seriously and have a dedicated Customer For Life (C4L) team who spearhead our efforts to ensure the customer’s voice is heard in every discussion. We imagine the empty chair to see the situation from the customer’s perspective and understand how each of our decisions will impact them.”

“We need the opinion of people who use our products on a daily basis, but don’t have a relationship with us. They might not even know who Atlassian is. Someone else chose our products for them to use. We need to ask them: “Are you happy with the choice that was made for you?” That is the purest kind of feedback you can get because there’s no pre-existing relationship. Our end users will tell us straight if we suck. In our Do-It-Yourself software model, the end users are in the driving seat and get to make changes from the bottom-up.”

“At the start of several monthly all-staff meetings, we handed out sheets of paper with 10 unique pieces of feedback printed on them. We said ‘Take a minute. Read every single piece of feedback from our end users and then pass your sheet on to the person on your left.’ The act of imagining an end user anywhere in the world, writing this feedback, left a visceral impact on our staff. Each person at our company, regardless of their role, receives a monthly digest of customer feedback.”

Word to the Wise

Best-Way-to-Get-New-Customers-480x240This week’s wisdom comes from Alex Bard, the CEO of Campaign Monitor: “The best way to talk to your prospects is through the success of your customers.”

Such great advice.

Delighting your current customers and getting them to renew is extremely important – but if you’re not leveraging their success to gain new business, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Communicating your customer’s success can be an incredibly effective marketing approach; reviews have changed the way we buy in the B2C world and for B2B, demonstrating the benefits of your product (versus just talking about them) can be a big differentiator in the buyer’s journey. So make sure you are sharing your truly connective customer success stories – and often.


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