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Customer success is the new sales

By Ryan Barretto / August 27, 2019

I stayed at Hyatt’s Andaz hotel on my last trip to London. My room wasn’t quite ready when I’d arrived. A minor inconvenience, but they’d set me up with everything I needed in the gym to refresh while they stored my luggage.

Before I’d even finished an impromptu workout, my room was ready. And not only ready, it was stocked with healthy snacks to make my stay sweeter. The cherry on top was a personalized email they sent me after check-out, making sure I’d enjoyed my time with them and asking me to share any feedback.

This level of personalization isn’t reserved for the hospitality industry. It is the new world of customer experience we live and play in. And if your business isn’t playing on this level, it’s not playing at all.

Sales has long served as the foundation for growing companies, bridging the gap between customer needs and products or services. But social ushered in the era of the consumer, giving way to a new growth engine: customer success.

Historically, customer success has been defined as strictly a business function; a designated team responsible for ensuring customers get the most value out of the solution you’re providing to them. But it’s more than a function, it’s a philosophy:

How do you ensure your customers are getting maximum value in every interaction with your company?

 

By that definition, every person in your organization is accountable for customer success. And that’s the way we have to look at it or we risk not meeting our consumers’ increasingly high expectations.

Sales without success can fall flat. But success without sales can still be a thriving business, especially with the rise of product-led growth models. Companies that haven’t evolved to meet this standard are the ones ripe for disruption. The value that an integrated customer success philosophy brings to your business isn’t just stronger customer relationships, it’s also the positive impact it has on customer adoption, loyalty and the bottom line.

It’s a human thing

Today, people’s access to information has drastically changed buying behavior. Customers have already done their research before you even know they’re a prospect. Comparing competitors, scouring social, reading reviews—by the time people connect with your business, they’ve already gone through stages of awareness and evaluation, even some consideration.

This is where the emphasis on connection and relationship building starts to evolve in business models. When trust is high, people are more likely to take risks and engage in a sale. It makes you think about the emergence of subscription-based businesses. In the old transactional world, I’d already achieved the majority of my financial success with you after you’d paid one lump sum up front. But in this environment, success requires that we meet (and exceed) our customers’ needs every single day because they now have choice and flexibility.

By 2020, all new entrants and 80% of tech solution providers will have adopted the subscription-based model, making the reality of disruption that much more relevant to our jobs today. The onus is on us as salespeople to understand more about the customer and constantly bring them deeper levels of value than anything they can find on the homepage.

The perks

Customer success affects every aspect of your business, from revenue to customer adoption to brand loyalty.

The more you help customers succeed early on, the more likely they are to grow with you in the long term. As you continue to evolve your offering, engaged customers are more likely to consume those new features and services because they’ve built a level of trust with you.

But it’s not simply about trust. It’s about anticipating and staying ahead of changing needs. The very function of success ensures your customer stays your customer, no matter what breaks, changes or evolves.

This level of long-term relationship building is vital to the bottom line. It’s easier to sell to current customers than it is to new customers—sales cycles are lower, the value of those deals is greater and it comes with a lower customer acquisition cost. But it goes beyond that.

From a brand perspective, voice of the customer (and the access we have to it today) is so powerful. Twenty years ago a customer looking for a peer-to-peer review of a product or service would have to turn to his or her personal networks. Today, that person can go online and find feedback on Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor—there are countless public hubs where the relationships you’ve built can shine and inform more potential customers than ever before.

The pitfalls

If you don’t change the mentality of your organization, you’re forfeiting your success. Every member of your team needs to understand the philosophy of focusing on the customer.

At Sprout we realized this from our own experience with customer onboarding. We pride ourselves on customers being able to get into a trial, connect their profiles and start using our platform within minutes. But we also made assumptions about how simple that was on the customer’s end.

We came to recognize that as we continued to add more value and sophistication in the platform, our customers weren’t organically using all of these new capabilities. So if we’re not investing in onboarding and training services for all of our customers, they may never reach the level of value that they came to us for. That realization was a great driver for us to set the goal of onboarding 100% of customers so everyone (regardless of spend or size) has access to resources that will maximize their time spent in our product.

We learned that if we put that effort in, the customer’s rate of success goes through the roof and they’re even more likely to find unexpected value in our product.

A new frontier

If I was to start over in my career, I would go into customer success. There are books and resources and experts galore in every other business function, but there’s still plenty of room to pioneer in this one. The definition of a great customer success strategy is still evolving, and that’s exciting.

The demand for this kind of customer care is only growing. Every company is now faced with rethinking their business model and prioritizing customer success. Because being easy to do business with is table stakes. It’s about being a joy to do business with that makes the difference. Beyond technical support, customer success is the miracle of all your business functions coming together with one overall goal: making your customers wildly successful.

Ryan Barretto

Ryan Barretto

Ryan Barretto is the SVP, Global Sales at Sprout Social, where he oversees both the Sales and Customer Success organizations. Prior to Sprout, he was the VP of Global Sales at Pardot–a Salesforce company. In his spare time, Barretto keeps busy watching Toronto Raptor Games and/or partaking in princess plays put on by his two daughters.
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