Leadership Recruitment for Series A/B/C and PE Firms

The Free Agent Podcast

with Beau Billington

The Free Agent- Customer Engagement, Customer Success

CCO of Centric Leadership Strategies
Posted 3 years ago


Episode Summary

There’s a big buzz out there concerning customer engagement, customer success. In fact, David Ellin and I recently collaborated on a blog post. And so wanted to follow that up with just the spoken word, get a little bit more in depth viewpoint from David in regards to customer success, customer engagement, what are these things? And when should a company even start rolling out these programs?


  Beau  0:00  Hello everyone, Beau Billington here of the Free Agent. There’s a big buzz out there concerning customer engagement, customer success. In fact, David Ellin and I recently collaborated on a blog post. And so wanted to follow that up with just the spoken word, get a little bit more in depth viewpoint from David in regards to customer success, customer engagement, what are these things? And when should a company even start rolling out these programs? So, David, thanks so much for joining us here today. David  0:51 Sure. Glad to be with you. Beau  0:53 So just quickly jumping into things. In regards to customer engagement, can you paint a picture into what that actually is? And perhaps what are the differences between that and customer success? David 1:04 Yeah. So customer engagement is really the act of figuring out how and when you’re going to talk to your customers. Whether you do it through marketing, you do it through sales, you do it through support, your operational team is engaging with your customers. It really is about being deliberate in how you choose to engage with your customers. Beau  1:24 Great response. So, if you look at the typical company, is there a specific vertical or industry or a company size where this should be on somebody’s radar? Or does it even matter what size you are, you should always have a focus on the customer and the engagement component of working with them. David 1:41 In my humble opinion, it matters to any company that wants to keep their customers happy, and keep them coming back and buying more products or services from them. So to me, that’s any company. If you’re a startup company, and you value every single customer that you have, because you don’t have a lot of them, it’s hugely important to engage with them properly. If you are a big enterprise company it’s just as important it costs more to get new clients than it does to keep the existing ones, why not invest your time and keeping them happy and keeping focused on what their goals and objectives are, and staying engaged with them? Beau  2:20 That’s a great point. You mentioned startups and you mentioned big enterprises. What could a startup or a smaller organization do a little tidbit where they could start focusing their efforts on that customer engagement piece, even if maybe they don’t have the resources or budget that the large enterprise would have? David  2:41 Customer engagement is definitely a crawl, walk, run type of thing. So you engage, you use the resources that you have. If you don’t have technology, then you get on the phone, you talk to your customers, you send them emails, you get on a zoom call with them, you send them some marketing messages  just to stay connected and stay engaged with them. Make sure you understand why they’re buying your product.  What’s your customers want? Why are they buying your product? How are they going to use it? What problem are they trying to solve? And that typically drives engagement. Beau  3:14 So it’s really about understanding the voice of the customer, what their triggers are from a buying perspective, what they’re really trying to accomplish with engaging with your company. And then utilizing those guests, better tailor your messaging, your deliverables, as well as your product and service. David 3:31 Yeah, and making sure that your product or your service is actually going to solve the problem for them. Because if it doesn’t, they’re gonna leave and they’re gonna go find something else that does Beau  3:39 Got it, understood. So in that vein, how does the company know if they’re deficient in their current engagement strategy? What are the things they should look out for? And what are some ways that perhaps they could enhance that? David  3:53 Well, first thing I would look out for is, I would look out for retention. If you’re not retaining your customers, if they’re leaving at numbers way above what you think they should be leaving. Every company is going to lose a couple of customers here and there. But if your retention rate is below 95%, you shouldn’t be happy with that, you should understand what’s happening, why it’s happening, and you should be able to figure out what to do with it. So I would say, retention or renewal rate is one. The second one I would probably say is your customer satisfaction and your engagement. If your companies aren’t engaged with you, if you’re not getting the customer satisfaction scores you should be getting, that’s a leading indicator that something’s wrong and eventually that will result in retention issues. Beau  4:42 Great point. So, how could you go about tracking some of this if there is softwares out there? What can you do to really ensure that your customer satisfaction rating is 90% or above? David 4:53 So for the small kind of startup company, even using something like SurveyMonkey just to get the voice of the customer. So when you do a survey program, it’s typically called the voice of the customer, where you’re trying to get a complete view of the customer sentiment about your business. It may be an overall score, or it may be specific to a unique thing that you did for them. So for example, a SaaS company software as a service company, they may want to measure overall satisfaction, but they may also want to measure specific things like the customer’s perception of their onboarding program. Did their onboarding program go well with a fully engaged? Did it set them up for success, were they happy with it? Those things would be very important because they drive the future relationship. For larger companies, for enterprise companies, there’s lots of software packages out there that do phenomenal Voice of the Customer programs, with NPS Net Promoter Score surveys, pulse surveys, transactional surveys, and the ability to do customer interviews and really get a true view of the customers sentiment about your business. The key to all of that is not just collecting the data and looking at the metrics, it’s gaining the insights and actually doing something with it and taking action to improve. Beau  6:18 That’s great advice, especially on the startup side, I feel like a lot of customers are lost or one, especially from a SaaS perspective during the onboarding phase. And if the companies are not given the proper tools to find success, then chances are they’re going to leave in six months or a year. And you see that a lot with technology companies that the investment is completely poor because the company’s lack of follow through getting their customer up and running. David  6:46 Yeah, exactly. Beau  6:48 So what should a company do that’s looking to potentially implement an actual strategy as it pertains to customer engagement? What should it look like? And how large of an undertaking would that possibly be? David  7:02 I would say that a company should not stress about it, they should crawl and walk before they run, do the little things that they can do to make a difference, and then worry about the bigger things later on. So the first thing for me is I always tell companies to go back and revisit their mission, vision and values. If they’re not in alignment. A great example, I was talking to a company recently, that in their mission statement, they talked about being customer centric. But I asked this executive in reality, how they base their decision making criteria. And he said, “Well, we almost always default to p&l to operational issues, when it comes to making decisions.” I said, “So where does customer focus come into that?” And they say, “Well, that’s a problem. There’s a disconnect there because we say that we’re customer centric. But most of the decisions we make are financially oriented. And a lot of times, they’re in the best interest of our company, and they really don’t do anything for the customer.” So I would say start with your mission vision values, and then figure out how to gain alignment between that and building your culture. And then getting your leadership on board and the customers perspective has to have a seat in all of the decision making that goes on within the company. Beau  8:28 And it’s a great point to bring up because I feel like far too many companies, they’re focused on their mission, what they’re trying to accomplish, they lose sight of what the customer actually needs. Acquiring customers is going to be that much harder if you’re not providing the service and the product that they want in the first place. Going back to an earlier point you made. David  8:44 Exactly. And that’s a great lead in because typically, the second thing I recommend to companies is that they need to understand what their customers want.  Why are you buying our product? What are the problems that you’re trying to solve? How can we help you solve those the best? Basically, I call it asking, finding out what your customers Why’s? Why are they even interested in you to begin with? The third thing I would do is I would say, look at your current state. Where are you today? What are the things you think you’re doing well? What are the things you think you’re not doing well? And what are the opportunities for improvement in those areas?  You don’t have to spend a lot of money doing a lot of improvement things. You don’t have to put technology and the problem might be internal collaboration. The customer is telling their account manager, their customer success manager, here’s the problem I have, and if the customer success person or the account manager isn’t going back to the operational team, or the product development team and finding ways to solve those problems, then those products are no longer going to be valuable to the customer and they’re going to go find something else. Those are little things that they can do in terms of increased collaboration where they don’t have to spend a lot of money. Just need to talk to each other. Knock down the silos that they have within their company. Beau  10:08 That’s a great point. Walk, crawl mentality, or crawl, walk, run, mentality. How much effort would really be involved in an ongoing maintenance, customer engagement strategy? We talked about what we could do to set the strategy up. But what does it look like to maintain? And how can a company leverage somebody like yourself, but they bring you in to frame out that strategy, create the strategy, and then maybe hire other resources to help with the maintenance? Share a little bit of insight in that, please? David 10:40 So the maintenance of a program is really all about being intentional. It’s about putting processes in that can be repeatable. If you’re a big company, you obviously want them to be skipped. So that’s really important. Sometimes companies will put a process in place, but they don’t scale. So they get stuck, they’re doing something good, they can’t figure out how to do it better on a bigger scale, and they get stuck. But being intentional about the internal alignment that you have is critical, you’ve got to get the senior executives on board to drive this centricity, this customer centricity and alignment across the company. I would say that they need to talk to their customers. And they need to understand from their customers what their customers are feeling, why they’re feeling that way, and what they like? And then building a program and then maintaining it is all about putting layers on top of each other. So the crawl, walk run is, let’s start doing this. Once we know we’re doing this well, and we build some muscle memory around it, for those sports enthusiasts out there, build some muscle memory layer on the next thing, and then as you build muscle memory on that keep laying things on. For companies that really have no idea where to get started. A lot of them say they do. It’s very intuitive to say, “Oh, yeah, sure, I know how to keep my customers happy” when in fact, they probably have 20% of their customers that are very unhappy at any time. Talking to somebody like me,  letting me or somebody else go through, and asking them some very probing questions about their culture, their decision making capability, what their customers are saying, how they’re saying it, and then being surgical about where to apply processes to make a difference. And we’re looking to make the biggest difference with the least amount of effort possible. But we also want to make a difference to their most important customers. A lot of times people will say, “Well, I can impact with a little bit of effort, I can impact this whole group of customers.” And then they may be the long tail of the customers that don’t provide a lot of value, or revenue or profit to the company. But they ignore this one segment which is their biggest and most important segment, because that’s harder to work with. It’s a little bit more complex. They’re bigger companies. So you’ve got to figure out where to start and where you need to get the biggest bang for your buck. Beau  13:16 Awesome. That’s great. David, I promised a lightning round. So greatly appreciate you spending the time today and kind of walking everybody through the difference between customer engagement, customer success, what a company could do to put the bits and pieces together that are needed to really establish a footprint and also look at the ongoing maintenance. So greatly appreciate you taking the time today. David  13:36 You got it. I enjoyed it. Thanks.
Posted 3 years ago
David Ellin

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About Beau


Beau spent over 14 years in enterprise-level software sales and was exposed to high-level talent by working alongside companies such as Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Coca-Cola, and more. 

In this podcast, Beau aims to interview high performing business leaders in the hope that their insights will bring about real positive change to the businesses of his listeners.

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