You might be surprised to know that running an insurance agency and a software company are more alike than they are different. At the end of the day, it’s about growth. Growth comes from acquiring new customers, selling more to the customers you have, and making sure the customers that you have continue to do business with you.
In the old days, we thought if you could deliver customers a great experience when they called you, it would be enough to earn their loyalty.
Today’s customers expect a more personalized and relationship-centric experience. They expect to receive not only great service, but true value from the products and services that they are paying for at every step of their journey with you.
Hence the emergence of one of the fastest growing new disciplines around (with a staggering 736% increase in the number of job roles since 2015): Customer success.
Customer success is more than fixing problems. In fact, unlike customer support whose primary purpose is to react to issues when they arise, customer success is a proactive function based on a mission to help customers succeed.
It’s a practice that focuses on ensuring a customer is getting the most value out of the product or service they’re paying for. And a robust customer success program has become the gold standard in the Software as a Service (SaaS) space.
Moving from Service to Success
Before I joined Vertafore, we were one of many tech companies that had substantial customer support but limited focus on customer success.
While we’ve undergone a transformation in our customer support process—drastically reducing hold times, bringing back live chat, and using artificial intelligence to provide answers to the most common questions 24/7—the real game-changer for our customers was the creation of an entirely new customer success team.
From my first hire to our current team of over 50, we’ve kept one mission in our sights: create ways for our customers to achieve success and realize the value in what they’ve already purchased. How have we done it? From big initiatives like launching our monthly newsletter “The Radar” and creating our ongoing “Did You Know?” videos to the everyday things like more training, improved product launch awareness, the launch of Office Hours… And the list goes on.
Has it worked?
A resounding yes! Just one of many examples is that customers are regularly using our videos and newsletters to help onboard new employees and we hear they are realizing significant time and money savings in doing so.
But… I’m not in software
Customer success programs, and likewise, Chief Customer Officers like me, are becoming more and more commonplace at software and SaaS companies.
But that doesn’t mean the same lessons don’t apply to your business!
Whether you’re large or small, high-tech or low-tech, you can benefit from applying a few basic rules of customer success to your business.
“Value adds” really do add value: How much time do your account managers and producers spend looking for ways to add value for your customers at no additional cost? If they aren’t doing this, they should be! For example, if you sell employee benefits, there are often ancillary services that come included with policies that your customers may not be aware of or utilizing. Often times, a group Life or Disability plan will include an Employee Assistance Program or even something as valuable as worldwide travel accident coverage. If you’re not actively looking for—or even asking your carriers to provide—these value-adds, you’re missing out on an opportunity to impact customer success.
Listen and look for the missing pieces: Paying attention to detail and being thorough is more than just a good business practice. When you build relationships with your customers through in-depth conversations and great listening, you can find opportunities to correct something that was missed or overlooked in the past. This can be anything from noticing a policy is lacking an important rider to anticipating upcoming needs and requests before a customer even has them. Make it your mission to pick up on clues and go out of your way to make sure your customers have everything they need and that it’s done right.
Create a consistent one-on-one service model: There’s almost nothing customers hate more than having to introduce themselves to a new person each time they need help. Having a designated account manager—and retaining your employees for a consistent customer experience—is one of the simplest (and at the same time, most difficult) things you can do to achieve customer success. Few companies intend to provide customers with a revolving door of contacts, but are you actively doing everything you can to keep the people on the front lines of your customer relationships consistent? If you have a problem with turnover, look at your employee satisfaction and what you can do to improve it. Not surprisingly, employee satisfaction and engagement are huge drivers of customer satisfaction, and thus, retention. Making sure that your customers know who their dedicated contact is and helping that contact stay consistent will make a difference in how successful your customers feel.
At Vertafore, we’ve embraced the concept of customer success and I’m proud of the team we’ve built and the resources we provide.
And, while we’ve invested lots of time and money to build a world-class program for our customers, it really boils down to some simple ideas that any company can put in place. Think about the companies you love being a customer of. What is it about them that makes you want to give them your business again and again?
I’d bet it has something to do with great people and the feeling that they don’t just care that you buy their product or service but that you’re also using it, getting the full benefit, and achieving the results you want. That, my friends, is customer success.
Meet Cassidy Smirnow
Having spent her entire career in the software business, Cassidy knows the vital importance of leveraging the customer’s voice to drive innovation and service delivery. With a proven track record of success in improving and sustaining customer satisfaction, Cassidy’s expertise lies in executing against business strategy to drive growth and a positive customer experience. Cassidy Smirnow is currently the Chief Customer Officer at Vertafore.