How is your organization currently managing customer success? Still a buzzword only? Is it on your radar at all? Something you think that only SaaS companies care about? Or maybe you're delivering strong service and support but not taking it to the next level with a formal, proactive Customer Success program?
More importantly, how is your organization handling business growth? I would bet this is something you ARE paying attention to – how to acquire new customers, find new revenue sources, and grow revenue while watching costs.
No matter where you are in terms of business growth and customer success, a new study reveals the two share a strong link. HubSpot Research recently surveyed a group of 1,600 individuals comprised of CEOs, VPs and customer service representatives from the US, UK, Ireland, Colombia, and Mexico on their companies’ commitment to customer success.
Results showed that 70% of the companies enjoying revenue growth prioritized Customer Success as “very important.” This compared with just 49% of the companies where revenue was stagnant or declining. See the chart below.
Other questions related to prioritizing customer happiness, investing in customer service programs, and training customer service teams bore similar results. The growing companies were more likely than the stagnant or declining firms to score high in these areas.
Interestingly, the growing firms were not making these investments because they had extra cash to spend. They actually were shown to be 17% more focused than the stagnant or declining firms on running their organizations more cost efficiently, so they are continuing to watch their pennies while they grow. It seems growing companies are seeing the link between customer success and their financial success and understand they need to make investments in these areas.
The Must-Have Ingredient to Connect Customer Success & Business Growth: Employee Success
So, if customer success is key to business success, it makes sense to explore what it takes to deliver it. The most effective customer success programs are integrated throughout your organization and touch every department – starting with how you market and sell, to how you onboard and serve customers, to how you show the value of your product and expand the relationship with the customer over time, to how you transform customers into evangelists for your brand.
If you are familiar with EOS – The Entrepreneurial Operating System, you know that one requirement of a sound organization is to have the right people in the right seats. It’s even more critical when you are talking about the people who work directly with your customers and are primarily responsible for ensuring their success. So, for a customer-centric organization, this means having the right people in sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc. But it goes further than that.
It is not enough to hire and train great customer service people. You have to be as committed to growing and retaining your team as you are in growing and retaining your customer base.
And this seems to be a place where companies are failing, according to this study.
While 88% of growing companies say that retaining customer support staff is important or very important, 58% of customer service representatives surveyed for the HubSpot report say they plan to leave their careers in customer service. Attrition is HIGH in this field, especially among professionals who are new to it – 81% of customer service reps leave the field within the first year on the job. This turnover is costly for companies who end up managing a revolving door of transitioning employees.
When they are asked why they leave customer service, representatives from this study cited:
- Few opportunities for advancement; lack of a career path within the organization
- The unglamorous nature of the role
- High level of patience required to deal with people who are often unhappy
- A lack of empowerment to make decisions to help their customers
- Not feeling valued by their employer
The good news is that an organization that focuses on customer success AND employee success can address the reasons customer service reps leave the field. Here are some suggestions for creating more engagement and excitement within your customer service team:
A Clear Advancement Program
- Challenge: Few opportunities for advancement; lack of a career path within the organization.
- Solution: Explain to the customer service team how their role fits into the entire customer success program at your organization. By seeing that the customer is the focal point of Marketing (branding / attracting the right customers), Sales (qualifying leads and closing business that is a good fit for your organization so that you can be successful with them), and Service / Support (managing, growing and retaining client relationships proactively and strategically), your reps will see the bigger picture and potentially find ways they can grow within your organization rather than leaving. A monthly or quarterly gathering of marketing, sales, and service groups could be a great start.
Making Customer Service Rewarding
- Challenge: Unglamorous nature of the job.
- Solution: If your customer service reps are churning hours in a call center environment, it's only natural that they’ll eventually want to seek out more exciting work. The reality is, however, that customers need their online chats, emails and phone calls answered in a timely way. Maybe there is a middle ground.
How about breaking up the reps’ days or weeks by having them be “on the clock” to respond to customers for part of the time and then be able to contribute to another area of the company for the rest of the day? You could then pull in folks who work in other departments to focus on customer service periodically. This “Everyone Does Support” type of arrangement, employed successfully by companies from Zappos to Kayak, could address the tediousness of certain customer service jobs and promote understanding and empathy across departments. It can also expose your employees to other areas where they may have an interest so instead of leaving your firm, they simply take their knowledge to another area.
Keeping Clients and Your Team Happy
- Challenge: High level of patience required to deal with people who are often unhappy.
- Solution: There is a certain skill in managing difficult customers and your reps need to have it. But that does not mean they enjoy it day after day. Helping the team keep it in perspective and recognizing the efforts they put in can go a long way. One Glassdoor study found that 81% of employees will work harder when they feel appreciated. Even instilling some humor into the effort can pay off.
Maybe you can hold a weekly contest for “the most outrageous thing a customer said” or “the most patient response I heard a co-worker give.” The key to success here is to stay respectful of the customers—you wouldn’t want to come across as being dismissive of a customer’s real complaint—while showing your team that you understand and appreciate their patience and professionalism.
An Empowered Employee Is a Happy Employee
- Challenge: A lack of empowerment to make decisions to help their customers.
- Solution: The sooner you give your reps the ability to make their own decisions or take actions to serve the customer’s best interest, the stronger your organization will be. Did you know, for example, that it was an entry level employee at Amazon who came up with the idea for shopping cart recommendations? When employees feel empowered, they also feel loyal to their company. Show them you trust them to use good judgment when they solve problems for the customer. Give them the tools and training they need to do this and you may be pleasantly surprised in what they do for you.
Everyone Wants to Feel Valued
- Challenge: Not feeling valued by the organization.
- Solution: See all ideas above! Trying just one will help your reps feel more valued.
Are you ready to learn more about implementing a solid Customer Success program at your company? Read more in our full-length resource: The Ultimate Guide to Harnessing the Power of Customer Success. Or contact us if you need any additional information. We’d love to hear from you!