Improving Customer Focus: Tips From 5 Customer Success Teams

Written by Adam Calica
Published on Nov. 04, 2020
Improving Customer Focus: Tips From 5 Customer Success Teams
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There’s something called a “delivery gap,” in which most companies believe they’re giving customers a great experience, when in fact, they’re not. 

A survey by Bain & Company confirmed that 80 percent of surveyed companies believed they delivered superior experiences, while only 8 percent of their customers felt the same. This disconnect highlights the obvious: Many companies do not truly understand their customers. 

In order for businesses to deepen their relationships with customers and truly exceed their expectations, they need to prioritize customer focus, or, the practice of truly putting customers’ needs first. Yet, this isn’t always easy to do. Because clients’ strategies are constantly evolving, customer success teams must remain nimble and agile when crafting customer-focused strategies. 

For some CS teams, focusing on macro-level goals is key to helping clients succeed. For others, data analysis and cross-functional teams are essential to unlocking the specifics of an organization’s consumer base. 

Regardless of the approach a company takes to customer focus, the end goal is the same: to continually evolve alongside clients so that the product meets — and hopefully exceeds — their expectations. 

Built In recently caught up with five tech leaders to learn about the approaches their companies take to improve customer focus. 

 

Dynamic Yield

Ben Malki

DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS, AMERICAS

Ben Malki

For marketers, delivering synchronized customer experiences can be challenging. Dynamic Yield wants to change that. Their platform enables brands to build customer segments in real time, which can be used for personalization, recommendations, automatic optimization and one-to-one messaging. 

Director of Customer Success Ben Malki shared how his team supports clients’ needs and goals by focusing on the macro-level needs of the market. 

 

You can’t improve customer focus without understanding customers’ needs. What is your most powerful tool or process for listening to customers and identifying areas for improving customer focus?

We partner with brands of all sizes and industries, but we organize all customers around the same concept of “programs, not projects.” Programs are designed for the long-term: they are a collection of tactics that are woven together. Projects, on the other hand, are strictly tactical and serve the short-term. Therefore, one of the main goals of our customer success organization is to instill a “program” state of mind. We push clients to think more strategically about their experiences and ask questions about whether an idea has a clear objective, how they plan to measure success, what insights are meant to be extracted, how an experience ties back to their personalization program, and so forth. 

A lot goes into our onboarding and planning processes, and encouraging our clients to build sustainable frameworks for their programs is one way we are able to keep track of their needs and goals. To this end, we use Asana to support and track projects, but we continue to make sure we still focus on macro-level goals that align with our clients’ desired business impact. These goals are things we are constantly working toward, and the projects and tactics we employ along the way should always ladder up and support these macro goals.

 

What role does data play in your customer focus strategy? Tell us about a time when data helped your team improve customer focus.

As an experience optimization platform built to help organizations craft stellar consumer experiences, Dynamic Yield is devoutly data-led. This is true on a global and segment level. We work across our client base to employ a personalization framework that shifts the concept of strategy from something that is brand-centric to one that is truly customer-centric, and data serves as our guiding principle when implementing this switch. Our team members put together business impact emails and quarterly business reviews for every client to showcase their program’s performance and progress, outlining clear reporting based on data pulled from Tableau and insights gleaned from the reporting capabilities built into the Dynamic Yield platform. This allows us to continually showcase the value of testing and personalization, validate hypotheses, glean valuable learnings from unexpected outcomes and learn more about our customers’ unique situations and opportunities so we can support them better.

 

One of the main goals of our customer success organization is to instill a “program” state of mind.”

 

Customer success managers are on the front lines of customer communication and interaction. How do you collaborate with other departments to ensure the voice of the customer is represented?

Dynamic Yield is very much structured around the well-being and success of the programs we are building with clients. Our executive team, backed by years of experience working with leading brands, understands the macro-level needs of today’s market, which is not only essential to crafting our vision, but also for meeting expectations in a rapidly evolving technology landscape. 

We are also fortunate to work in an empowering environment with little bureaucracy to tiptoe around. Departments constantly work alongside one another, collaborating to ensure best practices are instilled and that we’re constantly refining the way we work. And we’re able to do so because of how much we communicate with one another and with our customers.

Our community site, a forum for Dynamic Yield customers, includes the ability to submit feature requests. Product and research and development teams regularly join customer calls to ensure our product roadmap serves the needs of more than 350 customers. Support teams monitor and analyze incoming tickets, so we can optimize certain functionalities and make the platform easier to work with every day. Our strategy team, which works closely with customers on an individual level, incorporates the insights learned working alongside teams back into both our customer success and professional service offerings. And sales and marketing then integrate the true voice of the customer within the buying process, sharing the knowledge learned along the way with the rest of the industry and therefore allowing us to attract new and innovative brands and turn them into happy customers. 

 

RubyApps

Scott Rubenstein

PARTNER AND DIRECTOR OF CLIENT SERVICES

Scott Rubenstein

RubyApps wants to make online content easier to produce. Their content lifecycle management platform enables teams to create, manage, deliver and analyze content. 

Partner and Director of Client Services Scott Rubenstein discussed the company’s approach to client feedback and how they use cross-functional teams to ensure every client concern is addressed. 

 

What is your most powerful tool or process for listening to customers and identifying areas for improving customer focus?

We have a multi-touch system in place to gain insight into what our clients and RubyApps users need. Each organization that we work with has a proprietary go-to-market strategy as well as distinct team dynamics. For RubyApps, this means providing different mechanisms to solicit feedback and strive for improvement.

Beyond typical tools to gage client sentiment and satisfaction — as well as a philosophical approach that begins with collaborating with clients to uncover “the why” behind requests — we have introduced several unique programs that help us understand client needs and challenges. First, our “1:1 RubyApps Client Check-Ins” give us an opportunity to have direct, intimate conversations with our client counterparts. During these sessions, we listen to their concerns and explore ways we can enhance their experience in both our service and product.

Second, we have “RubyApps Live,” a monthly virtual meeting, which all RubyApps clients are invited to join. These sessions address questions submitted by individual clients. We answer them one by one in a group forum and have an open discussion. We find that our clients sometimes have similar questions and that the solutions often benefit many. The conversations extend beyond our product to sector trends and digital marketing best practices.

Third, we host “RubyApps DevCamp,” our annual user conference. During this signature event, we demonstrate to clients that the questions and concerns raised via the first two platforms have been elevated, heard and incorporated into our core product. We also share our vision for the future, which anchors into the evolving requirements and aspirations of the entire RubyApps community.

 

What role does data play in your customer focus strategy? Tell us about a time when data helped your team improve customer focus.

We collect and analyze data from various sources in different ways. One of the ways we do this is by assessing client usage of RubyApps on an individual client basis as well as on a macro, all-client basis. 

During the client check-ins, we provide insights from these analyses, tailoring solutions to particular clients that align with their objectives. We also extrapolate from the macro analyses to propose new features and benefits, and — based on client feedback — integrate those worth pressure-testing into the RubyApps product pipeline.

In addition, we hold ourselves accountable to key performance metrics, including responding to all client requests in under an hour and providing resolutions within three business days.

 

We leverage cross-functional teams to ensure that the voice of the customer is considered and represented.”

 

How do you collaborate with other departments to ensure the voice of the customer is represented?

At RubyApps, we leverage cross-functional teams to ensure that the voice of the customer, as well as that of all concerned constituents, is considered and represented. Project team leads, who interact daily with client counterparts, bring feedback to the cross-functional project teams they manage as well as to the director of client services. If and when issues arise, they are escalated according to a proven protocol that enables us to react and respond at the appropriate level, to the precise concern and with the specific party. 

Our product owner reads just about every client request, ensuring that common threads of issues are addressed by future product updates or more holistic process improvements.

We also have a daily standup, weekly cross-functional team meetings and internal groups, such as our culture committee, which raise and address concerns — including those from clients — to evaluate, measure, and improve upon our progress as an organization. 

 

Further ReadingHow to Create a Successful User Onboarding Flow

 

Justworks

Robert Lopez

SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES AND CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Robert Lopez

Justworks is on a mission “to help entrepreneurs and businesses grow with confidence.” The company’s platform grants businesses access to benefits, automated payroll, compliance support and HR. 

Senior Vice President of Sales and Customer Success Robert Lopez told us how data plays a large role in their customer success strategy and why they decided to create a product support specialist role. 

 

What is your most powerful tool or process for listening to customers and identifying areas for improving customer focus?

We have implemented a variety of tools and processes at Justworks over the years. One meeting that the team really enjoys and helps us orient around the customer is our weekly “strive for excellence” debrief. In this meeting, the team reviews a recent customer call and gives their team members feedback around what worked, what didn’t and how they can improve. We use it to collaborate and calibrate to ensure all managers are on the same page with what our customer focus should be. This helps drive alignment across the team in order to understand how to best handle nuanced customer questions.

 

What role does data play in your customer focus strategy? Tell us about a time when data helped your team improve customer focus.

Data is a cornerstone of how we operate. While numbers don’t always tell the entire story, we find them incredibly useful in order to understand historical trends and help build forecasting models. Just recently, we noticed that our team felt quite underwater, and we dug in to understand what was driving the issue. After digging into the data to understand some of the root causes, we learned that it was not solely a volume issue but that questions had become much more complex due to recent legislation around COVID-19 such as the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Understanding this can help guide our training program and lets us know to guide the team efficiently when things become more complicated.  

 

Data is a cornerstone of how we operate.”

 

How do you collaborate with other departments to ensure the voice of the customer is represented?

Early on at Justworks, we realized we needed an extremely tight feedback loop between CS and our product and engineering organizations due to the constant customer feedback we receive. We decided to move a member of our CS team to be a product support specialist (PSS). Still sitting under the CS organization, this person shifted away from being a customer-facing agent and became a more embedded member of the product team by taking part in weekly meetings, design sprints, user testing and customer research. The team member now acts as a bridge between product and customer success, enabling them to get a deep understanding of product development and lead prioritization at Justworks. This has given the CS team and broader company confidence that we are surfacing the right issues at the right time by ensuring that our customers always have a strong voice as we evolve the product.  

 

VTS

Julie Walsh

DATA PRODUCT MANAGER

Julie Walsh

VTS aims to make life easier for commercial landlords and brokers. Their leasing and asset management platform centralizes critical data and workflows in one place, thus enabling real estate professionals to focus on attracting, converting and retaining tenants. 

Data Product Manager Julie Walsh talked about the company’s commitment to evolving alongside their customers and how cross-collaboration has fueled their success. 

 

What is your most powerful tool or process for listening to customers and identifying areas for improving customer focus?

At VTS, our culture is our most powerful tool for improving customer focus; it’s in our DNA. The company is committed to making our customers smarter and faster. The reality is, our customers' needs are changing constantly and we are proactively working to solve their biggest pain points every day. Our commitment to constantly learning, innovating and iterating gives us the ability to stay ahead.

 

What role does data play in your customer focus strategy? 

Data is everything. We are bold in our actions and hold ourselves and our clients accountable for the results. Quantifying everything we do allows us to learn quickly from failures, celebrate wins and continuously improve outcomes. 

 

There is a constant feedback loop between our internal teams and our clients.”

 

How do you collaborate with other departments to ensure the voice of the customer is represented?

At VTS, we operate as one team with a shared customer-centric mission. There is a constant feedback loop between our internal teams and our clients, and we never stop seeking opportunities to learn and share new insights. Our cross-functional collaboration and unity is the key to our success. 

 

Integral Ad Science

Chelsea Chartrand

DIRECTOR OF CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Chelsea Chartrand

You can’t improve customer focus without understanding what it is the customer needs. What is your most powerful tool or process for listening to customers and identifying areas for improving customer focus?

At Integral Ad Science, our customers’ success is our success, so we treat customers’ feedback as a gift and strive to ensure their needs and requests are treated as such. One critical tool that helps us understand customer feedback is our Net Promoter Score. We send clients a survey twice a year, and the scores and feedback they provide help drive change and enable us to better understand where we need to improve our service or offerings.

Our people are also critical to understanding customer feedback. The customer success team serve as trusted advisors to their clients and are encouraged to share any and all feedback so that we can make the necessary changes or improvements our clients are asking for.
 

Collaboration is key to customer support and success.”


What role does data play in your customer focus strategy? Tell us about a time when data helped your team improve customer focus.

Data drives our decision-making and powers the discussions we have with our customers. Customer success managers use data to set their strategies, priorities, goals and in everyday interactions with customers. As a data-driven company, automation is key, and our customer success team has access to a variety of dashboards in Salesforce and Power BI, along with a proprietary “Customer Success App” that generates reports, graphs and scorecards they can quickly grab and use in conversations with customers. They use this data to assess campaign performance, provide optimization recommendations and analyze trends around volume and opportunities. 

Sharing this data with our customers has been instrumental in creating more engagement and improving customer focus, especially this year. Coronavirus has impacted nearly all of our customers, and this data has been crucial to understanding their business needs. Clients look to us to ensure their media is delivered next to brand-safe content, and we continuously leverage data to drive discussions around industry trends and how to focus their media strategy to ensure they stay brand-safe and reach their desired audience in the current news climate.

 

Customer success managers are on the front lines of customer communication and interaction, but improving customer focus isn’t something CS orgs can do on their own. How do you collaborate with other departments to ensure the voice of the customer is represented? Whats been the key to your success?

Collaboration is key to customer support and success, and we partner with a spectrum of teams to ensure the voice of the customer is represented. We have a close partnership with our sales counterparts, as we work together on new client onboarding and existing client upsell opportunities. Additionally, we work closely with our product team on existing and new product rollouts. 

Product adoption is a key customer focus, and when customers provide feedback on our offerings we use it as a tool to improve these solutions. The product team highly values the input of the customer success team as a representation of the customer. We rolled out a new tool this past year that allows customer success managers to submit feature requests based on client needs and asks directly to the product team. These requests have been critical to our roadmap planning, and we’ve released more features and offerings in the past year than ever before. 

We also continuously partner with the marketing team to ensure we are providing customers with ongoing product updates, information on upcoming IAS-led webinars, industry POVs and partnership opportunities. This has been instrumental in keeping our clients updated and engaged with IAS and industry-wide updates.

 

Up NextThese 6 Customer Retention Strategies Actually Work

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies
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