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What is Customer Experience Management?

24.05.21

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Customer experience management (CEM or CXM) is the high-level term used to provide a view of a customer's journey and interactions with a supplier organisation. This can be the purchasing process from pre-sales to implementation and then into day two support which is especially important when a Managed Service Provider (MSP) is providing a managed service for a contracted period.

What Customer Experience Includes

Customer experience includes all of the aspects and touchpoints where customers interact with their suppliers. This, for an MSP, could be  focussed on areas around proof of concepts (POCs), pilots, pre-sales activities, design, quoting and then the day two service features like ease of use, dependability and reliability. There needs to be a common culture for how the MSP employees focus their separate decisions to shape the customer experience. This means that there has to be a strategic guide to how the employees consistently focus on customer interactions. This can be highlighted in large volume, fast food retailers who have, for many years, used employee handbooks for customer facing staff to drive consistent behaviours as part of the culture.

MSPs serve their customers by solving a business need; a good experience is not necessarily an exhilarating one, but one that is trouble-free and therefore provides the completion of solving that need for the customer. MSPs, as mentioned previously, exist to undertake tasks that the customer organisation chooses not to do for themselves.

Pairing the relevant MSP and customer contacts for operations, technical staff and commercial (Sales with Purchasing), providing direct communication to the people who can answer questions knowledgeably is a key benefit. At each touchpoint, the gap between customer expectations and experience spells the difference between customer delight and something less.

Customer expectations are based on their previous experiences with an MSP's offerings. Customers instinctively compare each new experience, positive or otherwise, with their previous ones and judge them. These expectations will be shaped by what is happening in the wider world through the prevailing market conditions, what competitors are doing, innovative changes to the market and the customer's mindset.

There needs to be a focus on both routine and large projects to make all Customer experiences pleasant and efficient; checking a price, getting a question answered, or placing a large value order. There requires having a plan and process for when dissatisfaction and/or complaints are logged; planned communication can overcome it and maintain a constructive relationship.

 Tracking Customer Experience is generally undertaken in 3 ways:

  • Past Patterns - This captures a recent experience and is normally triggered when a piece of work, i.e., a Project, is completed. This is generally in the format of a standard survey relating specifically to the activity that has just been completed.
  • Present Patterns - This is a method for tracking the current relationship and highlighting experience issues whilst identifying possible future opportunities. These can be part of Quarterly Business Reviews or in feedback from surveys.
  • Potential Patterns - This is an interview-based action that discovers the sentiment of the customer and their propensity to continue working with the supplier on future opportunities. These are very focussed, tailored to the nature of the customer relationship and driven from a specific situation.

When responses are gathered, it will become clear which experiences are critical to overall satisfaction. This will become strategically important to classify customers to focus on business performance improvements.

  • Happy customers - The results in this category would demonstrate consistency in behaviour and the relationship.
  • Growth customers - Customers in this category demonstrate both consistency and a desire to undertake further projects with the MSP.
  • At-Risk customers - Customers in this category will still have some consistency, but the relationship may indicate a lack of desire to place further business with the MSP. They require immediate action to bring the relationship to a better standing.
  • Dangling customers - This could indicate customers who have had a poor experience, not looking to renew or reduce the scope of their business with the MSP. A critical decision needs to be made whether there is a rescue plan or that the relationship demises.

Customer experience works when it is a strategic priority within the MSP and the processes, systems and structure are aligned. To drive this within the culture of the MSP, senior staff utilising the customer experience data to make business-critical decisions will be observed by employees who will ensure that their own decisions are conditioned by that awareness

Customer Success

Customer success management is a long-term, scientifically engineered and professionally directed business strategy for maximising customer and company sustainable proven profitability.

Following the sales process, the main mission for the supplier is to ensure that customers find immediate value from the MSP service and continually see results. Modern MSPs invest in a customer success (CS) strategy to:

  • Business Focus- Learn more about each customer’s goals through their business drivers and understanding how the customer measures their own performance and success.
  • Relationship Management- Develop a deeper relationship.
  • Ongoing Development- Work with them to ensure they thrive.

Several activities are needed to ensure that the focus is on repeatable outcomes and not leaving the engagements down to the quality of the people involved, as this may vary. These activities may vary based upon the complexity of the engagement and how much revenue may be generated from each engagement.

Segmenting customers is an important lens for judging the level of engagement and time commitment. This is to be able to focus on achieving the required Contractual level of service and the desired level of experience perceived to be needed to maintain a longer-term relationship. 

One of the simplest and most effective things that suppliers can do to ensure customers are on the path towards success and know what to expect along the way is by having a structure of engagement.

 This engagement structure can be broken into three main elements of telling them, working with them and getting feedback from them on how well it worked:

  • Manage Expectations – Setting the correct expectations with customers during onboarding by providing them with a milestone plan for each month as a customer and what the major Success Milestones are—this helps to reduce any anxiety, buyer regret, and to build trust.
  • Establish Joint workflow - Provide the Customer with an activity list of who will be doing what and when. This demonstrates that when both companies work together, the goals will be achieved. 
  • Customer Testament - Success Milestones provide an opportunity to provide feedback on the experiences. They are setting an expectation that on meeting a milestone, the customer will be surveyed to provide a testimonial or interviewed for a case study.

Issue Resolution

There needs to be a feedback loop and escalation path for both organisations to review performance and highlight when optimal performance is not being achieved. The advice is to have regular reviews and for both organisations to be open and honest about achievable performance goals. The adjustment and fine-tuning of deadlines will lead to greater trust and reliance upon the relationship.

Measuring Customer Success

There are two types of measurement that must happen in an organisation focussed on Customer Success Management: Customer Performance and Supplier Performance.

A common measure in Customer Success is a financial metric called Net Revenue Retention (NRR), and a Customer Success specific metric that is pertinent is Success Vector. The Success Vector is a balanced subjective measure based on whether the customer has the tools, investment, and desire to want to be successful. This is then proven out by the customer meeting their milestone objectives and continuing to work with the supplier collaboratively. Quite simply, is the customer invested in these behaviours and demonstrating a continual adherence to the milestones that they commit to.

Renewals and service extension/ expansion targets must be aligned with customer success; otherwise, the forecast revenue will not be dependable.

When NRR goals are achieved in line with the milestone, but the Success Vector is deviating or decreasing, it can highlight where revenue targets were met at the expense of customer success.

Software and Tooling

Defining measurements in line with customer segmentation is more pertinent than just buying a ready-built software tool and using it in a vanilla deployment. Approaching it in this way allows for the supplier to learn through experience and make improvements over time to the system and method of use.

Using software and automation is a key enabler when a supplier wishes to scale their deployments with many customers and generate repeatable and meaningful data to drive the pervasiveness of this approach within the culture. The obvious benefit of standard measures and reliable data enables confidence in data modelling and forecasting.

Customer Success Management is context-sensitive, and there needs to be an accurate record of the subjective experiences of the customer as well as the recording of objective data. For example, the Customer may have deployed two different types of collaboration Software; one looks highly utilised as the licenses are deployed during the standard build of laptops through IT; however, the other is primarily used by the customer’s staff as this has been culturally integrated by a preference for a feature.

Customer Success Management is not a technology-centric initiative; it requires an understanding of what Customer Success is, how Customer Success Management is the orchestration of Customer Success, and what all that means in the context of customers. 

Technology can enable you to perform Customer Success Management activities in a predictable, defined, and scalable manner.

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