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Empower growth with customer-centricity

  • Sep 29, 2023
  • 3 minutes


All companies say they are customer-centric.

You can’t move for ‘customer-driven’ features here and ‘customer-first’ tech there. 

So what does it mean to be truly customer-centric?

And how can you make sure your CS team is putting the customer first in an authentic and impactful way?

We gathered experts to find out.


Chris Regester
Chief Customer Officer, Planhat

Astra Duke
Global VP of CS, 1E

Tom Lavery
Founder and CEO, Jiminny

Christian Jakenfelds
Field Researcher, Planhat


Your customer’s success is your business’ success


When your business is just starting out, growing a happy, cared-for customer base is the only way to grow.

But people forget what a watertight strategy this is, after that initial growth phase.

It’s crucial to equip your team with how to extract value from your product on behalf of the customer on an ongoing basis. At the end of the day, they need to succeed and they will work to do that with or without you as a supplier.

Make it a key belief in your business that your customer’s success is your own success. The two should not be separated. 

 

Internal education on customer-centricity


Cheesy as it may sound, customer-centricity needs to start with the head of your business (the CEO) and the heart of your business (your CS team).

These individuals have direct responsibility for their customers and so need to be the driving force behind a customer-centric approach. If you are a CEO or CSM it’s time to step up - no one else is going to make this happen. 

Take the time for some internal education and make sure your team knows quite how important and influential your customers are. And that every department holds a responsibility toward them.

The customer doesn’t just pay the bills.

They dictate the product roadmap.

They determine how the sales team sells.

They may even shape the way the finance team invoices.

They control the channels your marketing team use.

And are, in effect, another member of your marketing team, thanks to word-of-mouth.


Do not underestimate the breadth of the customer’s impact.

Get everyone aligned on this to guide your next steps.

 

Eliminate silos


Tear down those walls!

Work to identify and remove any internal silos between departments. Silos are not conducive to customer-centricity as they create differences in opinion and understanding between teams, causing friction.

Especially if you are in a growth phase, share as much information as possible across the organization and do not gatekeep. CS runs on retention but is not in full control of the outcome, so the more everyone has equal information and insight toward this shared goal, the better your chances are of renewals.

Finally on this point, learn from churn.

Churn happens but it is not a failure of the CSM. It is a collective outcome of all departments. Things went wrong so learn from them together.

Where did the issues start and where can they be traced through to?
Did it start with sales only selling a one-year deal? 
Did the product team not get a promised feature out quickly enough?

This isn’t about passing the blame, it’s an exercise in balancing the positives and the negatives so mistakes aren’t made again.

 

Personalizing customer-centricity 


There is no silver bullet to customer centricity, but it does require two crucial ingredients - time and personalization. 

Most good things in life are built on good relationships so be open and creative to look for ways you can foster positive experiences with your customer contacts. How can you be helpful and supportive to this individual, based on the information you have about them? And what new information do you need to make your relationship even better?

Don’t be afraid to ask straight out. Create a scorecard ahead of your client meetings and ask:
How do you (the customer) feel this partnership is going?
What do you as a customer want from this?
What more could we do to exceed expectations? 

Use this pre-meeting scorecard to monitor relationship progress month on month, or by quarter.

When you have this information, how do you personalize their experience with a view to customer centricity?

Split your CS offering down into the elements the customer experiences - technical onboarding, support, enablement etc. This makes the process more strategic so you can tailor each section to the customer. 

Do not underestimate the value of face-to-face. Prioritize this as a necessity as far as possible, particularly for the most important clients or conversations.

Multi-thread. The more relationships, the better. Even consider targeting your CSM teams on the number of face-to-face meetings with the most people. This is not a soft metric and will go a long way towards retention.

 

Testing your customer-centricity


You might think you are focused on the customer, but you can always be more focused. Honing in closer and closer on the customer's wants and needs creates impact on an ongoing and sustainable basis. 

So how do you test if you are customer-centric? 

First, check-in and find out if the customer

  • Feels like the business cares about them and their goals
  • Thinks the business is delivering the promised value
    Feels like their feedback is shared
  • Can recognize a closed feedback loop to implement requests

Then check in with internal teams and find out whether departments outside of CS know and care about the customer. For example, does HR know the top 10 customers and understand the core customer value? You might be surprised by the answer.

In business, the ultimate test of any initiative is benchmarking metrics. Not everyone agrees CS should have a revenue target but if they don’t, then what are they within the businesses? They have as much of a role in revenue generation as the sales team.

After all, people buy from trusted advisors. CSMs should be the most trusted advisors of all and so the best placed to sell.


Ready to get this implemented?
Find out more about embedding customer-centric tactics in your CS team here.

 

Chris, Astra, Tom and Christian Spoke and Jiminny and PlanHat's event in London, September 2023.

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