Customer success teams love to throw around KPIs like NPS, but do these numbers really provide insight into our customers’ experience?
Lucy Norris, Chief Customer Success Officer at Synamedia, emphasizes the importance of the "why" behind your metrics, and why you need to complement quantitative indicators with qualitative ones.
Diving into the context behind your KPIs reveals blindspots, connects the dots between different parts of your organization, and provides valuable insights.
You don’t want to miss this thought-provoking episode.
- Dig into the story behind your data.
- Develop a holistic customer lens that includes sales, customer success, and product.
- Equip your customer for success in their context.
Things to Listen For:
[04:00] Recognizing customer success
[06:30] Owning customer success across the organization
[08:30] Examining the story behind your data
[11:00] Designing customer operations
[14:30] Measuring retention and engagement generationally
[17:00] Linking digital marketing and CX
[19:00] Equipping your customer for success
[22:00] Illuminating blind spots
[25:00] Clarify responsibilities between sales and CS
[27:00] Using renewal to inspect CX
[29:00] Bringing CX to the C-Suite
Lucy: I don't know anybody who's doing this super effectively. I know I'm not. If we were to think about the correlation between the digital marketing experience and the retention experience, and just really kind of taking that long view of customers in the aggregate, there's just gold there.
Flourish CX, the only show helping CX leaders do one thing, empower their customers. Each episode democratizes best practices while leaving you feeling both inspired and equipped to take action. Let's get to it.
Alon: All CX experts know there's an endless amount of data point indicators when it comes to customer health.
Sometimes it seems like too many, but are you getting all the value out of the goldmine of information that you can? I'm Alon Waks, your host for this episode of Flourish CX. And I'm joined by Lucy Norris, EVP and Chief of Customer Success at Synamedia, we touch on how the qualitative aspects of customer metrics are often ignored and it's to the demise of the company.
But first we've talked about how. Lucy went from wanting to be a British model to excelling at customer success. Her journey into the world took some turns.
Alon: Typically on podcasts I come on and people ask me, oh tell us about your career, what you did, and why you did this. And that's all good. And I'm sure there's tons of it on LinkedIn and other places we can say about you in your bio, on the podcast. But we want to ask the reverse question, who would you be and what would you want to be if you will, not this incredible customer success and customer focused executive.
Lucy: It's a great question. And when I really sit back and think, I can't imagine right now being anything but a customer success professional. When I was six, I wanted to be a British fashion model. But the problem with that is I was too short and I wasn't British. So, you know, I kind of think about what career choices I could've made. But yeah, I'm really happy where I am. And maybe I'm tall enough now, but I'm still not British. So that career aspiration is done.
Alon: Yeah, you can’t change a lot about not being British. That's a tough one, but you know, okay. So let's talk about, you know, things that piss us off, like an experience rant event. What are things that people focus on or talk about too much, or don't even pay attention to, which really annoys you in this world of experience and customer experience .
Lucy: I think so many organizations really take an internal view out versus a customer lens in. And certainly there are companies that are category creators. And there's just unchartered waters when you're a category creator and, you know, really designing and having a philosophy about how you want your customer to perceive you as opposed to, hey, this is how we show up and we bring five people.
You know, you bring too many people, you come across as complex, but you know, really having a view on what your customer's appetite and how equipped they are and what business problems are they really looking to solve.
Alon: So understanding your customers pretty important you’re saying.
Lucy: Absolutely. And I know that may be one of those statements where, okay, it's obvious, of course you have to understand your customer, but really, how does one understand their customer and how does one really appreciate that customers all have choices when they buy product or when they subscribe to software. And, you know, really making yourself stand out as being that experience company.
Alon: So, so let's dive a little bit about that. So experience first, I get it. Customer-centricity, customer-obsessiveness, namie another term that every founder uses, great. The question I have around that is being focused on making your customer successful.
Customer success is a term we use in your course, in that world. How do you know if a customer is successful, healthier, and all that? What is the way to get there?
Lucy: Yeah, there's so much going on now in that space. And many companies really kind of use data around NPS is probably the gold standard, C-SAT. But if you're looking at
NPS alone, that's always a retrospective and it's always a lagging indicator. And I really think the companies need to look at qualitative as well as quantitative. And having relationship maps with your customers is a really important way to do kind of this, this qualitative so that you're aware of what's going on of what their business problems are and not just business problems, but you know, what are their budget challenges?
How do they serve their end customers? Especially if you're in B2B space, ultimately your customer has their customers and you have to have your lens open for their customers. So I think that the qualitative piece and, you know, many companies have really implemented customer success management teams to do that.
And the customer success management teams are to help customers adopt and to really ensure that the renewal and the retention. And I don't mean just executing a renewal playbook, but, you know, providing the experience that elevates customer retention. And I think it's important for sales to really be focusing on landing and expanding.
And when you put those together, a customer buys. And then, you know what? You buy something and you really want to get business benefits soon. And our CSM model in even the CSM model in the industry is really all about driving that adoption, but then you really have to measure and you need to measure discrete experiences across the journey.
What was the buying experience like? Was the contract easy? What was the onboarding experience? Is my bill accurate? So, you know, there are many collective intersections that a given company has, especially in B2B where you can measure these things along the way and hold accountable parties hold the respective lines of business.
If the bill is problematic for the customer, then the chief financial officer's organization needs to ensure that the bill is not problematic. So what it really kind of talks to is customer success in a given company is not the exclusive designer and provider of the customer experience. It's all fronts of the company.
Even if you think your back office, guess what? Your decisions affect customers..
Alon: A hundred percent. You might not be directly customer facing, which is a term we use a lot. It doesn't mean that your job and your role and your deliverables do not touch the customers. So it gets to, I think the obvious question, in a customer experience and customer ownership role, it doesn't matter how you look at it..
Is it, oh, these guys own the customer, because their MBO is about upsell, cross sell and retention, so it's not us. Or, is CX a team sport now and, to do that, what do you do?
Lucy: I envision it like a blank piece of paper. Like if I were starting over and starting my own company, how would I think about designing the customer experience?
The reality is, when you're starting a company from scratch, the first thing you're looking to do is bring a product to market and you're looking to sell it. And you're thinking about customer experience through a lens of product people who are really close to the customer and you're looking to sell it.
And then as the company grows and expands, you start to add capabilities. But, you know, having this sort of conviction around how you want to be perceived, and I know this is the second time I said that, is really something that tone at the top really sets that. And I'm not saying your executives design your customer experience, but your executives really have to have conviction.
The customer experience is something to care about. And, there's a lot to really kind of unpack. An existing company, and I know I started kind of with a blank piece of paper, but then if your customers are leaving you, why? And this really goes into the qualitative data and systems of record are really an imperative in my opinion, because you need to look at win-loss.
Why did you win? Why did you lose? And what are those reason codes? And gone to a competitor is not a reason code, that's an outcome. They’ve gone to a competitor for some reason, and really having data science and data analytics is part of measuring the points across the journey. So you know, that the data is just gold that can be an ongoing informant to the business in the continuous improvement of those customer experiences.
Alon: I’m a marketer and marketing is dependent on data and data driving marketing decisions. It’s just obvious today, it's like the de facto. And it still surprises me when organizations invest in revenue operations with customer success operations. Customer success analytics
isn't the first thing that you'd invest in. Especially in a SaaS business or an upsale, cross sale, opportunity business, mid-market enterprise. Why wouldn't that be something top of mind that you invest in because you want to know the health of your customers? Leading indicators are sometimes even more important than lagging indicators because you can do something about them, right?
Lucy: Absolutely. And, you know, you really hit on something I think that's very top of mind now for many companies as they're advancing their customer success strategy. And that is the concept of customer success operations. And I'm starting to evolve my thinking on CS operations. And I really am starting to think that you need to have the engine that's measuring sales and forecasting and the CRM. But ultimately, I think this notion of customer operations is starting to be more relevant, at least in my line of thinking. Where, you know, if you've got sales ops and customer ops, success ops kind of sitting side by side. In a CRM, sales ops is really going to take the lead on that. But ultimately, as you're designing kind of your customer operations, what are the systems? What are the data points? What is it that you want to capture? The interlock between sales and customer success, I think is just really critical. And I think there's also now product operations, because if you're selling to your customer and your customers are adopting.
Why are they adopting? What features are they not adopting? So really kind of having this lens of customer operations that takes into consideration sales, product, and customer success through a holistic customer lens is kind of an emerging thought for me. But I'll take it to have a great interlock between sales ops, CS ops, and product ops.
There's like a holistic core there. I think the companies really need to start thinking about organizing and organizing together.
Alon: Yes, but it's a very important topic for us at Zoomin. Of course we talk, I think about this everyday, about how do we make sure that content, documentation, product adoption. All of those come together to make sure that customers are on the path to health or they're healthy, but are they using enough? Is that healthy or not? What is the terminals health? But I think the one challenge that I'd love to get your thought on there is about measurement. You know, we talk about CX, but then there's customer success and support. Let's just call it the customer-everything, that's just to make it simple.
So if we're talking about the life cycle of a customer, is there 1, 2, 3, 17 metrics? Isn't that like a little bit complex?.
Lucy: It's way too complex. And you know, there's, there's internal metrics that, you know, you run in your company and these are things like net and gross revenue retention, time to revenue, and someone. For every internal metric there's a customer metric associated with that. So in a given company, if you're a SaaS provider, you're going to measure your time to revenue. Whether it's MRR or ARR or ACV, you're going to measure that. But really, from a customer lens, what you're measuring there is the onboarding.
And did you sell something? Did your customer derive value in a timely fashion relative to what you sold them? Is the project late? Is the project early? Is the project complete? So I think that onboarding metrics are that's the front door. We all know that in SaaS, that the booking is not the end of the journey. The booking is the start of the journey. And, you know, really having a killer buttoned up onboarding protocol really sets the stage for the relationship to follow. You also think about customers in like, almost like in generations. So a year one customer. There's a term that I've started to be thinking about is what percentage of your customers opt out at first renewal?
What percentage of your customers opt out in later renewals? And you know, companies, now I'm kind of thinking about an internal metric again, but it's a reflection on the customer experience. Companies look at churn. And you look at churn is measuring the health of the business. But if you look at just churn alone, you've got blind spots. Because if you're looking at not just the reason codes for why your customers are leaving you, but when your customers are leaving you. Because if you reach a point where your customer has adopted everything you have to offer, wouldn't that be a wonderful thing to have? But then they get stagnant. So I think that measuring retention, not just on an annual basis, but on your aggregate business. Like measuring churn but measuring generationally when your customers are leaving you is an important metric to inform product decisions, selling decisions, and also your engagement.
Think about it. We all love our new customers. We all envelop our new customers. And do we kind of think about our customers in a bit of a lazier way as they get kind of embedded? Sometimes we do.
Alon: Yeah, it's an interesting point. There's two things around this. One is that even the set of data that you use throughout the funnel until a customer gets onboarded is way richer than everything else.
We look at intent. We look at signals. We look at usage, adoption. But what is healthy and when do they become not healthy? How do you make sure from a prediction approach? If you could map every customer from a data and signal approach, as a marketer, you're telling me I can get another signal around a prospect?
Of course I'll take it and I'll throw it into this scoring soup that we all make. So why can't we do the same for customers? Customer success, customer experience, like anything we can from product adoption, to content, to journeys they have not completed. How many support tickets? It's astounding to me that everybody has to build their own one versus tools that help you to do that and I hope those will come to fruition
Lucy: On that point, and this is now a new learning experience for me, is around the linkage across digital marketing all the way through customer retention. And why I say, you know, it may sound a bit, well, of course that's obvious, but digital marketing is really that first experience and how we can share kind of that, that experience data.
So I don't know anybody who's doing this super effectively. I know I'm not. If we were to think about the correlation between the digital marketing experience and the retention experience, and just really kind of taking that long view of customers in the aggregate, there's just gold there.
Alon: So this goes to the next point that we always talk about in the show it's about over-digitalization, otherwise called self-service.
It can be great because hey, look at us. We installed, you installed the software for this podcast all on your own and three seconds later, you were able to do it all. We all use these B2C direct-to-consumer things 1700 times a day without even thinking and immediately get our stuff. But it's not the same in a B2B software.
Not because the product sucks. That's not the reason. There's limitation. Do you think people at companies are sometimes sending customers too quickly to do things on their own without giving them assistance and guidance and all that? And is that because of cost saving or do they think further to digital, they'll do it on their own?
Lucy: I have seen organizations develop products and say they don't need services. They don't need support. It's super easy. And the reality is, it's not. And you kind of design around, especially in the software, you kind of design around an assumption that you're not going to need services. But do you really test it? Do you really test that you're going to need people to nurture the customer. Cost is certainly an element of companies making decisions to do more digital touch or low touch. But ultimately, I think what it comes down to is, how equipped is your customer? And in my previous company, we sold some very mission critical applications into the contact center. And the contact center isn't just about, hey, I need help with my bank account. The contact center is, hey, I'm running a suicide prevention hotline. So you really have to ensure that you understand how equipped your customer is to operate and is that customer reliant on you for, in some cases, very life or death situation. And companies, I think, sometimes miss the opportunity because you think about, hey, a customer is a customer, a journey is a journey. You know, we've already talked about where customers are in their generation. But having a pyramid that is associated with high-touch, medium, low touch, or digital touch based on how equipped the customer may be.
And you might have a customer that's small. There's not a lot of revenue. It's not mission critical. However, your upside potential there is substantial. You may want to be high touching that customer. And you may have another given customer where they are not a high potential but they're high maintenance.
Then you kind of got to ask yourself, is this a customer I should really have? And would it be regrettable churn if they went away? So understanding that not all customers are equivalent, but understanding if you take their money, you have an obligation to provide them with the service and the product that they bought and being clear about how much you want to invest in that customer, eyes wide open.
Alon: It all comes down to value. If somebody is paying you hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars and the not realizing the value or don’t know the value. Even worse, you talked about blind spots and let's jump on that. If you have blind spots and understanding are they on the path to value or health or whatever you want to call it, that could be dangerous because that's a leading indicator you want.
So how do you handle these blind spots? How do you identify them and make sure you eliminate them whether digitally or through people.
Lucy: Again, I think it's really twofold. It is the design. And, I was a product manager earlier in my career and in my product management days, you know, I would literally spend time following the first implementations. And I'd be out there, and granted this was it wasn't yesterday, but it was a few years ago and, you know, software's changed, but you know, customer experiences are still important. But product management is such a big, big factor in the customer experience because you really have to have conviction as to, you know, what your customer’s going to do with your product and how they're going to react to it. Because ultimately, when you're giving them something, your customers are reacting to it. So product management, really having conviction and accountability into the journey. But then, as you're getting more customers, as you're requiring more customers, you know, really going back to the dataset and the systems of record and really mining that empirical data on why your customers leave you, or why they don't expand, or why they may give you a promoter on a discrete experience such as a support case. Or they may give you a detractor on a different discreet experience, like a bill. And, you know, making sure that you're measuring those discreet points so that, you know, you're constantly improving how you service that customer.
Alon: You’ve got to track everything, try to measure everything.
Lucy: Design it, iterate on it, and always be seeking that improvement.
Alon: One thing we do on this show is we ask you to get a superpower. So we give you, let's say this magic wand, or fairy dust, or whatever your desire is, and you can come to this world of customer related, CX, CS, Support, whatever you want, and eradicate this misconception that probably annoys a lot of people.
What would you take away from this world?
Lucy: Because this area is just exploding, this whole area of customer success. There's a lot of theories out there. There's a lot of different ways to think about it. And you know, quite honestly, if you ask five people, what customer success is, you'll get five different answers. And one of them is going to be an I don't know. So, I mean, I think that, like for me, the magic wand is the partnership and relationship between sales and customer success is a make or break. And we all know that we're all in the business of being in a business sounds cliche, but ultimately the sales folks are the ones that drive expansion. So that linkage again, of product sales and customer success. But I think there's inherent conflict there sometimes. You've got a sales function, you've got a customer success function. Salespeople are like, I don't want anybody in my account. Customer success people are, you know, sales is not selling right.
And this is it, this goes to a CEO level. CEOs, COOs, they have accomplished something and they're in those roles because they did something right along the way. So being analytical is, I can't underscore it enough, learn from the losses, create the predictive models, understand who your customers are, but have a squeaky clean RACI on who's accountable for what. Who's looking after what's already sold versus who's selling more and how do they interlock? So for me, top of mind is that relationship between sales and CSM. There's one other kind of bit here, of course, in the customer success area. And yes, we're talking about customer experience. And renewal is also an experience. And I'm a big believer that the renewal experience is a discreet opportunity for inspection. And I think companies really can leverage the renewal experience. I'm a big believer in having dedicated renewals teams, because I think there's a motion there. Part of it as selling. Part of it is negotiating. Part of it is part of it is back office administrative. But a big part of it is, hey, it's renewal time, here's a milestone. You don't wait for renewal to kind of check in and say, hey, how's it going? You know, there's this ongoing experience that's, you know, is present but renewals is a nice milestone to have another pair of eyes come and check in on that customer in partnership with the ongoing team.
Alon: Yeah. I mean the data then understanding it, the account, or customer 360. We all talk about it all the time, but you need to invest in it. Would that be what you would tell if you had this? You know, one last thing we always charge you and the show on is a CEO, a founder comes to you for like, as an advisor. What would you tell them that, you know, the customer success leader, the person inside is not feeling comfortable.
Like, listen, you should be patient on this, or you should invest in that. How would you help your peers by telling that founder?.
Lucy: So, first of all, I think that, and I did some recent work on this, um, after I left my prior company and before I started with Synamedia, where a CEO needs help in really appreciating what customer success is all about.
And you talk to anybody who's in this field and people who, who blog about it. People who are thought leaders and is it, why would an organization spend on customer success? And the thing is you got to get a really strong customer success leader that's sitting at a CEO table. I'm not a believer in customer success leaders sitting under sales or sitting under product because, you know, that CS leader is in partnership. I mean, the company I'm at right now, I am in lock-step with the Head of Sales and we're both relatively new to our roles. So we're having fun designing things together. But you know, that CS sales connection, I think, is really imperative.
I think both are CEO roles, or CEO or related roles, and that clear racy, I just can't underscore enough that clear racy.
Alon: I love it. I think it's an important definition. Roles and responsibilities. Rules of engagement. Working as one centralized revenue machine and definitely investing in analytics and CS operations so that you can understand everything about every customer so that leading and lagging indicators can make you really treat them the way they should be, but also prioritize the coordinating because we don't have unlimited resources, right? So I think that's an important point.
Lucy: And I think, you know, kind of like a final bullet on that is, you know, our customers are really sticky. And this is, there’s, I think I've been at three different in three different organizations where it's like, our customers are sticky and I always come back and say, yeah, that means you're stuck.
So nobody wants to be stuck. You know, really think about, what makes your customers loyal versus stuck?
Alon: Thank you for listening to this episode of FLOURISH CX. To learn more, head over to zoominsoftware.com/podcasts and follow along wherever yo