How Will You Fight Churn – With Firefighters or Power Yoga? (Part 2)

by: Lauren Thibodeau

By guest bloggers Graham Cowen, Jennifer MacIntosh, Leah McGuire, Jean-François Pouliotte and Stratford Managers consultant Lauren Thibodeau

In Part 1 of this blog, we shared that Graham Cowen of You.i TV, Coveo’s Jennifer MacIntosh, Leah McGuire of Kinaxis, and Assent Compliance’s JF Pouliotte to talk proven practices in CS/CX recently sat down with SaaS Ottawa Meetup’s Lauren Thibodeau to talk proven practices in Customer Success (CS) and Customer Experience (CX).

We also shared that rather than calling in firefighters to douse the flames of churn, these seasoned practitioners recommend power yoga instead, where you pro-actively stretch to keep customer success muscles loose, and systematically extinguish churn before it flares up.  In this blog (part two), we’ll share the second half of our panel Q and A.

Top from L to R: Lauren, Jen, Graham, Leah, JF Bottom from L to R: Lauren, Jen

  1. Renewals or what I’ll call the yo-yo of CS. We’ve seen it in CS orgs, seen it in sales orgs, seen it move back and forth between the two in the same company. What’s your point of view on where it should sit and why?

Graham: We have our sales team own the renewal and the commercial discussions, and we have the CSMs focus on activities which drive success and unblock the renewal for the sales team. We want to make sure that sales is engaged and driving the overall account strategy and managing against our land and expand strategy. There isn’t really a “right” answer on this one; it’s more of philosophical view.

Jen: My view is that renewals should be a non-event, simply a commercial invoicing event.  If you’re doing it right, your Customer Success teams are engaged and adding value throughout the customer’s lifetime with you, the renewal should be automatically sent and invoicing completed.

JF: Your CSMs, if not firefighting, are the individuals that should be the most aware and on top of your business.  Their very job is to understand your customers, develop strong relationships, and help them achieve their intended outcomes. Owning the renewal process is the natural next step for your CS team and will allow for a great user experience throughout the process.

  1. As you were scaling and maturing your CS/CX function, could you share with us a practical hack that was “good enough” at the time. Something you did before you could afford more staff or an industry leading software solution – to just get the job done.

Leah: A health score for each customer. The only way to improve and shine a light on something is to start measuring it, so we did and it has evolved greatly as we develop more insight and see more trends in the data.

Graham: We actually drove the program from a grass roots level upwards, rather than starting with a grand corporate-level initiative. That allowed us to show value in providing a greater level of executive visibility into customer sentiment. We then implemented the broader program from there, picking up momentum as we progressed.

  1. What piece of practical advice would you give a start-up or scale-up who’s building or scaling a CS/CX function right now?

JF: The CS team can provide information and insight to the whole organization.  Be useful as soon as possible to the other functions, such as Products, Sales, and Finance, by tracking and reporting on customer account health, facilitating renewals, and personally handling some difficult customer situations.

Jen: Develop playbooks, use Excel to get started. Then as you hire more people and scale, you have a repeatable plan.  This is critical if you hope to deliver a consistent experience for customers.

Leah: Map the customer journey across the company.

  1. What are some resources you look to in order to stay current on best practices in CS/CX, besides the SaaS Ottawa Meetup, the Ottawa Customer Success & Customer Experience Meetup, and following us on LinkedIn of course!

Jen: Customer Bliss podcasts (by Jeanne Bliss) are probably one of my favourite go to’s as I’m walking my dog.

Graham: Gainsight and Totango blogs, articles by Lincoln Murphy.

Leah: Conferences like Technology & Services World (TSW) conference and Gainsight’s Pulse conference are invaluable resources for networking with other CX/CS professionals. Forrester also publishes a ton of great material around CX.

[Lauren: The Ottawa Customer Success & Customer Experience meetup is planning a “Best of Pulse” event to bring highlights to Ottawa for those who aren’t attending Pulse in person.]

  1. What do you think the next frontier is in CX/CS?

Leah: For CX, the incorporation of more advanced technology (more apps, better UIs, etc.) and deeper integration of AI and machine learning in these technologies will give a more personalized customer experience.

Graham: For us, more customer self serve and self reliance will be valuable, but we’ll continue to have the CSM function to back this up. We see CSM as “artisanal,” as much art as science, and really see our team driving these engagements in a customer-sensitive and case-appropriate way.

Jen: Continuing to create programs that help customers of your solution maximize their value.  I believe we’re just scratching the surface.

That wraps it up. A wide-ranging perspective on Customer Success and Customer Experience tips and proven practices, that successful CS and CX leaders recommend to help elevate customer success and drive business value for their customers.

Hope you’ve found this useful for your own business context. If you’re in the Ottawa area, please join us at a future Meetup.

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Graham Cowen has over 20 years of progressive customer care and customer success leadership in the software industry with companies such as Adobe and Conceptshare. Now Director of Customer Success at You.i TV, Graham continues to shake up the status quo of customer care, creating results for a disruptive company.
Jennifer MacIntosh is a self-proclaimed dot-connector, helping people across her organization understand customer journeys.  Jennifer was recognized as one of the Top 50 Women in SaaS in 2018.  She is an active industry collaborator with the Consortium for Service Innovation, and board member of TSIA and the Association of Support Professionals.
Leah McGuire is a Customer Experience leader with Kinaxis who is passionate about driving a customer first culture. Her years working as a supply chain practitioner and consultant give her a strong ability to empathize with her customers and bring their perspective to the forefront.
Jean-François Pouliotte is the VP of Customer Success at Assent Compliance, the global leader in supply chain data management.  WE ARE HIRING!  Check out our careers page at https://www.assentcompliance.com/careers/.
Lauren Thibideau VP, SaaS Customer Experience Stratford ManagersLauren Thibodeau is a Customer Experience and Strategy consultant with Stratford Managers, where she helps SaaS companies crush churn and maximize recurring revenue. She co-organizes the SaaS Ottawa Meetup, and the Ottawa Customer Success & Customer Experience Meetup.

References

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jiawertz/2018/09/12/dont-spend-5-times-more-attracting-new-customers-nurture-the-existing-ones/#7b5745c15a8e

https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers

https://www.gainsight.com/guides/the-essential-guide-to-customer-success/

https://blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-retention

https://www.retently.com/blog/three-leading-causes-churn/

https://www.gainsight.com/blog/gainsight-elements-science-customer-success/

https://www.saas-capital.com/resources/wp-saas-customer-retention1/

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