In recent years, there’s been a significant shift in the software industry – applications moving from on-premise deployments to be managed and hosted in the cloud.

The implications of this move have caused significant reverberations in the way software organisations operate, and especially so in the customer service and support functions.

In today’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) world, software renewals are brokered every year or two; this is a huge departure from days-gone-by, when there was a large up-front software buy-in that essentially ‘locked’ organisations into a long-term relationship – no matter whether that relationship was good, bad, or indifferent.

Today, customers demand ongoing value from their SaaS software investments; and if they’re not seeing the value, they know the switching opportunity cost is low and there are plenty of companies that will vigorously compete for their business.

Churn is the single metric that determines the success or failure of a SaaS company – if you can’t keep your clients happy, you can’t keep your clients. As a result of this Customer Experience imperative, we’ve seen an entirely renewed, reinvigorated, and re-energized emphasis in this area with new best practices bubbling up – something organisations across all sectors can study and learn from.

Have a customer success manager for every customer – regardless of shape or size

Many companies don’t take this to heart, but it’s a vital practice. Assigning the Customer Success Manager before a customer comes on board, so they can understand the client’s requirements even before day one, can be a very powerful sales tool. The Customer Success Manager should then be engaged throughout the onboarding process – whether the software implementation is done via internal resources or through a third-party partner.

From there, the Customer Success Manager is responsible for a customer’s ongoing success and is the key customer advocate/champion, whose job is to continuously develop and nurture the relationship with that customer.

I often view the Customer Success Manager as akin to a conductor in an orchestra – ensuring all the right cross-functional resources are summoned and synchronised as needed to ensure proper execution against the vision set forth between vendor and client.

Invest in developing a thriving customer community

One of the best investments brands can make is to develop an online customer community forum where customers can organically connect with one another, 24/7, to learn tips, tricks, and best practices; new ways of leveraging functionality; and even gain insights and answers to solve similar problems. This has been shown to drive loyalty and lower churn.

Put in place a customer-centric technology framework

Many organisations evaluate customer satisfaction via surveys. These feedback mechanisms are very valuable for benchmarking and trending. What’s more, automation and dashboarding/analytics can help organisations scale customer service and support and provide critical insights to help identify key engagement opportunities to deliver the right support at just the right time.

With today’s technology platforms (and thanks to the integration benefits of the cloud) organisations have the ability to support one holistic view of the health of the customer and a full accounting of customer history, i.e: how many times they’ve renewed their software, how many users are licensed, how they are using the application, and even when customers are logging into the application – as well as corresponding survey responses.

If a customer hasn’t logged in for a while, a Customer Success Manager can be alerted to reach out to the customer to understand why.

Make sure your org chart reflects your company’s commitment to customer success

If the executive in charge of customer success has a C-level position, then you are effectively giving your customers a voice and a seat at the table. After all, customers are the lifeblood of any company – shouldn’t the voice of the customer resound throughout the boardroom?

Whether or not you work in the software industry, the increased digitisation of goods, services, and business models is leaving its mark: newfound customer flexibility and choice is giving organisations new impetus and a new urgency to hone their Customer Experience strategies.

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