Today’s guest blog post is written by Marisa Asplund, Customer Success Manager at Conversica.
Behind every monumental product or service, there are successful customers. Successful customers are the seeds and roots of a growing a prosperous business.
My start at Conversica
I started my ‘Account Management’ career at Conversica in 2015. Since the day I started the job, I’ve watched our Customer Success Team grow and take significant positive strides forward in our account management style. I’ve learned that the success of a customer is not solely dependent on the Customer Success Team. It’s a true team effort — everyone from the Sales Team, Operations Team, Engineering Team, etc., has a direct impact on our customer’s journey and success with the Conversica platform.
The goal of the Customer Success Manager is to ensure that the customers who invest in our product are successful and experience value throughout their journey with us. The customer experience is the key element of a successful customer.
When I started at Conversica, we were still in ‘startup mode.’ We were in our early phases of defining roles, jobs, duties, etc. I honestly didn’t get much onboarding training as a new employee. I remember receiving around 120 automotive clients and being told to make ten calls a day and make sure no one cancels – ever. Well, ten calls a day in an eight-hour work day isn’t so hard when you’re being completely reactive to every technical question or issue, training a new sales rep (who may likely be gone the next day and then you have to train their replacement), and following up on a variety of other fires to put out. Being constantly reactive and rarely granted enough time to be proactive, made the cancellation initiative tougher to conquer.
The dreaded term – CHURN. No one likes it, everyone’s got it. As an automotive account manager, how are you supposed to prevent a client from churning when you’re responsible for 120 clients all demanding something from you? Whether it’s a new onboarding account needing setup/training, invoices, customizations, more training for new reps, or keeping up with the daily emails from 120 various clients, logging calls, creating ‘success plans’ — when was there time in the day to be proactive? To put the cherry on top, about 90% of automotive clients were on month-to-month contracts. If they decided they wanted to change their internal process (perhaps a new decision maker/General Manager came onboard at the dealership and didn’t want to pay for our services, or didn’t like a feature about our product), they could cancel with a month out. We had no time to work with the client to show value to the new decision maker or resolve any sort of issue/request. Most of the time, the new contact was set on being gone in 30 days anyway. It was a never-ending reactive battle.
As time started to progress, I started seeing notable, positive strides with anti-churn initiatives. There are so many variables for why someone may cancel our services. Once ALL teams and areas of our company started digging into the reasons why a client makes the decision to cancel, and those reasons started to surface, that’s when the strategic transformations started to happen. I began to witness the entire business and Account Management team evolve into a Customer Success philosophy.
We started recognizing that in order to be proactive (as opposed to the accustomed reactive), we need to make quality, over quantity of calls. The calls/meetings need to be strategic, goal oriented, straightforward, consultative, and effective. We need to be continually delivering value with each interaction. How do we have meaningful, proactive meetings with 120 accounts that all have multiple contacts, varying levels of understanding/acceptance of AI, number of requests, etc.?
Step one: we hired additional Account Managers to reduce the account load and started being strategic about which Account Manager owned which account. We then formed the Strategic Account Management team who focused on the strategic/enterprise groups. This way we could be strategic about group training and QBRs for corporate contacts. Overall, this tactic helped us better work with the load of accounts in a more proactive/strategic manner.
In the past, we didn’t accurately track issues and requests so it was a continual reactive practice that when the issue came up, we did what we could to try to make the customer happy and try to resolve the issue/request. How did we start tracking these issues, requests, or initiatives?
We designed the fantastic “Future Feature Request” tracking system in Salesforce!! Now, we can proactively track who and how many customers are requesting various feature enhancements, changes, conversations/use cases, customizations, etc. Having the ability to create a feature request then correlate what the client ‘need’, urgency, or probable expansion revenue is on the enhancement/issue, accurately points our product team in the right direction of where we should be allocating our dev time, energy, etc. Solving one issue or creating one enhancement that has been requested a multitude of times, can eliminate a lot of potential fires. Less fires to put out = the more proactive we can be! Also, the creation of an enhancement or new feature gives leverage to the CSM to constantly be delivering ‘value’ during every interaction with the client.
Getting on the right track
As a company, we started really pinning down and tracking client issues, requests, etc. If someone cancels, why did they cancel? We’re now tracking all cancellations and making improvements to ensure the issue is resolved and the next customer doesn’t experience that issue. We’re designating our resources to the most applicable feature requests/enhancements.
In 2017 we embraced the philosophy and concept of Customer Success and adopted the title of the Customer Success Manager. The name clearly describes the job description – make customers successful! Any requests/issues are now accurately documented in a Feature Request. Any time a new feature is requested, an alert is sent to the whole Customer Success team and it’s encouraged to add any of your customers that may benefit from the enhancement. If a customer is to cancel, we’re clearly outlining the reasons and tying them to feature requests. With the reduction in the ratio of CSM per number of clients, we now have the time to be strategic and proactive with our clients. We create success plans to illustrate a clear pathway to success and long-term investment in Conversica. We hold QBRs and EBRs with each client to review metrics, address any new initiatives, review goals, announce new product releases, recommendations, a timeline of their specific requests (being transparent of where we’re at with a feature request or case is key in keeping a customer happy), review best practices, and more! These proactive exercises create transparency, trust, value, a deeper perceived & received value of our product, and makes the client excited about what is to come and what we’re doing to solve real business problems.
A new customer acquisition (aka, a new customer contract signed) is only the initial step of many, for the long-term strategic approach of the customer journey and experience. From day one, during onboarding, we now gather our client’s goals with Conversica, define initiatives, confirm pain points the customer currently has, and how we are a solution to those pain points.
Transition doesn’t happen overnight
It took baby steps along with great strides to grow into the matured ‘start-up’ that we are today. We needed to understand the how, why, and what we wanted to implement to ensure we were attributing our resources as effectively as possible.
I’m excited to see where this company goes and how the Customer Success positions will evolve moving forward. Conversica has blossomed from a tech start-up into the forefront of AI technology in its class. We’re leading the industry in AI lead engagement and the success is attributed to everyone at Conversica. It all starts with a good product and successful customers who use it to solve their business problems.