The 5 Essential Ingredients For Customer Retention And Expansion

The 5 Essential Ingredients

To give customers truly great outcomes, Customer Success teams must understand a customer’s pain points, challenges, and struggles—then help solve them. It’s all about being “customer-obsessed” in manners big and small to ensure the customer feels heard and valued. This strategic process begins with customer onboarding and continues as long as they remain a customer in order to retain and ultimately expand revenue from the base.

A High-Performing Customer Success Team:

  • Successfully onboards new customers and enables them to use the product
  • Sets goals and helps customers achieve those goals
  • Drives product adoption and usage which are indications of customer health
  • Motivates customer expansions
  • Nurtures customer advocates and champions

Onboarding New Customers

They say first impressions last a lifetime. But for Customer Success, first impressions impact how long a customer’s lifetime lasts.

Onboarding sets the tone for the rest of the customer’s relationship with your business. Customers who receive proactive help, support, and tools throughout the onboarding process will come out with a better impression of you and the value you provide—plus, they’ll be better equipped to take full advantage of your product or service. This creates a feedback loop that makes them much more likely to renew and even grow their investment.

A poor onboarding experience, on the other hand, forces customers to question if they made the right decision in selecting you as a strategic vendor. Worse still, they will likely lack the education necessary to use your products or services properly, thereby deflating their results, increasing frustration, and risking churn.

Building a success plan that guides customers through each step and includes regular check-ins keeps new adopters on track and engaged in the onboarding process. That proactive connection allows you to respond in real-time to questions and roadblocks affecting your customers’ satisfaction in the early days, meaning you can adjust strategies, troubleshoot issues, and make customers feel engaged in their own success.

Ultimately, a customer that has been through a good, strategic onboarding process will be a better user of your product or service, leading to reduced churn and lost revenue.

Setting Achievable Goals

You have the opportunity—and responsibility—to define and measure success for your customers. They want to know what kind of results they can expect from your offerings and how long it will take to get them there; known as “time to value.” A mutually defined success plan with predetermined checkpoints and measurements gives customers a truly relevant yardstick to compare against. Keeping them informed of how their performance and implementation stacks up builds trust and offers opportunities for early intervention if things aren’t going to plan.

Talk to your customers through their first use case and launch process so they see the product in action from end to end. This serves as a vital example for future use cases they add themselves. Sharing relatable case studies with your customers provides real-world examples of how a company of similar size, industry, or use case got from point A to point B leveraging your offerings. While there will never be a perfect one-to-one comparison, case studies help build customer confidence and provide ideas of how to maximize their own implementation.

If your customers are leveraging your offerings improperly, they’ll likely experience a disconnect between what’s been promised and what results they’re seeing. If these issues are caught quickly, they are hardly noticeable. But if left to fester, your customers won’t get the most out of their investment—ultimately spoiling the customer relationship.

Driving Customer Health

Customer Success teams need to keep up the pulse of communication if they’re going to drive customer health and retain revenue.

Organizations tend to flood prospects with marketing and sales messages as they try to convert leads into customers. But once that customer converts, that stream of information turns into a trickle, and customers are left confused and out of the loop—at least until it’s time to renew the contract. This is a big turn-off for customers.

Instead, Customer Success teams need to keep a close eye on customer health to make sure they’re getting the most out of their purchase. Your team needs to proactively watch for signs of trouble and step in to help customers identify issues before they blow up. To keep everyone on track, CSMs should define and monitor product usage and engagement. Keep an eye on product metrics and determine if customers are actively using your offerings, adding new use cases, or spending time to optimize their results. A well-connected CSM works with customers to get the most out of these opportunities.

On the flip side, Customer Success teams need to get ahead of low usage issues. Why aren’t your customers using your products or services? Are they ready to churn? Are they dissatisfied with your offerings? Are they unaware of how your solution works and need more education? It could also be indicative of a bigger problem. If your CSMs can step in early, they can prevent complications before they arise. Know that Customer Success is more than just customer
happiness. Obviously happiness matters, but customers are making an investment in your offerings. Customer Success Managers need to strategically drive successful outcomes—
which naturally leads to good feelings.

Motivating Customer Expansion

Customer Success teams don’t just retain revenue. They also identify opportunities to expand engagements with their current customers.

Despite the still-recovering economy, customers are still willing to make additional investments. But it must be the right kind of investment. The key for Customer Success teams is to best identify what existing customers need now and in the near future. Maybe the customer would benefit from increased capabilities or an upgraded package. If you’re selling to a business, maybe your organization sells services best fit for another team within the company. Identify strategic opportunities to promote upsells, expansions, or cross-sell opportunities. Good recommendations lead to increased revenue and even better relationships with customers; many of whom might become customer advocates and champions helping to attract new customers or continue expansion within their own organizations.

Nurturing Advocates

There’s a reason they call it the customer lifecycle: if you’ve done a fantastic job of ensuring your customers are truly successful with your products and services, you’ll end up with a pool of potential champions that can help you drive more business down the road.

But most happy customers don’t become vocal advocates for your business on their own. Your Customer Success team needs to work to build those kinds of relationships and seek out mutually beneficial situations that highlight the customers’ success with your business. It can’t be a one-way street; any customer advocacy programs should have a plus side for the champions, whether that’s professional recognition for super users, overall awareness for the customer’s brand, or product use ideas.

Customers that have been properly cared for throughout their relationship with your company can be the most powerful advocates for your offerings.

Does your Customer Success team have what they need to make sure every customer gets the most out of your offerings? Conversica AI Assistants for Customer Success engage 100% of your customers in humanlike, two-way conversations to provide the high-quality, high-touch, and consistent assistance your customer relationships need to flourish. Learn more about Conversational AI for Customer Success.

 

Blog: Prioritizing Customer Success in 2022 and Beyond

Blog-Prioritizing-Customer-Success

Predicting short-term futures is really difficult right now. Optimism about the economy is a bit touch and go, and thought leaders are cautious to make any specific declarations one way or another.

When the future is uncertain-and it very much is-it’s better to be practical rather than predictive.

This practicality expresses itself differently on the side of buyers versus sellers. For instance, buyers tend to cut investments from things that might work and double-down on investments that do work. If you’re a seller, this means proving to customers that your products and offerings are essential to their continued success.

The revenue teams in charge of managing and growing customer relationships are Customer Success teams; also known as Customer Operations teams or Customer Account teams. And it’s these teams that take center focus in practical responses to these uncertain times-if they haven’t already.

Reasons Customer Success Deserves Your Organization’s Focus

First and foremost, it’s simply more cost-effective to invest in Customer Success right now. Yes, Marketing and Sales teams get a lot of revenue focus-but managing campaigns, attracting new customers, and converting them takes a lot of financial investment. Retaining an existing customer is five to ten times less expensive than bringing on new customers.

Additionally, prospective customers are still financially cautious these days. Tighter purse strings make for longer sales cycles and slower conversions. If your organization is looking for revenue in the short term, it’s probably easier to upsell your current customers rather than chase new ones.

The final reason folds Customer Success back into Marketing and Sales. Putting a greater emphasis on existing customers empowers Customer Success Managers (CSMs) to elevate customer champions through case studies, testimonials, and marketing opportunities. Nothing helps boost your reputation like a happy customer-or a dozen happy customers.

Augmenting Your Customer Success Teams With Conversational AI

Of course, getting more out of your customers requires more out of your Customer Success teams. And honestly, CSMs are already extremely busy managing their current activities.

This begs the question: How do organizations scale their Customer Success efforts to match the moment?

The simple answer is hiring more CSMs. But that strategy is financially costly and rarely scales quickly due to the time required to train new employees. A much better solution is to augment your workforce with technologies that scale personalized interactions with customers. This is where Conversational AI makes its play.

Conversational AI, as the name suggests, uses artificial intelligence to automate personalized conversations with contacts. Conversational Customer Success is a specific iteration of this technology built to engage customers throughout the lifecycle. Examples include:

  • Scheduling account reviews
  • Collecting customer feedback
  • Renewing existing customers
  • Onboarding new customers
  • Proactively driving product usage
  • Managing customer health
  • And providing appropriate upsell opportunities

Not only does Conversational AI for Customer Success deliver a personalized experience to each and every customer at scale, but it also motivates revenue-generating activities. This means customers get the attention they deserve and Customer Success teams get an extra pair of (virtual) helping hands. Similarly, using an AI Assistant to collect customer feedback and motivate better outcomes leads to happier customers who are more likely to participate in advocacy for your brand. This, in turn, enables Customer Success teams to help Marketers and Salespeople within your organization.

While peering into the future might be murkier than we’d wish, there are still practical steps we can take to improve customer outcomes and drive revenue opportunities. One such step is adopting Conversational AI to augment your Customer Success teams.

Interested in a deeper dive into Conversational Customer Success? Explore our eBook: Customer Success, It’s Your Time to Shine.

 

Blog: Why Customer Success Is More Important Now Than Ever

Customer Success Is More Important

While a lot of attention and focus is given to Marketing and Sales teams, Customer Success teams are just as important to your company. That’s because Customer Success teams can significantly drive revenue at a fraction of the cost when compared to investments in Marketing and Sales. Customer Success Managers (CSMs) help retain existing revenue and make sure customers are satisfied so they are more likely to purchase further products and services.

Coming out of the global pandemic, customer retention is critical because companies are slower to make new purchases. An estimated 40% of companies failed to meet their 2020 sales goals because of the pandemic, and while things are definitely going better in 2021, there is still a lot of uncertainty. This means that holding onto the clients you have and ensuring they are happy is a more reliable way of hitting revenue goals. Your customers are already comfortable and satisfied with the product, and they have established (hopefully a very positive) relationship with the Customer Success team.

By leveraging existing relationships, Customer Success teams can really shine at a time when Sales and Marketing teams are still looking for the best way forward in a changing world.

The Unique Relationship Between Customer Success and Their Clients

Customer Success teams enjoy a real advantage—they regularly interact with customers. CSMs learn what customers love about your products and services, how they use what they have purchased, and what they would like to see changed. As a result, Customer Success Managers are in the enviable position of actively addressing customer concerns and driving product usage.

Customer Success provides a liaison position that ensures customers enjoy what your company has to offer. This means that customers tend to have a positive reaction to them. When a member of Customer Success contacts a team, the exchange is usually a lot more personable and sociable. It is easier to develop a positive relationship.

But consider when people tend to reach out to Customer Success teams. Customers connect with your CSMs when they need help getting the most out of your offerings or addressing specific problems. These are reactive situations in which the CSM must respond to the issue.

Then there is proactive engagement, in which CSMs monitor a customer account and provide advice on how to use their products or services to reap greater benefits. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done due to capacity limitations facing Customer Success teams.

The Challenge Facing Customer Success Teams

Customer Success teams face a wide range of challenges. Often members of these teams have far more accounts than Sales and Marketing teams. A single Customer Success Manager may have between 50 and 100 customer accounts. That’s a lot to handle at one time, and clearly, they can’t give every client adequate attention.

Due to these capacity constraints, two things typically happen. The first is that a small number of high-value accounts take the lion’s share of the CSM’s time while a much longer tail of customers are relegated to impersonal tech touches. This creates discrepancies in customer experiences and leaves a large percentage of customers open to dissatisfaction or even churn. The second occurrence is known as the squeaky-wheel syndrome in which the most difficult or least satisfied customers will consume the most time. Regrettably, this means customers are discovering their own issues and your CSMs are responding retroactively.

The challenge is clear: Customer Success teams need a scalable way to personally and proactively engage all their customers. There’s a lot of value in keeping customers happy and spending. But what’s the solution?

Implementing Conversational AI to Fill the Gaps

It is unrealistic to think that Customer Success teams with such heavy account loads can contact everyone—at least not manually. Instead of leaving customers out in the cold, Conversational AI provides a way of automating personalized communications on a large scale. AI Assistants for Customer Success help make all of your customers feel like you care or can act as a way of reminding them that you are there if they need further assistance for new issues.

AI Assistants are your best employees—promptly engaging customers when they have requests and passing them along to a CSM, persistently touching customers when product usage is low, and proactively driving upsell and cross-selling opportunities.

Now is the time for Customer Success teams to really shine. Give them an AI Assistant that enhances their ability to impress existing customers, boost your company’s retention, and grow existing engagements.

Want to read more about Conversational Customer Success? Explore our eBook: Customer Success, It’s Your Time to Shine.

 

Blog: Don’t Bother With Bots: How AI Assistants Improve Website Chat

Dont Bother With Bots How to AI Assistants Improve Website Chat
Website chat is fairly common. While largely present on ecommerce websites as a way of answering questions and directing website visitors to the pages they’re looking for, website chat is growing in popularity across B2B and B2C organizations. Customer-facing teams within these businesses are leveraging website chat to engage website visitors in the moment and drive them to take action. But this requires a more sophisticated website chat than a simple chatbot can provide.

Here’s how AI Assistants improve website chat, boost engagement, and drive visitor actions.

AI-Powered Website Chat for Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success

The primary goal of any website chat feature is to give visitors something to interact with when they land on your website. Still, it’s important to point out the differences between website chat powered by Artificial Intelligence versus a rules-based chatbot.

A simple chatbot delivers canned responses to website visitors to deflect recurrent inquiries to your Support team. But even this has its limitations as chatbots, knocked off course by an unfamiliar input, require a human-in-the-loop to determine the next action. Depending on how well staffed your business is to handle this request can either be immediate or by the next business day.

Website chat powered by Conversational AI, on the other hand, engages website visitors in human-like, two-way conversations. The AI autonomously understands the incoming messages and responds appropriately thanks to Natural-Language Processing. This means dialogue feels more real and authentic than a chatbot.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Conversational AI for website chat drives these conversations to a desired end. For the Marketing team, this might mean encouraging the visitor to complete a lead form with contact information; for Sales, this might mean scheduling a demo or a meeting to learn more about your offerings; and for Customer Success, this might mean elevating customer questions to ensure healthy relationships.

Of course, AI-powered website chat is still able to answer frequently asked questions and connect visitors with the information they seek. But since AI Assistants—a Conversational AI solution built to act as a virtual team member—leverage Machine Learning, these interactions get better over time; which is another differentiator from simple bots.

Increasing Website Chat Engagement

A sophisticated website chat solution is easier for visitors to use and offers value use cases through these interactions. This naturally drives up engagement rates.

Here’s a real-world example of how one company saw high engagement rates after using a website chat powered by an AI Assistant: TigerDirect, a California-based online B2C retailer offering computers and electronics, decided to adopt a website chat solution in hopes of engaging visitors and collecting contact information before customers left their site. Within just seven days, TigerDirect captured email addresses from 25% of visitors totaling more than 3,000 new email addresses. Within just a week, the website chat strategy turned out to be a huge success in driving the Marketing team’s goals; not to mention helpful for providing 24/7 customer assistance.

Omnichannel Conversational AI

Chatbots live in a small window or pop-up on a website—and that’s really their whole world. AI Assistants are omnichannel, meaning they do their jobs across website chat, email, and SMS.

Why is this important for customer-facing teams? Let’s say a lead comes through your website chat requesting information about your products or services. The Conversational AI engages them in a two-way conversation determining what questions they have and collects their contact information. The website chat AI alerts the Sales team of a potentially hot lead while also automating a follow-up from the AI Assistant via email. This ensures that the lead never falls out of the loop, while also delivering prompt, persistent, and personalized communications from the AI Assistant over email.

Not only does this provide the lead an unprecedented level of attention, but it also helps guide the lead towards the next best action (such as joining a call with a Salesperson or Customer Success Rep).

Don’t send a bot to do an AI Assistant’s job. Website chat powered by Conversational AI helps boost engagement, keeps visitors on your website by giving them something to interact with, captures contact information, and drives towards the next best action to generate revenue.

Want to learn more about how AI Assistants drive scalable and engaging conversations with your leads and customers? Explore our Communications Channels Solution Brief.

 

Blog: CRO Series: Aligning Revenue-Generating Teams Using AI and Collaboration

Blog: CRO Series: Aligning Revenue-Generating Teams Using AI and Collaboration
Generating revenue is a big job. To help shoulder this load, a lot of organizations hire a Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) to oversee all revenue-generating functions across Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success. By taking a holistic approach to revenue generation, a CRO can motivate and enable each team to do their best.

This isn’t an easy task, of course. CROs and the teams they aid often struggle due to a lack of resources, time, and knowledge. Fortunately, artificial intelligence (AI) solutions are helping to expand team capacity and drive better outcomes.

Here’s how CROs can align revenue-generating teams using AI and inter-team collaboration.

Identifying Problems and Providing Solutions

While a CRO’s job has many facets, their primary role is as the top Sales leader within an organization. This includes discovering opportunities for conversion optimization, opportunity velocity, and cohesion between teams.

For example: If the leads Marketing generates and qualifies are getting stuck before they reach Sales—or if Sales is failing to follow up with those leads in a timely and effective manner—it’s the CRO’s duty to figure out how to remedy the issues.

This is where AI can make a big difference. Sometimes what teams really need is an extra pair of hands to get the job done. AI solutions—like AI Assistants for Conversational Marketing and Sales —can automate many of the repetitive tasks that bog down team members but are still necessary to complete; such as delivering personalized messages to every inbound lead, qualifying leads through one-to-one interactions over email, or alerting team members of a change in lead status.

CROs know that it takes prompt and persistent outreach to most effectively convert leads into customers. But they also understand that employees only have so many hours in a day to chase each lead. AI Assistants, on the other hand, are easier to scale than teams of business professionals. By automating personalized interactions with leads to discover sales-ready leads, Conversational AI helps make the most of each campaign, scale teams, and accelerate opportunities for conversion. AI Assistants can even improve handoffs between teams and ensure that hot leads aren’t neglected.

As you can see, by promoting the adoption and use of AI within revenue generation, CROs can maximize team efficiency and make money doing it.

Promoting Cohesion Between Revenue-Generating Teams

While AI can dramatically improve outcomes, technology can’t solve everything. To be truly successful, CROs need to foster collaboration between teams. After all, no one can succeed if no one is talking. A CRO helps break down these silos by coordinating between teams to discover problems.

Maybe Sales is falling behind in their lead outreach or failing to use the proper messaging developed by Marketing. Maybe Marketing is generating the wrong types of leads. Maybe Sales is overpromising and Customer Success is feeling the consequences via a declining retention rate. The CRO is responsible for identifying these issues and then working with various team leaders to fix these gaps.

It’s understandable how these disconnects can occur. Team members are busy with their daily duties and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. CROs can foster collaboration by regularly bringing team leaders together to discuss pain points and solve issues before they turn into problems.

CROs should hold regular meetings between team leaders to gather feedback on impediments to revenue generation and possible improvements. For instance, Sales could explain their experiences using messaging developed by Marketing to share what’s most impactful for prospects. This creates a positive feedback loop between teams.

Another example is Customer Success closely aligning with Marketing to promote customer advocates. Similarly, a CRO can ensure that customer feedback gathered from the Customer Success team (e.g. suggestions for new features, product fixes, streamlined operations) get back to the Product team. Otherwise, the Product team is creating what they think is best which might not match the desires voiced by the customer actually using your product regularly.

When it comes to revenue operations, everyone is pushing towards the same goal, even if they have their own duties and objectives. By taking a top-down approach, Chief Revenue Officers can build the holistic strategies necessary to break down silos, align teams, and ensure success.

By pushing organizations to adopt AI solutions, CROs can overcome many of the challenges facing revenue-generating teams including limitations on time and resources. That’s just one important step, though. Communication between teams is vital and CROs should act as leaders bringing together the best ideas.

Want to learn more about how Conversational AI drives revenue opportunities? Watch our webinar The AI Revolution Is Coming to Every Stage of Your Buyer’s Journey today.