When it comes down to it, the real success of any business is directly tied to the success of its customers. If the product or service isn’t doing a good enough job of making the customers’ lives better, it’s only a matter of time before those customers will look for similar solutions on the market elsewhere, and rightly so.
Most companies acknowledge that signing a contract with a new customer is only the tip of the iceberg: it’s what comes next that’s critical. In order to prevent churn, it’s vital that customers see that they’re getting value from using the products and services on offer, and that’s where customer support comes in. Now though, in addition to traditional ‘support’, every tech company worth its salt should have a ‘success team’ dedicated to helping customers get the best out of said product or service.
So what is this and what’s the difference? Our Head of Customer Success, Olga, found time to sit down with us to explain. Along the way, we found out more about how her team works, how Content Insights communicates with our clients and – most importantly – exactly how they help customers get the most out of the app.
OK, first things first, Olga. Tell us a bit about yourself: how did you end up at Content Insights and why did you choose a career in customer success?
It’s funny really: looking back I realize now that Customer Success has been my career path before I even knew that this type of thing existed. Content Insights just kind of ‘happened’ to me! I was looking for a job in the SaaS industry and I was lucky enough to be interviewed by exactly the same person whose team I was about to join – Bojan. We clicked instantly and I think we both knew that we’d make a great team.
I’d always worked in Customer Support and I really enjoyed it, but I felt that this approach lacked something: we never really created strong bonds with customers and, as a consequence, we didn’t properly understand their needs and issues enough to really help them.
So, Customer Success is the creative variation of Support. It’s where your job is to make people happy about the product and the service they constantly receive, help them be better at what they do even when they think they’re doing just fine, and be there for them every step of the way. People talk about putting the customer first, but often those can be just empty words: in Customer Success, we really do put the customer front and center.
It’s good you make this distinction because it would be easy to assume that Customer Success and Customer Support are the same. Seeing as you’ve worked in both roles, you’re a good person to ask to explain the difference. Lay it out for us…
Ha! Well, traditional support and the idea of customer success generally have a lot of overlapping points. I think it’s helpful to think of Customer Support (the traditional one) as a one-time transaction and Customer Success as membership.
The reason I am mentioning ‘’traditional support’’ is because in the SaaS world, the term ‘’Support’’ is more related to the Technical Support which is a super important part of our team, but it only informs part of what we do – there’s more we can do to help our customers.
So, are you saying that traditional customer support is reactive, whereas customer success is proactive? What does that mean, exactly?
The basic concept of Customer Support is to deal with customer issues as they arise, do that in an effective and timely manner, and make them feel appreciated and their issue dealt with. So yes, ‘reactive’ is a good way of thinking about it.
Customer Success has a slightly different remit. Our focus is on educating our clients, and to do this from the very early stages of our relationship. This means helping them to adopt the tool and all its functionalities, but it also means devoting time and effort to recognize our clients’ pain-points and help them achieve their business goals. You know what they say: when our clients succeed, we succeed. It’s true.
And speaking of succeeding, how do you measure success in your current role?
I think it’s quite simple: the ultimate success for us in our team is to get to the point with our clients that we have such a strong partnership that they become our most awesome product advocates. I’m pleased to say that is the case!
Naturally, as a team behind the analytics product, we realize the importance of measuring things properly which is why we have Amity, our beloved Customer Success platform. We use Amity to monitor the client health score, their activities and product usage and focus on preventing churn.
You mentioned earlier that ‘traditional’ support is an important part of what you do. Is it smart to group customer success and customer support teams together, or is it best to completely divide them and let them function individually?
Customer Support (tech) and Customer Success are two parts of one team, at least in our case.
Due to the nature of our product, the Support team is very engaged with the client in the earliest stages of their relationship with our company.
This is the period when our clients often need them the most: the implementation of our tracking code – which helps us collect all the important data – is something that clients need specific help with, so the Support team is on high alert then.
This certainly doesn’t mean that their job ends when everything is properly implemented: we’re on a mission to offer the best possible service to our clients so it’s only right that our job doesn’t have a defined beginning or end. We function as one because that’s what’s best for the customer. Each of our clients is assigned with their own success manager, but guys from support will always jump in when needed.
What do you think is the key to building great relationships with clients?
That’s a great question!
Establishing a great relationship with the client is about building trust and partnership. Helping them adopt our product to the extent that it actually makes a great positive impact on their business is the key.
Sometimes, however, no matter how hard you believe you tried to achieve that – it just doesn’t work out.
So now you’ve brought it up: how do you prevent client churn? Can you share your approach?
There is no single approach that fits everyone, really. In the end, it comes to trying out different approaches based on the people you’re working with, and their needs and plans.
Of course, there are “playbooks” and procedures that we have, but these are in place to keep you from overlooking something important. We treat customers on an individual basis and I think it’s that personalized approach that really helps.
How hard is it to get people to adopt a new way of thinking and understand the value of content performance data?
Sometimes it’s a piece of cake, and sometimes it can be quite hard to help old-school organizations push this way of thinking throughout their newsrooms.
When it comes to the kinds of newsrooms where you feel that digital probably took them by surprise, our job is to help our clients get everyone data-informed without being too pushy about it.
We are now pretty experienced in doing this and can provide assistance in managing the change within a newsroom by offering our clients some best-case scenarios, tailored to their type of organization.
Recently, when Content Insights decided to change their sales approach to focus more on helping potential clients and educating them, and less on hard selling, you were asked to venture out into the world of sales. How do you see this less aggressive approach and how do you like the sales role?
Yes, it’s an ongoing thing and a wonderful adventure. Content Insights is a company that sticks to a certain philosophy, which is something I really admire, so it stands to reason that our sales approach should follow suit.
Just as in journalism we’re seeing the move away from clickbait towards better engagement, so too have we stopped chasing numbers that don’t bring genuine value. We build relationships based on listening to our prospects’ needs and finding solutions to their challenges. It’s a much more satisfying – and rewarding – way to work.
And finally, do you have any advice to share with people who are interested in pursuing a career in Customer Success?
Of course, there are quite a few books which can help you familiarize yourself with the world of Customer Success, teach you the numbers you need to look at and show you how to calculate MRR (monthly recurring revenue). While this is all very useful and important (do read everything there is), make sure to make it about the people you get to work with. They are your most important metric.
Thank you Olga for this wonderful interview. Does your company have a Customer Success team? If so, does it operate on the same principles and values?