Resetting Legacy Customer Expectations

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Parker Chase-Corwin
Parker Chase-Corwin Member Posts: 9 Contributor
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Hello CS friends - 

I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing exceptions and "doing whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.  This has resulted in high retention, high NPS, and generally happy customers, but the demands on my team to go outside the scope of their role as very high.  We seem to have more "non-standard" customers than standard customers.

The company has also recently turned the corner into growth mode - Y/Y 39% growth in 2019 has dramatically increased the volume of accounts, a timely acquisition has helped us bring a new technology to market which is highly in demand, and COVID has reduced our budget and resources.  All these things add up to the simple fact - my team can't meet the current demands of customers in a scalable way.

I need to work with a very young team (many hired directly out of school) and our customer base to reset their long-standing expectations about the types of activities that we will perform for them - and what they will now be expected to do themselves.  The team tells me that they've tried many times to reset expectations - only to have the customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem.

I have to safely pull back the team's scope without damaging the customer's satisfaction or we will start to miss our SLAs and degrade the service level across all accounts.

Would love any suggestions or feedback from folks who have been through something like this before. Thanks!
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  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 0 Expert
    Photogenic First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes
    edited September 2020
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    I can identify with this challenge, Parker, had one similar a few years back.

    What is the scope of your team today? Are they CSMs, and do you have other teams who touch the customer? Support, services, etc?

    How does the executive team / CEO view this change?
    On Sep 25, 2020, 7:09 AM -0400, Parker Chase-Corwin via Gain Grow Retain <community@gaingrowretain.com>, wrote:
    Hello CS friends -  I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing...
    Gain Grow Retain

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    Resetting Legacy Customer Expectations
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    Parker Chase-Corwin
    Sep 25, 2020 7:07 AM
    Parker Chase-Corwin
    Hello CS friends - 

    I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing exceptions and "doing whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.  This has resulted in high retention, high NPS, and generally happy customers, but the demands on my team to go outside the scope of their role as very high.  We seem to have more "non-standard" customers than standard customers.

    The company has also recently turned the corner into growth mode - Y/Y 39% growth in 2019 has dramatically increased the volume of accounts, a timely acquisition has helped us bring a new technology to market which is highly in demand, and COVID has reduced our budget and resources.  All these things add up to the simple fact - my team can't meet the current demands of customers in a scalable way.

    I need to work with a very young team (many hired directly out of school) and our customer base to reset their long-standing expectations about the types of activities that we will perform for them - and what they will now be expected to do themselves.  The team tells me that they've tried many times to reset expectations - only to have the customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem.

    I have to safely pull back the team's scope without damaging the customer's satisfaction or we will start to miss our SLAs and degrade the service level across all accounts.

    Would love any suggestions or feedback from folks who have been through something like this before. Thanks!
    #CustomerSuccess

    ------------------------------
    Parker Chase-Corwin
    VP of Customer Success
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    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 9/25/2020 7:07:00 AM
    From: Parker Chase-Corwin
    Subject: Resetting Legacy Customer Expectations

    Hello CS friends - 

    I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing exceptions and "doing whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.  This has resulted in high retention, high NPS, and generally happy customers, but the demands on my team to go outside the scope of their role as very high.  We seem to have more "non-standard" customers than standard customers.

    The company has also recently turned the corner into growth mode - Y/Y 39% growth in 2019 has dramatically increased the volume of accounts, a timely acquisition has helped us bring a new technology to market which is highly in demand, and COVID has reduced our budget and resources.  All these things add up to the simple fact - my team can't meet the current demands of customers in a scalable way.

    I need to work with a very young team (many hired directly out of school) and our customer base to reset their long-standing expectations about the types of activities that we will perform for them - and what they will now be expected to do themselves.  The team tells me that they've tried many times to reset expectations - only to have the customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem.

    I have to safely pull back the team's scope without damaging the customer's satisfaction or we will start to miss our SLAs and degrade the service level across all accounts.

    Would love any suggestions or feedback from folks who have been through something like this before. Thanks!
  • Ed Powers
    Ed Powers Member Posts: 180 Expert
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    edited September 2020
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    This is a tough one, @Parker Chase-Corwin, and one I've faced, too. It's very common as young, entrepreneurial companies become "Stage 2" firms. As @Jay Nathan implies, getting your execs and other team members in alignment will be key as customers will likely continue to circumvent and frustrate your team.

    A few options: 
    1. Implement changes for new customers only and grandfather the old customers. Humans are hardwired to be 2x more sensitive to loss than we are to gain, so unfortunately you will have major push-back any time you take something away or raise prices. Preserving premium service for the "early-in customers" may not be feasible in your situation, but perhaps your senior leaders will make accommodations, at least for a period of time, to honor them. Keep in mind eventually ALL customers will leave because churn is non-zero, so if you wait long enough, the problem will go away.
    2. Increase friction. Behavioral economics teaches us that if we want to change a bad habit, one way is to do it is to increase the effort or costs involved in getting the payoff. We're naturally hardwired to conserve energy (which includes mental energy) so gradually increasing obstacles tapers behaviors. Often this happens organically--the founders get very busy and can no longer respond as quickly, for example. I've seen that adding an annoyance, such as introducing a new requirement to fill out a trouble ticket or complete a form to get service, is enough to alter bad habits. 
    3. The direct approach. You can always have (or coach founders to have) "big boy" conversations with legacy customers about changes in the business and how it will affect them. If customers are given the opportunity to talk through it, express their grief triggered by loss, and come to accept the business realities, then the candid approach also works. This is Change Management simply applied to customers. It takes orchestration, time, effort, and it obviously doesn't scale well, but if it's managed effectively, it can preserve the relationship under the new terms. 
    Of course, you can do a combination of all three, using different approaches for different accounts. I suggest you develop a proposed plan and socialize it internally to gain support and commitment before you execute. 

    Good luck!
  • Parker Chase-Corwin
    Parker Chase-Corwin Member Posts: 9 Contributor
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    edited September 2020
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    Great suggestions, Ed.  I do think there is a blended approach necessary and the three that you provided are good tools to have in the bag that address not just the tactical elements, but the psychological objections, which I've found is often the hardest part to overcome.

    I think given the reasons I was brought in, I've got an immediate opportunity to "tell it like it is" with the exec/founder team and help coach them to support changing the approach.  It will be interesting to see how the reception is as there seem to be some ingrained habits that will need to be adjusted.

    Appreciate the advice! 

  • Parker Chase-Corwin
    Parker Chase-Corwin Member Posts: 9 Contributor
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    edited September 2020
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    Thanks for the follow-up questions, Jay!

    The team in question is highly technical and more like a high-touch premium support team, than typical customer success. This team of technical consultants inherits the team post-implementation and helps the customer execute many of the product tasks.  Sometimes this is strategic and consultative, but mostly it seems to be reactive and even manual workarounds to product gaps.  I've got a single CSM (focused on Top 30) and we began building out a level 1 Support team a few months back to handle customers under a certain MRR in a queue vs dedicated support.

    Execs are open to change - but seem to be risk adverse when it comes to relationships and lots of legacy habits that will need to be altered.  Retention rates are quite strong at ~95%.

    I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing exceptions and "doing whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.  This has resulted in high retention, high NPS, and generally happy customers, but the demands on my team to go outside the scope of their role as very high.  We seem to have more "non-standard" customers than standard customers.

    The company has also recently turned the corner into growth mode - Y/Y 39% growth in 2019 has dramatically increased the volume of accounts, a timely acquisition has helped us bring a new technology to market which is highly in demand, and COVID has reduced our budget and resources.  All these things add up to the simple fact - my team can't meet the current demands of customers in a scalable way.

    I need to work with a very young team (many hired directly out of school) and our customer base to reset their long-standing expectations about the types of activities that we will perform for them - and what they will now be expected to do themselves.  The team tells me that they've tried many times to reset expectations - only to have the customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem.

    I have to safely pull back the team's scope without damaging the customer's satisfaction or we will start to miss our SLAs and degrade the service level across all accounts.

    Would love any suggestions or feedback from folks who have been through something like this before. Thanks!
    #CustomerSuccess

    ------------------------------
    Parker Chase-Corwin
    VP of Customer Success
    ------------------------------
      Reply to Group Online   View Thread   Recommend   Forward   Flag as Inappropriate  
     
    You are receiving this message because you followed one or more tags associated with this message thread. To unsubscribe from this message thread, go to Unsubscribe.



    Original Message:
    Sent: 9/25/2020 7:07:00 AM
    From: Parker Chase-Corwin
    Subject: Resetting Legacy Customer Expectations

    Hello CS friends - 

    I'm three weeks into a new role building out a CS and Support organization for a company that has a long history of providing exceptions and "doing whatever it takes" to make the customer happy.  This has resulted in high retention, high NPS, and generally happy customers, but the demands on my team to go outside the scope of their role as very high.  We seem to have more "non-standard" customers than standard customers.

    The company has also recently turned the corner into growth mode - Y/Y 39% growth in 2019 has dramatically increased the volume of accounts, a timely acquisition has helped us bring a new technology to market which is highly in demand, and COVID has reduced our budget and resources.  All these things add up to the simple fact - my team can't meet the current demands of customers in a scalable way.

    I need to work with a very young team (many hired directly out of school) and our customer base to reset their long-standing expectations about the types of activities that we will perform for them - and what they will now be expected to do themselves.  The team tells me that they've tried many times to reset expectations - only to have the customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem.

    I have to safely pull back the team's scope without damaging the customer's satisfaction or we will start to miss our SLAs and degrade the service level across all accounts.

    Would love any suggestions or feedback from folks who have been through something like this before. Thanks!
  • Russell Bourne
    Russell Bourne Member Posts: 61 Expert
    GGR Blogger 2023 GGR Blogger 2021 First Anniversary
    edited September 2020
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    @Parker Chase-Corwin I have to say my alarms went off when you said "customers leverage their relationships, escalate over their heads, and have our executives overrule the boundaries and perpetuate the problem".

    I suspect there's a communication problem within the exec team.  Either each executive doesn't know where they fit into the company's scaling plan, or perhaps the company doesn't have a scaling plan yet.  Either way, in my opinion only the CEO can fix the problem, which is why it's so important to have a CEO who's customer-centric.  Is there a way the CEO can act as an exec sponsor for whatever scaling plan you have, since that's presumably what you were brought in to do?

    Tangentially, if roles and expectations aren't clearly communicated and cascaded within leadership, you have an environment ripe for political turf wars and credit-grabs (or conversely, finger-points).  Your company probably has enough competition from the outside, and if you're too busy competing internally, you don't stand much of a chance in the marketplace.  On the other hand, your competitors might have the same issues at their companies, which means if your company gets its teamwork together, you have every chance for wild success.

    Back on topic, can you shed any more light on the types of non-standard things the legacy customers are asking for?  Can you move any of it to self-service and spin it as "now you don't have to wait for me to get what you need"?  

    Another idea is around success plans.  A few folks here in other threads have offered templates for these, where you can fit custom requests into standard category boxes.  In turn, that means you can have standard reporting about how well your customers are progressing on their success plans.  That will help you identify and prioritize which custom requests matter the most - giving you the balance between what you can scale versus what's at risk.

    Hope this helps.  It's a tough challenge for sure.