*Originally published on May 16, 2023 on CS Whisperer
It’s been said that if you can turn a new customer into a customer that renews, then your product is doing its job.
However, if you can turn a new customer into a Champion of your company and product, then you’re doing your job as a CEO.
Not going to lie, I just made that up on the spot. I don’t know of anyone that has actually said that but it sounds good, right?
So I stand by it.
Your duty as a CEO is NOT to make your customers happy and satisfied. That’s your product’s job.
Your duty is to turn customers into Champions. Champions not only are happy with your product and give you a good NPS. They also sit on your customer advisory boards, attend client parties, refer you to other potential clients within their network, and use your products and services to their fullest potential.
Early in my Customer Success career, I attended a customer advisory board meeting (it was actually called a dealer advisory board since all of our clients were automotive dealers but you get the idea). One of my clients attended so I got to be a part of it as a new CSM. It was a two-day event. The first day was the big meeting where they talked about the state of the company, new product releases, and plans for the rest of the year. Lots of merch and snacks were provided. The day ended with a steak dinner at a steakhouse and a bar run. On the second day we all went to a spring training game (I worked in Old Town Scottsdale) and spent the rest of the day at bars and restaurants.
While I was attending, I overheard one of our biggest clients talking to a few of our executives. He was telling them that one of our competitors was talking to a few of his people and he made it very clear that they were sticking with us. Not only because our products were unbeatable but we also threw the best client parties.
What a testimonial, right?
This is the perfect example of a Customer Champion. Through our products, we were delivering on their desired outcomes, and through our parties and client initiatives we were providing a great customer experience.
Through that experience and over the course of my Customer Success career, I have learned a few key ways you can turn your new customers into long-term Champions like the client I overheard at my first customer board meeting.
Hire the right people who can make your customer dreams a reality
Let’s be real for a second: If you can’t make your customers’ dreams a reality then you won’t be able to make your dreams, as a founder, a reality.
You’re in the business to create an incredible experience while at the same time, solving big problems for your customers. Unless you’re a solopreneur, that will be difficult to do without the right people in place.
Now, before we move on, it goes without saying that if you’re in the business to solve a very complex problem, then your solution may not be as turn-key as snapping a good picture with an iPhone or subscribing to a newsletter. Totango and Gainsight are two Customer Success software platforms. They both solve very big issues with lots of moving parts. Therefore, the product takes time to fully implement, and value can be found in many ways while the customers get fully ramped up.
This is common and normal in the technology space.
This is where a high-quality Product, Implementation, and Customer Success team will come in very handy. If you know your solution will be complex based on the problem it solves, then start looking to build out these teams as soon as possible.
If you aren’t out to solve a huge problem, you still would be wise to beef up your Product and Customer Success teams. Yes, sales are important but your customers will truly get the value they need if you have these two things in place:
- A team of product experts that specialize in working behind the scenes to ensure your product is functioning and customer feedback is being implemented so your product is delivering on your customers’ ever-growing needs.
- A power-house Customer Success team who will work alongside your customers (every CSM has their own book of clients) to proactively ensure they are getting the most value from your product or service.
These two teams will be instrumental in ensuring that your customers not only know how to use your product but are able to have their desired outcomes delivered on (AKA see value) almost instantaneously.
You have to get the right people in place and these teams will be a key starting point if you want to truly scale your customer base from the get-go.
Make your customers feel valued by listening to them
Do I really need to say more here?
Yes, I do. But I’ll keep it short since this should be blatantly obvious.
You need some sort of Voice of the Customer (VOC) program in place. A system of channels where you are truly absorbing your customers’ honest feedback about your product and company. This can be done in many ways and I implore you to be creative.
Here are some ideas that I’ve seen work in the past:
- Customer Advisory Board. And no, a simple Zoom meeting every quarter with your top customers will not suffice. Meet in person if you can and make it a few days of education and fun. Again, be creative!
- As the founder, make the point to go out and talk with your customers face-to-face. See how they are using your product from their perspective and how they would like to see it improve.
- Have a product wishlist feature that paying users can submit requests to. This can be the backbone of your product roadmap and the blueprint your product team uses to plan new features and product lines.
- Sending Holiday gifts and reaching out if there is a natural disaster in the area of the client.
There are many ways to do this and this is really when you can get your creative juices flowing. The simple fact that you’re a startup founder means you’re a pretty creative person already.
The next time you go “back to the drawing board” have it be for customer-outreach ideas and not the next product feature you’re going to release.
This is the perfect segway to the last and final method you can implement to turn your new customers into long-term champions.
Make the Customer Experience a main talking point in all meetings
Yes, there are always going to be other topics to dive into that hold importance and value to your business goals. However, what is the use of a new product feature if your current customers are barely adopting the features you have now?
This is just one example of the many times I’ve seen and heard about early-stage startups being way too hyperfocused on features and new revenue, that they forget to nurture their current customers. And when you’re not taking care of the customers you currently have, that will have serious long-term defects on your business growth. To the point where you will be going “back to the drawing board” over and over again to the point where you eventually close up shop and move on to the next venture.
The experience your customers are having with your product and with your company, in general, has to be talked about at every meeting. There are a few key reasons for this:
- It sets the culture of your business as one that takes care of the customer at all costs from the very beginning
- Your employees will know what is expected of them, regardless of their job title, and how they can best serve the customers to the best of their abilities
- Your customers will feel this too. They will know that whoever they are talking to at your company, that they will get the best service no matter what.
One company that I feel truly embodies a customer-first mindset is 1st Phorm Nutrition. They are a Fitness and Supplement company based out of St. Louis. I have been buying products from them for a while. A while back ago, I bought a blender bottle from them because my current one had a crack on top and I knew it was going to break any day at that point. The day after I made the online order, my blender bottle broke. I got on 1st Phorm’s website and immediately started chatting with a support rep. I told them that I had ordered a blender bottle yesterday and that my current one just broke. I asked if I could pay for expedited shipping. The support rep then said to me that since I had been a loyal customer of theirs for a while, that he would make the order go out that day and cover the cost. He knew how important this product was to me and wanted to show me appreciation for being a loyal customer.
I have not forgotten that exchange since it happened almost 2 years ago and have been an even more loyal customer ever since.
The Customer Experience is everything, friends. Without a quality experience, your customers will not grow. They won’t become champions of your product and company. And because of this, you won’t scale and your dreams as a founder won’t come true.
Kinda cheesy, I know. But I want you to succeed. I want your dreams to come true. So the time is now to double, or even triple, down on your CX efforts. This will make all the difference in everything else you do as a founder.
You got this!
Jared Orr has been in Customer Success since 2018 and is currently a CSM for Totango.
He has founded the Customer Success Whisperer to help entrepreurs who want to win in the Customer-First Economy, and loves speaking with small business owners in the SaaS industry.