The following is a summarized excerpt from Dennis Geelen’s new book, The Zero In Formula: The Definitive Guide to Sustainable to Building a Disruptive and Sustainable Business through Customer-Centric Innovation. Some of the content has been edited (with Dennis’s approval) to speak directly to Customer Success leaders.
Businesses often utilize customer satisfaction as a common metric or KPI. Scores in this area are generally believed to be an indication of how well you are meeting your customers’ needs. Yet it makes me wonder, is that the level we are trying to achieve? A satisfied customer? I hope not.
If your company is truly customer centric, then satisfaction is not your goal. You want to know and understand your customers so you can ensure your products and services not only satisfy them but that there is loyalty and goodwill created.
Satisfaction, loyalty, and goodwill. These are three radically different concepts I have had the pleasure to discuss with Dr. Olaf Hermans on several occasions. Dr. Hermans resides in Belgium and is the Chief Science Officer at R-Intervention, a Pennsylvania-based company that designs and implements relational interaction protocols at scale. Over the past ten years, Dr. Hermans and his colleagues have studied cognition in relationships: how customers frame their relationship with you.
“What we have found, I believe, are the keys that unlock goodwill in customer-firm relationships,” Dr. Hermans told me.
Dr. Hermans would describe the “satisfied customer” as someone being happy with the value and user-friendly experience through interactions with your product or service.
Surpassing satisfaction, loyal customers appreciate your transparency, personal authenticity, and recognition of their patronage, which results in more intensive usage and positive referrals. However, loyalty still is transactional and fragile, and customers continue to keep an eye on your competition to see if they want to switch (loyalty is rarely exclusive).
Instead, goodwill customers take themselves off the market from your competitors and are forward-looking based on their ongoing relational engagements with you. Dr. Hermans’s research shows that goodwill customers behave and feel valued as insiders and active contributors to your brand or organization. Goodwill, which can be individually observed or reliably surveyed, is the metric to hit for maximum and durable customer success.
If goodwill is the level we want to achieve and measure ourselves by, Customer Success leaders need to start by helping their entire company have a vested interest in both understanding its customers and responding to their needs.
Here, I’ll outline some of the tactics you can use to help other departments better understand customers.
1. Go beyond just collecting contact information. Use your CRM to get to know customers
Most organizations have some form of CRM, but some companies fall short of collecting enough information and utilizing it for the right reasons.
Your CRM should be viewed as a system for tracking who your customers and potential leads are so you can get to know them, not just contact them. Who are these people? What age demographics are they in? What geographical regions are they in? When’s their birthday? What frustrations do they have? Getting to know your customers is where the real power in having a CRM lies.
If you see your peers in other departments collecting contact information to simply keep in touch with customers and know the basics about who they are, they’re only scratching the surface of the value of having that data. Challenge them to use data to understand customers’ habits. What products or services are purchased more or less often? By whom? At what time of day, week, or year? What methods of payment are most or least popular? All of these will help other departments become “closer” to the customer while highlighting opportunities to create a better experience.
2. Be intentional about how you’re collecting (and listening to) customer feedback
Surveys, forums, reviews, and customer calls are all powerful tools for obtaining the voice of your customers. But you need to be decidedly intentional about the questions you’re asking and the mindset with which you’re listening to the responses.
If the company intends to do NPS surveys or focus groups under the premise of trying to prove something that’s already believed to be true, or to merely capture metrics to indicate what level of satisfaction customers have, then I would suggest these will be missed opportunities for something greater.
The real opportunity in collecting this feedback is not to find out that some things resonate more or less with your customers, but why. Asking customers to rate you on a scale of 1 to 5 will not tell you why. If you do not ask, you will only be left to speculate, which can be dangerous.
Now, it’s not so simple to ask your customers point-blank questions about “why” some things resonate more or less with them. Customers can easily describe a problem they’re having. But it’s not their job to describe the best solution, and they’re likely to have difficulty in trying to do so.
When collecting customer feedback, be sure that your approach (or your Product team’s approach) is all about understanding what clients like and do not like about working with you and why.
3. Data + Stories = Engagement
It has long been believed and proven that humans ultimately make most of their decisions based on emotion. There can be data and stats leading people toward a logical conclusion, but making a final decision typically happens when someone is emotionally stirred to do so.
I have experienced this emotion-based decision-making phenomenon many times throughout my career when presenting to senior leaders. In proposing a new project or initiative, I would make a case using all the data, stats, and ROI information required to prove it is something worth investing in—but then, I’d find myself in a room with several executives nodding their heads in agreement yet not committing to make a decision.
My instinct would be to assume the people in the room didn’t understand the data I was presenting. But that wasn’t the case; the missing link was an emotional connection to what I was saying. Nothing was making them feel stirred or compelled to make a decision to move forward. I have since learned that there is a simple equation that needs to be followed when you want someone’s full attention and buy-in: Data + Stories = Engagement.
The data can speak to the logical side of the brain. But if you tell a compelling story touching on the emotional side of the brain, stirring people, now you are painting the full picture.
It’s important to practice this when communicating with other departments about how customers are experiencing the product—you can’t just show data, and you can’t just tell stories. There has to be both.
4. Everyone in the company should be a customer
Finally, I highly suggest you influence the company to invite all employees to experience what it’s like to be a customer. Meaning, all employees will use the product for themselves, even if they’re not in a relevant audience to who you sell to.
The first and most effective way to feel exactly what your customers feel—to understand the experience and have an interest in improving it—is to become a customer of the business itself. And this goes beyond just experiencing the product, but also to get the emails that customers get, to fill out the surveys and forms that customers fill out, to call you customer service number as if you were a customer, and more.
This week's top resources:
My #1 Rule for Running Meetings
“I’m often complimented by CEOs on how I run meetings... So here’s my #1 rule: Before participants share their opinions, ask them to write them down. Some participants moan about it. The far bigger time-waster, I've learned, is free-form sharing. You inevitably get rat-holed because of someone's proclivity to blab or because one opinion generates endless debate." Here’s Andy Raskin with some ideas to try in your next meeting.
10 tips for Onboarding a New CSM
Artem Gurnov, Manager - Customer Engagement Global at Wrike, shares a list of advice and helpful reminders for onboarding new CSMs. Some of my favorites: “focus on value, not features” (he says you can get the team to practice this in your weekly meetings by brainstorming solutions to specific problems), and “prepare real client examples for the mock calls… Every time I have an interesting call with a client, I take notes and use them as examples for a mock call.”
Good Decision-Making Depends on an "Archer's Mindset"
Annie Duke, World Series of Poker Champion and author of Thinking in Bets, offers advice for reframing how we think about making decisions. “Part of becoming a better decision-maker is shifting your mindset about guessing… the value in guessing isn’t in whether the guess is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’” She also says, “the beauty of approaching each decision by first examining what you know is that little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward improving your aim. The more you know, the better equipped you are to counter uncertainty in your decision-making."
How CSMs Can Manage Difficult Customer Situations
Here’s a resource from Brooke Goodbary (Manager - Customer Success at Roku) that breaks down some “types of difficult customer situations” (e.g., “disengaged point of contact” and “unrealistic expectations”) and lists possible reasons and solutions for each situation. It’d be worth making a copy of this and adjusting it to fit your business and how you’d like the team to manage these situations, and then share it with your team.
Success Happy Hour is a weekly newsletter for Customer Success leaders. Each week we feature one digestible piece of advice or a framework from top Success leaders, plus four of the best resources from that week. Subscribe here.