How to's, Tips & Tricks
April 8, 2019

How Customer Support and Customer Success can Collaborate to Increase Customer Retention

Customer retention is critical to scaling your company. Not only does better retention help revenue grow, but it also leads to more reference accounts that will help feed new business. When customers are not achieving their desired outcomes or feel like they do not have an advocate towards success, they are more likely to churn.

The role of a Customer Success Manager varies widely. In any given company it can include activities from Services, Marketing, and Sales. In this article, we assume that upselling to customers is handled by a Sales team and Success is focused on ensuring that the customer is deriving as much value from the product or service as possible. If you’re looking to learn how to drive more revenue through collaboration with Sales and Support, we wrote a separate post covering that.

Regardless of the specific tasks a CSM is assigned, Customer Support and Customer Success are typically entrusted with preventing churn. By engaging with the customer to drive value, and being available when problems arise, these teams can drastically improve customer retention. Support and Success must collaborate and execute plans for:

  • a consistent customer feedback loop
  • pattern recognition across an account or customer segment
  • smooth handoffs of data and conversations to each other

In this article, we’ll walk through how Support and Success teams can work together to create and achieve the above plans in order to increase customer loyalty.

Consistent Feedback Loop 🔄

Customers want to be heard. When they have an issue, reaching out to Support or Success is the most common path. Without collaboration between these teams, feedback is lost, the customer gains no value, or worse, loses faith in your ability to execute.

For example, when Support gets feedback that a customer is struggling with a new product area, it should be an opportunity to notify a CSM for follow up in a quarterly business review or training. When a CSM receives product feedback, submitting that to the Support system will help track similar trends amongst other customers. These processes are part of a feedback loop. The process to share this information between teams doesn’t need to be incredibly formal, but it must be simple and timely. It could be as simple as a special tag in a Salesforce case, or a Slack channel message, or more robust such as a task created in Gainsight. Feeding the information into a known workflow and process owner ensures repeatability and consistency.

Once the feedback is submitted into the right process, the customer should know what communication to expect and from whom. When the individuals know what responsibilities they have, they are more likely to provide consistent messaging. Therefore, if Support is responsible to notify a customer of a defect being fixed, then they should consistently own that communication. The CSM should allow Support to own that process and trust the customer will receive the right information. Similarly, Support should not engage in account management activities with the customer. Allow the CSM to take on those actions for a better customer experience. This consistency helps ease the mind of the customer and provides clearer and faster resolutions.

Three Quick Wins for a Better Feedback Loop:

  • Train each team member to recognize when they are receiving feedback or training needs.
  • Create a feedback loop process for the different types of feedback that includes how the feedback is gathered, tracked, analyzed, and actioned, as well as who owns each step in that process.
  • Define how each team inputs feedback into the tool and processes you use.

Recognize and Share Patterns ➿➿

What key factors determine if a customer is successful or not? If Success and Support do not know the answer to this question, customer churn increases.

Bringing Success and Support together to understand these patterns is a must for your organization. Integrating systems is a big part of uncovering trends. Help Desks and Relationship Management Tools all have the capability to track customer actions and contacts over time. Whether it’s the number of logins dropping, the average NPS score decreasing, or the number of tickets per week exceeding a threshold, both Success and Support need to know. All of these patterns need to launch actions.

This is true for positive patterns as well. If the amount of activity increases, it could mean there is a large project or deadline coming up, so systems should alert Support to treat tickets with a higher priority. If a renewal is coming up, making sure all internal stakeholders are aware can help clinch the close through cooperation. Support may notice a trend in the types of cases opened or the product area on which the customer is focused. If this information is shared, it could lead to the scheduling of proactive training.

Implement a consistent tracking method for all key activities and communications, and share this information at both an aggregate level as well as the individual account level. Identify those key patterns of success and struggle and have clear action plans for each. Customers will see the proactivity, be more engaged, and renew more easily.

Three Quick Wins for Recognizing Patterns:

  • Consistently track data and activities in a ticketing or success management tool so you can trend usage patterns.
  • Determine what a ‘successful customer’ means to you. Use data analytics, patterns in product usage (or lack thereof), or any other key factors to profile your customers.
  • Design communication plans and action ownership models for each type of pattern you track.

Smooth Handoffs 🤜🤛

Vagueness and uncertainty reduce loyalty and satisfaction. When customers do not understand the status of an issue or feel like they are being passed around, they are less satisfied with their service. Success and Supports’ roles aren’t as distinguishable outside of an organization as they are internally. This confusion is exacerbated when there aren’t clear internal rules of engagement for what Success handles versus what Support handles, and handoff processes aren’t in place between your teams.

Throwing customers ‘over-the-wall’ when they contact you is one way to make this mistake. A CSM replying to a customer with “Support will help you” or forwarding onward a lengthy email thread is unhelpful to both the customer and Support. These types of responses lack context, next steps, and expectation setting. The same is true when Support responds “This case should be handled by your CSM.” and the customer continues the conversation stating “OK, shall I contact them?”, “I didn’t know I had a CSM (or what that is).”, “When will I hear back?” None of these interactions breed confidence.

Build consistent handoffs that reduce customer confusion and effort. Allow CSMs to log tickets on behalf of a customer or have Support pass on a CSM’s availability when they are needed on a conversation. These small steps not only make the customer feel like they are working with a single organization, rather than multiple departments, but also ensures their problem gets to the right person faster and with more clarity.

Three Quick Wins for Smooth Handoffs:

  • Act as one organization, not multiple functions inside a company. It is not the customer’s responsibility to distinguish between Success and Support duties, it is your role to guide the customer to who can help them fastest.
  • Make internal rules/guidelines for who owns communication on what topics and how each team feeds into the other when the customer opens a conversation with an incorrect team.
  • Always ensure the customer knows what the next steps are and who owns the actions.

Communication is the Key to Collaboration 🗣

With a combination of light-weight processes and supplementary tooling, you can facilitate smooth communication between Success and Support. Set your customers up for success by having a consistent way for each team to handle issues and feedback and do not confuse your customers with cross-communication, or by contradicting expectations.

A smooth customer experience that drives positive outcomes from collected data will increase retention. If you ensure consistent communication with the customer, proactively recognize patterns in customer data, and deliver a smooth handoff between teams, your customers will know you understand them.

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