Modern B2B enterprises must provide a flawless post-sale customers experience to drive high customer satisfaction and growth.
“Instead of only focusing on internal metrics like churn, retention, and NPS,” says Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight, “the most sophisticated companies are looking from the outside in, starting with the customer’s experience and desired outcomes and working backward.”
How do you create a world class customer experience? Healthy, customer-sustained communities are almost always linchpins of desired customer outcomes and experiences.
In this blog, I’ll share three ways that Customer Success Managers (CSMs) can scale their efforts to empower advocate communities to become an extension of their team. Each tried-and-true tactic will generate much value for customers. They’ll also create positive relationships between the customers and your team.
1. Customer communities can improve user adoption & retention
Creating successful customers starts with education. A customer community is a perfect place to share resources that will set up new customers for success. You can make this process more engaging and interactive by creating timely, gamified community campaigns. This way, sharing best practices, news, and product education feels like less of a chore to customers, and more like fun.
A little bit of creativity can entice users to master new features or learn about other customer success initiatives. Thanking and rewarding customers for their participation is also a useful motivational tool. This improved customer experience drives faster time to value and increases customer retention over time.
A community also helps improve adoption and retention since customers can help each other resolve problems quickly. This way they can also inspire one another to do more with your product. Take, for example, the code red or at-risk process. When customers are not generating value required to renew, their CSM will often scramble to get the customer back on track.
Tools like Gainsight help orchestrate customer journeys across complex organizations and multiple touchpoints to ensure customers have great outcomes and experiences. They can be used to identify churn risks early, and run “plays” from a playbook to help the CSM guide the customer towards success.
However, sometimes the customer just does not want to speak with a CSM—they’ve had enough, and don’t intend to renew or spend any more time on the solution. In this case, the customer may, instead, be willing to connect with a successful customer peer in the community. This opportunity will let them learn from each other’s success and challenges.
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Success story: Rosetta Stone used their customers to boost retention by 58%
Katie Raeburn, Customer Marketing Manager for Rosetta Stone—a language-learning software provider—needed a scalable way to keep customers from churning after their first year of signing on. Since customers couldn’t easily contact their support team or find the materials they needed to successfully use the software, she found that renewal rates were declining.
Katie and her team believed that enlisting their customers to help with the onboarding process might be the answer to keeping users longer. So, they developed a community of advocates to share the load.
Just 12 months after launching “The Bridge” community as part of their customer advocacy program, they uncovered some impressive results:
58% higher retention rates
Almost 400 survey feedback responses
More than 470 discussion forum replies
179 advocate social shares
In exchange for their contributions, Katie rewards advocates with points, which they can use to redeem special perks—from Rosetta Stone socks to recognition in their community.
“Our business—language learning—is about connecting with people. The Bridge allows us to connect with more customers and help them succeed.”
— Katie Raeburn, Customer Marketing Manager for Rosetta Stone
2. Advocate mentors make onboarding more efficient & scalable
The power of relevant advocates can be even more transformative early on in the customer journey. We have seen significant success with customer mentorship programs. This is when experienced customers guide new customers on how to generate the most value from the solution. The community is used to set up these connections which offer value to both mentors and mentees.
Often customer mentors work hand in hand with CSMs to get new customers launched successfully. Once successfully launched, the new customer is much more likely to serve as a mentor in the future, creating exponential value for the customer community. This is the culture of customer advocacy that can lead you to industry dominance.
By providing your customers with a central place to connect with and learn from each other, you also give them the support and motivation they need to be successful with your product and continue advocating for your brand.
Success story: Ceridian onboarded more than 500 customers using their mentorship program
The customer success team at Ceridian—a global human capital management (HCM) software company—wanted a faster way to onboard customers to ensure their long-term success. This would accelerate customers’ success and turn them into advocates. They used their existing advocates to help them do this within their advocacy program called XOXO.
Ceridian includes all customers in their community to maximize ROI across the customer lifecycle. They do this by inviting all new customers to join the XOXO community. Once in the community, certain new customers are paired with power users, where appropriate, in a mentorship program called HCMentor to help onboarding. Ceridian’s team ensures all customers have opportunities to network with their HCM peers—other Ceridian customers.
With their advocacy program and improved onboarding, Ceridian saw positive impacts throughout their organization, such as:
500+ peer-to-peer XOXOMatch networking connections, alleviating more than 1,500 Support tickets
30-point higher NPS for XOXO members than non-participating customers
511 reference customer contacts, impacting hundreds of new sales opportunities
“The XOXO program consistently transforms customers into highly engaged advocates who benefit from opportunities to learn, network, and receive recognition for their HCM success. In return, they promote Dayforce as a core foundation of their HCM strategy.”
3. Advocates can also be your internal account growth champions
A customer community platform can help you uncover your users who are ready to evolve their use of your platform. You can then introduce them to products or services they may not be aware of through educational campaigns. This way no potential revenue goes undiscovered. This strategy will help your CS team take the guesswork out of which accounts are ready for an upsell conversation.
Plus, establishing meaningful relationships with your most successful advocates will make broaching the topic of account expansion a more natural part of their journey.
Success Story: How PolicyMedical delivers educational content to uncover potential upsells
To teach customers about upsells of their flagship offering, Tracy Staniland, former Director of Marketing at PolicyMedical—a policy management software for healthcare providers—hosts regular webinars about product upgrades. She then publishes on-demand recordings in PolicyMedical’s advocacy program.
“Then we ask customers if they are aware of the upsell product and if they would like someone from our team to contact them,” says Tracy.
Making customers more aware of their product offerings and letting customers self-identify if they’d like to learn more has helped PolicyMedical create more sales opportunities.
“We have received leads for both upsell and cross-sell products through the content we’re sharing through the program,” says Tracy. “We are also able to provide our customers with a number of educational materials which is helping with product usage.”
Treat advocate communities like an extension of your CS team
Customer advocates are your secret weapon for accelerating business growth. They also help maintain brand loyalty during the post-sale phase of the buyer journey. A CS team that is powered by advocate communities can not only generate more renewals, faster; they can also onboard and mentor a greater number of new customers. This helps increase customer advocacy in the process. They’ll also accelerate account growth through internal cross-selling and upselling.
Keep in mind that a customer-powered success team that works without the support of its entire organization can lose momentum quickly. Every department from sales to marketing and product development must buy into and adopt a customer-powered enterprise mentality.
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