Make customer success an engine of growth with data



A powerful strategy in today’s digital and data world is to put customer data at the center of business operations.

For native SaaS businesses, this should be a fundamental part of day-to-day business operations. For other organizations, the ability to use this data often stems from digital transformation initiatives. Typically, the end goal is to use customer data to drive growth. Customer data coupled with innate industry expertise provides organizations with the ability to anticipate customer needs.

Once the customer’s needs are anticipated, it provides the business with a pathway to develop smart products and services with frictionless growth. As a data-driven partner, this gives the business the ability to quickly understand what it wants and when it wants it, often before it has been formulated.

Using data science to create predictive behavioral models is a necessity as many organizations now need to care for their customers in near real time. These models are a key method, particularly in SaaS, to encourage the use of additional and more comprehensive products, while reducing customer churn. Loyalty is at the heart of all subscription models, whether they come from car, grocery or pet food providers, they all use customer data in the same way to drive loyalty. In these economic times and with growing uncertainties, customer retention is becoming a priority for businesses of all types.

It has always been difficult to ensure customers receive the levels of support they want when marketing, pre-sales, sales, customer service and help desk can all play a part in the experience. . It is not enough to work in silos, it is essential that all parts of the business are geared towards delight, retention, growth and customer attraction to deliver the right customer experience. A responsible manager can trace a continuous path through the usual business functions to create a harmonious whole from the departmental parts.

Overcoming cultural inertia can be a hurdle, but it is worth overcoming. It all comes down to data; by using it, business cases are proven, goals prove reasonable, and new experiments can be undertaken. This data-driven approach doesn’t need to inhibit creativity, but should enable it. Creativity can be harnessed in the right direction with a data-driven goal and a data-tested plan. Data does not replace the personal touch, but helps people find the right direction and provides a guide with safeguards for action.

A strong leader with a clear roadmap, armed with data, is central to this strategic vision, which is why a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) is a growing role. The imperative is to foster accountability with these customer-centric roles around making the best use of customer data to grow the bottom line.

In my experience at PagerDuty, our own CCO has been instrumental in integrating customer signals into our business strategy. Driven by a data orientation, we implemented a machine learning model to predict early warning signals to drive engagement and manage risk. Our business now understands the propensity of customers to purchase or unlock more value. Integrating this information into a dashboard allows functional teams to use the latest data individually and collectively. Our teams are now able to anticipate customer needs, propose the right solutions and deliver better results to their end customers. So, in the end, the real winners were our customers.

Whoever is leading the charge needs to put in place clear guidelines, security and compliance measures, to help do the right thing with this data. There must be cross-functional integration right from the design stage, from research and development to after-sales and customer support.

Change must be strategically linked both horizontally across the organization and vertically across layers of the organization. Leaders are key to effecting this change, and must be a guide and support their teams. As with any transformation, collaboration and adherence to shared goals is how an organization evolves and lives or dies.

It’s not the data, it’s not the technology, it’s all that plus the people. Motivated individuals and teams do this work within defined business processes. Communication is a two-way process and experienced leaders will adapt their models with what they learn from their people as strategies unfold in the real world.

Nearly 90% of organizations claim to have a CCO or an equivalent role. The question then is how do they work, what goals do they set and do they adapt to internal company signals as well as customer information? It is a role and an approach based on listening and carefully considering how to act. This suits a company that prides itself on taking a thoughtful approach to growth. As we are in an unstable and recessionary business world, we hope that most organizations would commit to using a data-driven approach to protect what we all really want now and over the next few years:

Satisfied customers, stable revenues and strong business growth.

About the Author

Tony Smith is the Customer Success and Customer Services Manager for the EMEA region at pager, where he leads the Customer Success, Technical Support, Professional Services and PagerDuty University teams. He comes to this role with more than 30 years of leadership experience in enterprise and commercial software. He has a proven track record in EMEA and global roles driving product adoption, value realization and growth in the aftermarket world including Oracle, TIBCO, Syncron, Salesforce/ServiceMax and TIBCO .

Featured Image: Adobe Stock

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