Know the Journey, Define the Interaction
As companies adopt a Customer First / Customer Success mentality they quickly realize the value of a defined program to do so. I am not talking about a program like Gainsight or Totango (yet) but rather a framework for the program. This is foundational and would need to be in place to implement a CS technology solution.
This path forward involves mapping it out from the view of the Customer. This is not going to be easy as you likely live within a department in your company. It can’t have a single view through the lens of Sales, Services, a Revenue Model or individual compensation plan attainment. If it is, the results will be skewed. This is the time to be the neutral unbiased party that gets to objectively walk in the customer’s shoes.
Warning – This can be a challenge for internal employees because of their bias based on their background within the company and the lenses through which they view the task.
Most customer journeys follow a typical 5 steps, with some nuances depending on whether Customer Success is also responsible for implementing the SaaS solution for the customer.
- On-Boarding / Project Readiness
- Professional Services
- Ongoing Support
Start with mapping out all of the touch points at a very high level. Mind Mapping and whiteboarding is a great way to do this and it does not require sophisticated tools. Because there is a somewhat linear progression to the journey a customer goes through, I like to start on the left and move horizontally to the right leaving plenty of room to add and move things around.
The diagram above is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. It is not all encompassing but rather captures the bigger buckets and tasks of a customers journey with your company.
Once you have this defined, it is now time to break down the steps that a customer goes through in each of these segments. Most of the time each block will have an entire additional tree of interactions. Keep in mind the task is not to define your Customer Success interaction points but rather capture all of the things the customer goes through as they engage with your company. The details of WHAT we will do comes later, but if attempted at this stage, it often stifles the capturing of the required journey.
Working to create maps such as these, I have found a few tips that have served me well. I attempt to use arrows to identify a flow. In the example above, I like to show that once the contracts are provided, then, we validate for order completeness. Then we enter it into the procurement system but we can’t enter into the procurement system until it has been validated. I use dotted lines for things that need to be done but may or may not be in a specific order. For example operations and sales are communicating back and forth during this process but not at a specific time or in a specific direction.
When we have our map, it is now time to get a little emotional. No, I don’t mean this is hard so we should cry, I mean that emotion is something we need to be cognizant of and plan for. Emotion happens whether we plan on it or not. What we are aiming for is to identify those periods of time when the customer is likely going to be in a position of emotion. While any customer-focused company wants their customers to be happy and satisfied and ultimately successful, we have some opportunities to ensure that when we do that, we are doing it at the time that will be most memorable, impactful and engaging with our clients.
I think most of us can look back at some examples of when we were most satisfied with a company we do business with. I would imagine it is going to be tied to an emotion in some way.
I travel a lot for work. I was on a flight after not having traveled for about a month. I was distracted when I sat down and completely forgot to put on my seat belt. As we were descending we hit some turbulence that was strong enough to toss me all the way out of the seat and against the ceiling. It only lasted a couple of seconds and you can be sure I was buckled tight after that happened. It was a scary few moments. People on the plane were freaking out. The remainder of the flight was bumpy but nothing out of the ordinary other than those few seconds of flight. When the plane landed everyone applauded. The next morning, I received an email from the airline apologizing for the rough flight. The email went on to reassure me that their pilots are well-trained to navigate through such conditions. There was a $75 voucher to be used toward a future flight with them and they let me know that they want me to have better memories when traveling with them.
This is something I will remember. Why? Because this was an emotional time for me as a consumer. I was scared, as were others. The email changed nothing about the event itself, but it has changed the way I tell this story. Now it is about how great the airline was rather than the rough flight.
As you create and fill out your customer’s linear experience, it is also time to look for those emotional moments or likely emotional moments in their journey. Knowing these times can help to ensure that we focus on the customer at these key times to really help solidify satisfaction or advocacy.
To illustrate how to map out these emotional and critical times, we have added some specific color codes and shapes to differentiate the different components on the map. We are using blue squares for touch points and pink clouds to define the emotion.
There are also examples of interactions that happen outside of your organization but can have a direct impact on your relationship with them. It is critical to plan for these scenarios. For example, if your client has a change in leadership at the CIO role, this can be a time of uncertainty with your relationship. It could also be a time of uncertainty inside your client’s team. The employees of that company may not know where they stand yet with their new leader and are not sure if they will be making large or sweeping changes.
In a time of emotional uncertainty or fear, a good communication approach is for reassurance and demonstration of experience in the situation. One great approach is to welcome the new leader to their organization on behalf of your company. Having a proactive communication that allows you to establish a relationship based on the value and outcomes of your solution. It also opens the door to understand if there are key differences in the expectations of this new leader and the previous long-term plans between you and your client.
Mapping out the process is a great way to start the definition for the Customer Success Program. It is also just as valuable a tool for continuous improvement. All this work still has to be “sold” to the rest of the organization and that will be the topic of a future blog post. If you have some suggestions on how you have communicated the value of your Customer Success Program to your internal teams, please feel free to leave it in the comments below.