Your Customer Success Department Learns from Your Customers, But Why Are They the Only Ones?
When you're moving at the speed of business, you don't always have time to look around and see what your colleagues are doing. You're often so focused on your piece of the puzzle that you lose sight of the big picture. In the rush to deliver superior products and services, workers lock themselves into silos and can become isolated from their peers.
Sadly, if your employees are disconnected from one another, they’re probably also disconnected from your customers. This absence of dialogue means that individuals and departments only see those aspects of the customer experience that directly impact the work they're doing—at best.
This lack of context not only makes it impossible for your company to deliver impactful communications with the people who use your products and your services, but it also means you don't know what your customers need or want. That’s a big problem.
A Customer Community That Engages Internal Stakeholders
Without a complete understanding of your customers' habits and pain points, you can't learn how to tailor your offerings to them. It is also difficult to create customer loyalty in a vacuum. If you fail to engage your customers and you don't provide a mechanism for them to talk to you, they have no reason to stay with you.
When I came to Thycotic a year ago, one of the first things I did was sit down with our Global VP of Customer Support and Customer Success, Anthony Daubenmerkl, and talked to him about how his vision and my vision intersected. He has a deep passion for wanting to improve the customer journey by finding unique, personalized, and automated ways to ensure that our customers’ overall experience with us is superb.
He truly believes in a cohesive customer lifecycle and so do I. So, we made building a customer community our top priority, and we wanted everyone in the company to be involved. The goal was to create a community that would integrate the activities of the Customer Success (CS) team with the larger organization, including Product, Sales and Marketing, Professional Services, and User Experience (UX) teams.
The logic at play is simple. Everyone at Thycotic can benefit from the rich data we are collecting through the community. Our UX team can look at customer satisfaction surveys to find user interface pain points. Marketing can dig deeper into what drives customers’ decision-making process to communicate benefits more effectively to the market. Product can get better insights into features and functionality to help drive the product roadmap. Professional Services can utilize feedback on installations to be more consultative and efficient during engagements. Sales can use this information to communicate why customers chose our solutions and which features and functionality are most heavily used so they can perform more targeted prospecting.
Additionally, our various departments are encouraged to provide us with feedback on other information they wish to gather from surveys, challenges, and user forums in the community. Their insights help us refine existing products and better plan future releases. This initiative has truly impacted our entire company.
Embracing the Wisdom of Our Privileged Access Management Customers
Luckily for us, Thycotic customers are more than willing to talk because they’re passionate about the products we offer. Thycotic provides cloud-based and on-premise Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions. We help protect your most valuable data; your intellectual property, DevOps environments, highly sensitive systems, and SaaS implementations, among others.
Our products include Secret Server, the easiest to use, most powerful, and widely adopted privileged PAM solution. Bringing organizations of all sizes and types enterprise-grade password security, and privileged access management.
Additionally, Privilege Manager, an all-in-one solution for Least Privilege management, threat intelligence, and application whitelisting, greylisting, and blacklisting allows organizations to build best-in-class Least Privilege programs.
Along with our cornerstone offerings, new solutions that allow our customers to evolve their PAM maturity level are taking off in the market, including Account Lifecycle Manager, DevOps Secrets Vault, and Connection Manager.
Thycotic simplifies PAM and offers scalable solutions to everyone from start-ups to major brands like ESPN, Walmart, and Honda.
The Search for More Than a Familiar Face
In my previous position, I built a similar portal for our customers, but its use was limited to advocate marketing. Here at Thycotic, I strive to push customer engagement to new heights. Of course, I always want our customers to refer new business to us, but I know there are many ways to also leverage their collective wisdom to improve our products, accelerate support capabilities, and streamline our onboarding process. We want to target the entire customer lifecycle, in addition to the basic referral and user forums.
That’s exactly how I sold this initiative to our C-level team. If you’re looking to do a similar initiative, it’s critical to get buy-in from your company’s leadership team. They should look at the approach holistically. Don’t just focus on one piece of the puzzle. It’s the main reason I renamed the advocacy portal to the customer engagement portal. It’s about engaging the complete lifecycle of our customers. As soon as they heard that, they instantly understood.
Once I received their enthusiastic approval, I set out to look at potential vendors to build our community. I used Influitive previously, but wanted to make sure I considered other options before committing to a decision.
Extending Customer Engagement Into the Real World
I hit Google and other sites like Gartner Reviews. I searched for terms like "customer advocacy," "customer engagement," and "customer references." In most cases, Influitive and Higher Logic were in the top results. This suggested that these two products were robust enough to attract a solid clientele willing to provide strong references, and that both companies had invested in marketing their solutions. I'm wary of companies that put everything into their products and nothing into promoting them. I was doubly skeptical here. Could I trust a vendor to help us market Thycotic if they weren't engaged in selling their own product?
In the end, I narrowed my choices to Higher Logic and Influitive. I ended up choosing Influitive for several reasons:
The first was familiarity. I knew that Influitive offered the rich feature set I needed to take customer engagement to the next level at Thycotic.
The second was the ability to offer physical rewards to community members. Both platforms provided the customer advocacy and engagement process, but Higher Logic seemed more limited to scoring points and earning badges within its user forum. Leader boards can be engaging, but getting something tangible, like swag, as a way of saying “thank you for helping us” creates better incentives and a more lasting connection. Also, rewarding our customers with Thycotic branded merchandise is great for brand recognition in a crowded industry.
More than just swag, our customers want to get involved with their community. They want to learn from their peers who are also using Thycotic products. That’s why discussion forums were a major part of our decision. Higher Logic focuses on the user voice. Influitive now has discussions as a central part of their platform as well as the other components that make up the community experience that serve to amplify your customer’s voice.
It needed to be more than just a conversational community. We already have that with support forum within Salesforce. Influitive could give us the discussion functionality on top of a fun, educational, and rewarding experience.
A final consideration was price. My team at Thycotic is small and we’re trying to make a big splash. We put our financial resources into building better solutions for our customers. Influitive gave us what we needed, and more, at a price point where we could justify the investment without exhausting our budget.
Automated and Incentivized Customer Onboarding
When we set out to build our community with Influitive, I knew that in order to get everyone involved across all departments, I needed to engage with them and understand their objectives. I created a chart and had one person identified from every department worldwide so that I could speak to them and understand what they needed from this community. The consistent message is that everyone wanted to create a better onboarding experience for our customers.
We have only been up and running for 4 months, but customer onboarding is by far the most significant project launched to date within the portal.
This initiative is helping us scale our limited resources by automating the way we welcome new customers. Whenever a client signs with us, we'll send them directly to the community, where they can put faces to the names of their customer success managers.
Instead of sending out a series of emails that tend to be ignored, we ask our new clients to open a user account on the portal. We're nudging them into actively engaging with us and their peers as they will need to login to the platform to begin their customer journey. Think of your own experience. How often do you delete the welcome email when you subscribe to a new service or use a vendor for the first time? Wouldn’t you prefer a forum that puts the resources you need right at your fingertips?
Thycotic customers can log in to the portal and retrieve all the information they need to interact with us. They can download installation guides, discovery tools, and other support documents. Doing so earns them points toward swag. Talk about an incentive to look at paperwork!
Customer Segmentation and Enhanced Data Collection
A critical feature of this portal for us is customer segmentation. We can create different buckets for small businesses, enterprise clients, and multinationals, thus generating bespoke customer experiences depending on their needs. For example, a major client will log into an iteration of the portal that gives them access to a dedicated Customer Success Manager. A smaller company will see a different, but equally personalized version of the site, with links to our Support team. This segmented approach will allow us to scale and allocate our resources most efficiently.
One of our most labor-intensive activities has been getting our customers to sign on as references. Last year, a single Customer Success Manager sent out 1,400 personal emails asking our customers to be a reference for Secret Server and Privilege Manager. With Influitive, we can do this by creating a single challenge for our customers. Additionally, we will be able to issue invitations asking our customers to join us in speaking about our products at industry conferences and trade shows, and to lend their names and faces to other advocate marketing initiatives.
Challenges can be built for product feedback and satisfaction surveys to gather unique use cases allowing us to share the results to everyone in the company. We can break down and analyze the relevant data and trends to better map customer journeys and to improve future releases of our products.
For our product team, we'll also be using the portal to build a community of beta testers. Along with that, our customer support team will be monitoring the discussion area and seeding questions to help us determine pain points, and to better target information to user requirements.
Leveraging Customer Engagement to Break Down Silos
Our goal is to create an ongoing conversation that drives growth and product innovation. A company like ours can't afford to think in silos. My hope is that feature discussions will lead to continual product improvements and upsell opportunities.
I want our Customer Success Managers to share what we are learning with the whole company. There is so much data to be harvested. I don't want to keep it locked away in separate boxes.
Too often in business, we lose sight of our customers. We get caught up in product cycles and forget to let our users into the development process. Customer engagement is a two-way street. Information flows back and forth, and if we take the time to listen, our clients will tell us what they want. If you're focusing your customer success and support initiatives on putting out fires, you're missing out on a treasure trove of data that can transform the way you do business.
To fully leverage their insights, you need to treat your customers as an integral part of your organization. You're not just selling to them, but you’re also using their feedback to grow your business and develop your products. They are your biggest fans and your biggest boosters. If you make them part of the process, they will become your buyers, your sellers, and your offsite R&D team. What more could you ask for?