Navigating Toward Customer Success
Every business wants their customers to be successful. But let’s face it: not every company knows how to best help customers to write their own success stories. There are many things a company can do to help their customers be more successful. They can be certain to detail the capabilities of their products and services, not overpromise, and deliver on their commitments made.
This has never been more important than it is today for technology companies. More of their products today are cloud services. And cloud services are easier for customers to switch away from, for whatever reason, than big on-premises deployments.
SailPoint’s Customer Success team dedicates itself to helping every SailPoint customer write their own success story. To get the inside scoop about the role of the team and how customers can work better with them, we sat down with both Meredith Blanchar, VP customer success at SailPoint and Tim Dickinson, Sr. manager, strategic customer success at SailPoint.
Here is a lightly edited version of our conversation.
George: Can you tell us a little about how the Customer Success program, got started and its purpose?
Tim: Any business that relies on ongoing revenue from customers may want to consider the fact that they can’t just sell to a customer and leave them to be after the sale. You have to build a relationship with them and make sure that they want to stay customers.
SailPoint has always had this customer focus. It’s why every customer gets a named customer success manager. That’s that one point of contact that any customer can go to for any questions or problems or to even ask what the next product release is going to look like and whether it will help them with specific challenges.
Meredith: Both Tim and I have a lot of experience in this field, and one thing that makes SailPoint very different is this program and our focus on customer success. We have a full team dedicated to the customer’s success that is at no cost to the customer. The customer success program is 100 percent focused on the customer’s outcome and making sure that they get the expected outcome of their investment.
George: How do you keep the program efforts properly focused on the different needs of different customers?
Tim: We understand that different sizes and types of customers have different needs. By having customer success managers that can specialize in particular verticals that we’re interested in or recognize that each customer will need a slightly different type of engagement. And SailPoint provides us with all of the tools we need to enable us to manage all the different points in the customer’s lifecycle that we can give them what they need in the right way at any particular point in time.
George: In your work, what are some of the things that you see are important to focus on to bring about customer success and good outcomes?
Tim: The big thing is adoption. Adoption simply means how much of what you offer are your customers using? If you sell a product that has ten features, and a customer is only using one, then the customer has not adopted it very thoroughly. Or if they only use it in one of their divisions and not their three other divisions, then there’s a high risk that that customer is not going to continue to use that piece of software from you. If a customer does use all ten functions, and if they do use it across all of their divisions, and if they have multiple products from you, then you have very strong adoption.
Meredith: Adoption is a big component. So is ensuring that there’s a top level of customized support and that the customer knows they have a solid partner and a solid sponsor dedicated to their success is also very important.
People often relate customer success to customer satisfaction, and a happy customer does not necessarily equal a successful customer.
George: What are some of the things customers can do to help you to help them ensure their implementations go well?
Tim: I would say be open to us about what their plans are. A customer that is willing to share with us, and I think in general they are, what their short and long-term strategies are, make our lives much easier. When we know what their long-term plans are, we can help steer them from a bad direction, or we can keep our eyes open for material that’s going to be relevant to their thinking before they start down that path. I think that customers that are happy to share their plans with us, and not just around their technology, but around their business help us to better help them.
Meredith: I advise them to keep talking to us. The more they talk to us the better aligned we can be to support them. The most painful thing for us is when a customer goes silent. We can’t help it if we don’t know. Responding to the surveys, we send them when we ask for feedback is a big help. Everybody gets surveys from every business that they engage with. I know people are annoyed by them, and people sometimes doubt that they’re acted on. Those surveys are very important to us.
George: Are there common mistakes that customers make when they’re embarking on an implementation?
Meredith: I think underestimating, just from a technical standpoint, underestimating or not having the right resources ready and involved in the effort. They many under staff the initial deployment and then they go forward, and it’s a slow deployment, which eventually leads to a less than optimal situation.
George: How should a customer best think of you to use their CSM?
Tim: They should stop thinking of us as only an escalation point to help when they’re not getting the support they expect. They should think of us as someone who can help guide them in their strategy.
We have been an escalation point for support issues in the past, and we still are. But I think that the customers will recognize that it makes a lot more sense to talk to us about their ongoing strategy, so we can help them be a success. They can ask us if we think the strategy makes sense. About other customers who may have done the same thing. And we can provide our insights. I think that’s how customers can help us to best help them.