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The Green Sheet Online Edition

February 14, 2022 • Issue 22:02:01

A win-win: Earning revenue through customer success

By Duleepa Karunaratne

In most traditional organizational structures, the sales team is usually the only revenue-generating unit, while other departments are considered cost centers. This is not to say that these other units are a complete drain on a company's resources—far from it.

Each group has its distinct role to play and adds value to an establishment in its own unique way. However, more often than not, just one team's work results in visible and direct revenue generation, and that is sales. It is the sales team that courts a client, converting them from a lead to a customer, bringing in money for the company.

An often overlooked and undervalued department in most organizations is customer success. This unit is usually responsible for customer training and retention. Among the duties of the customer success team is facilitating smooth onboarding of the customer. They are also responsible for cultivating a close relationship with customers throughout their lifecycle, guiding, advising and helping. This continuing connection has tremendous potential for revenue generation. 

The sales and customer success teams operate in very different ways. The sales team's sole goal is lead conversion and, once the deal has been clinched, they move on to the next lead. The customer success team, on the other hand, works toward maintaining a long-term relationship with a customer. Their aim is to retain the patronage of the client, keeping them on board for as long as possible. 

The ongoing engagement with a customer puts the customer success team in a position of privilege. They are able to win the trust and confidence of a customer while also gaining valuable insights into the customer's business. Through this, the customer success team can initiate a range of actions that can increase customer spending, driving revenue for the company.

Customer success characteristics

To make money for its company, a customer success team needs to possess three main features:

  1. They must have a clear and thorough understanding of the customers' needs and objectives. While a company may sell one set of products, each customer has their own specific goals. The customer success officer needs to spend time learning about their client's needs and objectives.

    Once the officer has a proper grasp of what exactly the customer requires and hopes to achieve, they will be able to provide the right solution or service by recommending the right mix of product features.

  2. They must be able and willing to play an advocacy role. Providing a product or service may not reap the expected results if customers do not make the necessary process-level changes. For instance, if a restaurant installs a self-ordering kiosk, the expected efficiency and increased orders will not happen unless the front-of-house functions are properly reorganized to incorporate this new technology.

    The customer success personnel need to consult with their customer, guiding them on how to realign their processes so as to benefit from what they have bought.

  3. They must actively market the company's offerings. The sales team will likely sell a client one product or service and be done with them. As the customer success team works with a client, they become privy to other needs or gaps that were not apparent to the members of the sales team.

    Once a requirement has been identified, the customer success officer should recommend other offerings that could fulfill these, clearly describing the advantages to the customer. Customer success personnel should proactively promote upgrades and new purchases as their customer's business evolves.

While each customer success agent needs to embody the above qualities, for them to truly thrive, the company's product offerings must be solid. The company must ensure that it has a high-quality product suite with multiple upsell and cross-sell options for the customer success team to promote. Consider, for instance, a quick-service restaurant. They could start off with web ordering and then, as online order ahead becomes popular, they could upgrade to their own custom-branded mobile ordering app.

Watching the business operations of this restaurant, perhaps the customer service specialist discovers that this restaurant's kitchen is not optimized to handle the increased orders. They could offer a kitchen display system as a way of streamlining the orders. If the restaurant management starts to show concern about long queues during lunchtime, the customer success officer could suggest installing kiosks.

In this way, the customer success team can facilitate the sale of more and more of the company's products. Because the customer success agents work closely with merchants, they are able to quickly identify their customer's pain points and help them find solutions that will ultimately reap monetary rewards for their own companies. 

The profitability framework

It is abundantly clear that the customer success team is well-positioned to drive revenue generation for its company. To fulfill its income earning potential, the team should focus on five key areas:

  1. Renewals
  2. Reselling
  3. Upselling
  4. Cross-selling
  5. Referrals

Too many service providers take renewals for granted, assuming that they will occur automatically. However, experienced customer success specialists are acutely aware of how tenuous the situation is. They understand how easy it is for a customer to switch.

Because retention is one of their main goals, the customer success team should work hard to ensure renewals. Maintaining regular contact with the customer helps keep the company top of mind. This kind of connection also reassures the client that the vendor or service provider is always around to support them, harnessing vital confidence that goes a long way in securing a renewal.

Reselling is mainly relevant when there are changes within a customer's organization. When a management team changes, for instance, they may be inclined to sever current connections and bring in their own vendors and providers. The customer success team needs to step in and resell their products and services to the new management team, convincing the new leadership of the value of sticking with them.

The same applies when the client's company re-strategizes or rebrands. Sometimes reselling may also be necessary to get all the relevant stakeholders on board. Perhaps for some reason there is internal resistance to certain products. The customer success officials could pitch these to the relevant parties and win them over.

Upselling and cross-selling are very much about recognizing growth opportunities and capitalizing on them. For instance, if a grocery store is using web ordering, they can be upgraded to a mobile ordering app. If the grocery store would like to include delivery or SMS notifications, these can be added on as plug-ins to the app.

The intimate rapport that customer success agents have with their customers gives them insight into the many problems these customers face. They can then help their customers find the right solutions. More importantly, their awareness of how a customer's establishment is performing and the availability of financial resources means they can choose the right time to propose the upsell and cross-sell options. 

When a customer is satisfied with the product or service they have purchased they are highly likely to recommend the company to others. Referrals are low-cost and smooth sales opportunities. Business people trust testimonials and are already partial towards the company they are approaching. Thus, the sales team does not need to expend as much effort in making a pitch. Since it is the potential customer that approaches the company, there is no need for the sales team to do any chasing.

The five key areas of renewal, reselling, upselling, cross-selling and referrals all facilitate exponential revenue growth for a company. Through each of these, the customer success team encourages customers to increase their current spending. Therefore, the efforts of the customer success team in these areas multiply the existing income being brought in by the customer.

Success for all

By striving to ensure the success of their customers, the customer success team automatically propels the success of their own company. At a very basic level, retaining the patronage of a customer secures a consistent income. Above and beyond that, each time an officer of the team sells a new upgrade or product to their customer, they open up a new revenue channel. In other words, simply executing its duties makes the customer success department another revenue center in an organization. end of article

Duleepa Karunaratne brings more than 13 years of experience in project management, SAAS product management and customer success. Currently, as Applova's product manager, he plays the leadership role in the company’s product strategic partnerships and customer success. For more information on Applova, visit https://applova.io. Contact Duleepa via email at duleepa@applova.io or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/duleepa-karunaratne-77554834.

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