'Our clients are our ambassadors'
What did the work of our Customer Success Team teach us about our clients and our own platform? We interviewed our Head of Customer Success, Nicole Donker, about her work and her team's own successes – and failures.
Isn't Customer Success Manager just a fancy new name for an account manager?
'They are somewhat similar, but no. Traditional account managers are generally only temporarily responsible for specific accounts. The hands-on relationship often ends when the product is sold. The customer's success should then follow from the product itself, but with SaaS it's not the product but how you use it that determines your level of success. With SaaS it's much more important to make sure your clients are as successful as possible, so that they will keep renewing their licenses.'
When I google for the differences, I mostly come across the distinction between being reactive and proactive.
'Sure, that's exactly why our Customer Success Team was formed in 2015. Up until that moment, the sales department was also responsible for contract renewal. We were working really reactively back then and were basically just solving supporttickets and answering questions. Now we really want to be a proactive partner who makes sure the client gets the most out of the platform; a solid basis for building a trusting relationship.'
How do you go about that exactly?
'We started by acquiring a SaaS solution called ClientSuccess to help simplify and perfect our workflow. It contains entries for all of our clients with regularly scheduled contact moments for the duration of their licenses. So now we get automatic notifications when evaluation meetings are due and are reminded to provide our clients with practical tips and inspiring content. It's a much more efficient and structured method for building and maintaining relationships with our clients.'
But who decides what that cycle looks like? Are we talking about standardized ClientSuccess schedules or do you come up with them yourself?
'It's really a combination of both. ClientSuccess has a lot of suggestions to offer based on other users' experiences, which is exactly what our clients are curious about, so that works out well. But we also ask our clients and ourselves how many and what kind of touchpoints we need to schedule. Preferences vary among our client base as well of course, so there's no standard cycle, they're all customized.'
Your customer succes team setup is crucial to deliver customer success at scale.
When did you start managing Customer Success this way?
'Our Customer Success Team has been up and running for over a year now. We started working with ClientSuccess about half way through. We now have precise and detailed insights into how satisfied our clients are, on average and individually. The software helps us identify risks so we know when there’s a chance of losing a specific client.’
And when that happens, what do you do?
'First, we make sure we enter the reasons for the possible cancellation, so we can keep excellent track of our risk factors. Fortunately we have a very low churn rate, and recent examples show a lot of external risk factors, like IT companies having trouble understanding why our clients had their news environment developed separately. What this tells us is that we need to step up our communications efforts even more. If clients really consider us as partners, they will act accordingly and campaign for continuation of our partnership.'
How successful are you in managing high risk cases?
'What's paradoxical is that we've actually had more clients leave since we started actively engaging in Customer Success Management. We make the newsroom a top-of-mind concern for our clients which is exactly the point, but it also causes them to reconsider their license in cases where they would otherwise maybe forget about the newsroom if it's not actively maintained. The good news of course is that we're now left with more and more clients who are really engaged and are able and willing to act as ambassadors for our platform.'
On average, would you say clients need little or a lot of guidance?
'PR professionals usually know very well how to write articles and contact journalists, but the newsroom is a piece of technology they can often use some help with. The newsroom is designed for optimal ease of use, but we can and want to help users get the most out of it and optimize their workflow.'
Do you also proactively browse client newsrooms to see if there is room for improvement?
'Yes we do, though not yet as vigorously as we would like. Thanks to the recent investment in the company, we'll be able to hire more people in 2017 and step up our efforts to actively watch over clients' shoulders and provide our partners with feedback and advice.'
PressPage provides a SaaS PR platform with additional services for creation of advanced social newsrooms, virtual press centers and online media hubs. It enables brands to publish and distribute rich content, and provides direct insights into the results. PressPage empowers PR professionals by adding efficiency and effectiveness to their daily work routine.