Thanks for joining me on the final leg of the Ingram Micro CX Express, our special multicast series on Customer Success, with a focus on Cisco. It has been quite a journey as we have looked at Customer Success from various lenses and have learned a great deal along the way.
I am joined today by my colleague Anna Graczyk, Cisco Services Renewal Specialist, here at Ingram Micro. In her role, Anna manages Cisco Services that drive renewal and attach rates, providing enablement for Ingram Micro customers. Her primary objective is helping Ingram Micro business partners achieve their goals, with the prospect of signing a renewal. Moreover, as a Certified Customer Success Manager, she identifies the added advantage of “uncovering additional upsell or cross-sell [opportunities] along the customer success journey.”
To avoid gaps in the renewal process, Anna stresses the need to illustrate the importance of the invested solution to our partners. This illustration is part of the relationship-building that goes beyond the monetary value of the purchase and moves to ensuring a full cycle without interruption to the product.
Securing Product Renewal
As more technology companies move to the recurring revenue structure through the subscription model, the bulk of the manufacturer’s revenue will come after the initial sale. For a customer to renew a subscription, there must be a perceived value in the product, which means manufacturers must put significant effort into guaranteeing that users understand the value they are getting from their solutions. This effort is to safeguard customer loyalty or ‘stickiness’ regardless of whether the customer is B2B or B2C.
As discussed in some of my previous interviews, it is essential that before the initial meeting with the customer, the CSM gains insights into the company and the industry in which it operates. Anna proposes looking at industry trends, the technology focus of the company, its business model, roles within the organization, and how management plans to utilize the product or solution. One great source of company information is its business reports, where one can find details on corporate strategy, market projections, and prospective verticals.
Engagement Best Practices
As a specialist in Customer Success, Anna’s approach is to “identify gaps or obstacles along the way” to determine the best fit for the customer’s needs. She emphasizes that CSMs should make “sure [they] validate [their] discovery as plans can change along the way, particularly when dealing with barriers…to align with customer objectives.” A SWOT analysis is also useful and can help to identify current gaps and opportunities for the customer to consider. Doing all this leg work is a good indicator of the value the CSM brings to the customer.
As Anna adds, the SWOT “helps customers see their strengths and weaknesses on paper – so they can visualize their market position.” Sitting down to do this exercise with the customer enables greater collaboration and makes it easier to develop a plan and make quick revisions as needed. One of my favourite tools is the Business Model Canvas, which presents information on key customers, partners, revenue streams, and supply chains. The CSMs can use the Canvas to tailor their message to customers on how they can help them achieve their business objectives. As there can be several key stakeholders, the engagement tactic may be dependent on the stakeholder’s role.
As the engagement tactic varies, Anna suggests following the RACI model – Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed – to “determine which stakeholder falls within each element of the model.” For example, she notes that one employee may be responsible for product implementation, but another employee is accountable for its full implementation. A best practice is to have a different strategy for each stakeholder group or individual stakeholder.
To further ensure success for the customer, it is good practice to follow up with the customer to determine if the product was deployed correctly is being utilized effectively. Anna’s preferred tool is the Feature Matrix, which is a graph that allows the CSM to document specific features of the solution and to determine if they are being used.
Because a customer may not have all the employees with the skillset to fully understand all aspects of a solution, the role of the CSM is facilitating the adoption process, which could come in the form of training. Remember, the goal here is to have the solution fully up and running with maximum utilization. When the customer achieves the maximum use of the product, they simultaneously realize the value of the product.
We are used to companies doing yearly planning, but the CSM has to be more engaged than tradition dictates. Anna proposes quarterly success reviews to stay engaged with customers, visualize the product roadmap, the product objectives, and to determine where in the Customer Success journey the customer is. The analysis may also discover existing barriers and proposed solutions for those barriers and the new stakeholders with which to engage. This enablement tactic can further the conversation with the customer as they see the moving parts coming together.
Staying engaged is imperative: it is not sufficient to begin a Customer Success plan and then hold off for an entire year before reconnecting with the customer. A regular cadence will demonstrate the ongoing value that the customer is deriving from the solution. The quarterly success review helps the CSM to manage the business relationship, taking out any barriers in real-time along the way.
Continuous engagement allows the CSM to seize opportunities for customer feedback in the form of testimonials and use cases. The customer, in turn, can move its business forward, having gotten the care and attention it deserves, which is part of the value that comes with the business relationship. The idea here is to make the customer happy. A happy customer leads to opportunities for renewal, expansion, and new product purchases.
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