Creating a Strong Customer Success Culture
It has been a little over 6 months since I joined Seal Software with responsibility for Customer Success. Before I joined Seal, I had already figured out the company had great technology, a great leadership team and a strong vision for where the company was heading. What I was not sure about was how strong the Customer Success culture would be.
What I found was an organization that was passionate about customers and helping them to be successful and an incredible “can do” attitude across the whole organization. The leadership team led from the front and if a customer was struggling with deployment or adoption they were incredibly energetic and creative in finding ways to help and recover the situation. That’s awesome I hear you say - time to put my feet up and enjoy my new role?
When a company is growing 100% year over year, like Seal, you need to build the right foundations for Customer Success throughout the organization. You need to set customers up for success from the outset and make sure you have sufficient touch points and early warning systems in place to catch and resolve issues long before they develop and put the product renewal at risk. In truth, Seal was fantastic at dealing with issues when they arose but we were not as good as we needed to be at preventing issues from developing in the first place. As a young fast growing organization, there are only so many diving catches you can make. You also must make sure you are very good at the day to day blocking and tackling.
Seal Software provides true enterprise software to our customers that enables them to discover their content and develop a rich understanding of what is contained within the content using amazing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies. It is incredibly powerful technology, but it is not plug and play technology. It needs to be implemented in a thoughtful way if it is to deliver the value the customer is looking for. The first, and probably the most important area we looked to improve our Customer Success DNA was understanding very early in the sales process what our prospective customer’s goals were. This sounds simple, but in my experience this is not the case. Taking the time to really listen to customers and truly understand what their pain is and what their goals are is a real skill. It is also important during this activity that we educate our customers in the “art of the possible” and make sure their goals are realistic and achievable.
Once you truly understand a customer’s goals the next challenge is to ensure everything is in place to deliver the value the customer is looking to realize. The customer needs to buy the right technology and they need an implementation plan, approach and team that will deliver the results they are looking for. Again, this sounds very simple, but many IT projects fail because they are not set up for success at the outset. In my experience, if a project starts on the wrong path it is very hard to correct course once underway. At Seal, we are working hard to truly understand our customer’s goals and professionally scope out the required work and document this in a clear Statement of Work. When the project starts, we ensure all the team members who will work on the project fully understand the customer’s goals and what success looks like from the customer’s perspective.
Once the project is underway we look for regular touch points with our customers to ensure the implementation project is on track and we are delivering as expected. We have also implemented an Executive Sponsor Program where a senior member of our leadership team takes a personal interest in each strategic deployment we undertake. The goal is to help our project teams to overcome obstacles in a timely manner and to spot problems early and deal with them long before they become major issues. The changes we are making in this area are not only helping us to avoid major issues they are also helping us to develop much stronger long term relationships with our customers. One aspect of this is making sure we transfer skills to internal resources during the implementation project to enable our customers to be self-sufficient where possible and to be strong internal advocates for Seal.
Our goal is to continue to stay close to our customers well past the deployment phase of the project and be a true long-term business partner. We have put in place a team of highly skilled Customer Success Managers who stay close to the customers throughout their journey with us. The goal of this team is to understand our customer’s ever changing business needs and make sure they continue to realize great value from their investment in Seal technology.
The changes we have made are helping us to establish Customer Success as a key part of Seal’s DNA and our culture. By putting in place a strong customer success organization with solid business processes we are consistently delivering great results to our customers and as a byproduct we are also ensuring a very high renewal rate. It has been a great first six months, but the team and I are excited to raise the bar even higher as we move forward.