Why Focusing on Satisfying Customers Won’t Maintain Satisfaction
Aoife Sheridan, Head of Customer Success, Version 1
Focusing on satisfying customers won’t maintain world-class Customer Satisfaction and develop lifelong Customer Journeys…but focusing on Customer Success will.
To explain, I’ll look back 18 months to the beginning of our organisation’s Customer Success journey. We were becoming conscious of the fact that Version 1’s success could become our biggest challenge – namely our rapid growth driven by our commitment since 2013 to grow 30% year-on-year. As many enterprise-scale organisations will concur, hitting critical mass of customers and scaling rapidly can put you at risk of losing the spark that makes your company who you are at heart.
As many enterprise-scale organisations will concur, hitting critical mass of customers and scaling rapidly can put you at risk of losing the spark that makes your company who you are at heart.
Since inception in 1996, Version 1 has grown from 5 employees with an annual turnover of €300K to a 1,200-strong workforce with revenues of €120M in 2018. It is fair to call this genuinely incredible growth. However, we were cautious as we continued to expand our customer-base across the UK and Ireland, guided by our newly appointed CEO Tom O’Connor’s vision to ‘Preserve Our Core and Stimulate Progress’.
Preserving the Core meant that lots of things wouldn’t change – our Core Values, our Mission, our relentless focus on Customer Satisfaction and Employee Empowerment, but stimulating progress meant that we were always aiming to improve on our previous successes.
If we were to maintain our close relationships and Customer Satisfaction scores as we grew rapidly, we would need to capture what made Version 1 special to a smaller number of customers and apply these principles at a much broader scale. We looked at the underlying reasons that customers always partnered with us and our feedback from years of quarterly customer surveys – and time and time again it was our focus on Customer First, Excellence and ‘going the extra mile’ that were called out by customers. How would we reassure ourselves, our people and our customers that this unique reputation for close relationships wouldn’t get lost in our growth?
A Shift in Mindset
We came to the realisation that focusing on satisfying customers wouldn’t maintain our world-class Customer Satisfaction, because focusing on ‘satisfying’ didn’t get us to where we are today with our customer relationships. ‘Going the extra mile’ and focusing on their success won these life-long relationships and our world-class Customer Satisfaction scores. To aim to ‘satisfy’ our customers is to meet their needs, but to go the extra mile to help them succeed delights them. With this realisation, our questions were answered, and our mindset shifted.
We made the decision to commit 100% to Customer Success and announced our new vision:
To Be World Leaders in Customer Success By 2021.
This started with recognising the key difference between Customer Satisfaction and Customer Success and understanding how to stimulate growth while preserving our core.
To make this happen, we needed to grow and structure a new team dedicated to delighting our customers and enabling their success – at scale. I was tasked with taking the reigns as the Head of Customer Success to champion that vision and to continue advancing the organisational change that being a world leader in Customer Success would demand.
The 3 E’s Methodology
We set out our Customer Charter – our commitment to our Customers to deliver the highest quality service and support with a relentless focus on business benefits. Our Customer Success strategy is based on the 3’E’s methodology:
Easy to do Business with, Effective in everything we do and Empathetic towards our Customers.
Over and above the three E’s, we committed to delivering value-add and innovation. We sanity-checked our strategy with the people that count the most – a subset of Customers – to make sure it made sense to them. They said, “Bring it on!” and we established an empowered Customer Success Team – a dedicated army of experienced consultants, inherently wired to drive Customer Success, upholding our Core Values of Honesty & Integrity, Excellence and Customer First.
Their mission is not to satisfy the customers’ requests to receive a ‘good’ Customer Satisfaction score. Their mission is to encompass the greater goal of making a real difference to the customer’s business and the strategic focus of their objectives is to deliver tangible value-add. Our belief is by relentlessly focusing on making a real difference, the ‘great’ Customer Satisfaction Scores will follow.
The road to advancing organisational change had several aspects to consider as any significant change at Version 1 must take into account our balanced operational model. For the past 20 years we have worked hard to deliver on three commitments; making a real difference for our customers, building an empowering culture and growing a strong organisation for the future. Those looking for a short-term result or an easier road might sacrifice one benefit for another, but at Version 1 we never have, and never will. We know that our greatest strength is balance across all three; our customers, people and company. This is The Version 1 Difference.
In Customer Success, there is no sales playbook…
With advancing a cross-organisational shift in mindset, we had to take into account how shifting more focus to one particular area could potentially impact another. In Customer Success, there is no sales playbook. Instead we are armed with a very transparent Customer Charter – which guarantees to our customers that we will commit to making a real, tangible and measurable difference to their business, and our belief that by doing so, our employees will feel happy and empowered.
Happiness has a domino effect, and we had to start with our employees – to ensure they were empowered, informed and prepared for action. We realised early on that setting up a Customer Success team without embedding true organisational change would be a very expensive failure. We rolled out a series of organisational change waves to ensure a Customer Success philosophy was woven into the fabric of the broader organisation. Over 650 Version 1 employees took part in Customer Success workshops.
What does this type of change look like so far across the three side of our triangle? Below is a sample where a customer was at risk of becoming unhappy in Q1 of 2018 – and a Customer Success team engaged with the customer to deliver agreed and tangible business benefits and as a result the satisfaction of this major customer rose rapidly over the coming months, in tandem with growth in revenue on the account.
Our operational model is all about strength in balance, and we see this is true for our Customer Success Efforts. As you can see above, where Customer Satisfaction dips – employee satisfaction dips. Over the quarter, the happiness of the customer increased, and the happiness of our consultants followed suit – or visa-versa.
They remained inextricably linked into the last quarter, both rising together to achieve maximum Customer Satisfaction and world-class employee engagement scores. The efforts of our Customer Success team were undeniable across our data over the past 18 months – and the strong relation between engaged and empowered employees and happy customers – the domino effect of happiness – was self-evident.
A Vision For Success
What is next for our vision to be world leaders in Customer Success? Well, we continue to bring waves of organisational changes to our people and continue to tie our objectives with customers to our long-standing mission of making a real difference to our customers’ businesses.
Our focus moving towards 2021 will be about continuing to empower our employees who in turn will not satisfy but delight our customers by driving their successes.
In conclusion, taking into account the hundreds of customer surveys, the 650+ Version 1 workshop attendees, the thousands of data points studied and the hundreds of real differences made to our customers’ businesses, we have come to the firm conclusion that focusing on simply satisfying customers will never lead to maintaining our world-class Customer Satisfaction scores and lifelong relationships going forward, but focusing on Customer Success will.
About Version 1
Version 1 is proudly shortlisted for The Inaugural Irish CX Impact Awards which are coming up on the 21st of November. Version 1’s vast expertise in outstanding Customer Experience has been recognised in the category for the Customer Experience Impact in Business IT & Technology Award.
Learn more about Version 1, Our Difference, and our Customer Success Stories below: