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9 November 2021

4 Industry Experts Share 8 Best Practices For Impactful Customer Lifecycle Optimization

by Rida Ahmed Reading time: 8 mins
customer lifecycle optimization

Are Your Cross-Functional Team Truly United Around Your Customers?

While many SaaS enterprises are striving to be customer-centric, many are struggling to unite siloed internal departments that are focused on their own goals, rather than those of their customers. Sound familiar? If you agree with the 70% of customers that believe that companies should collaborate on their behalf to create a smooth and seamless journey across the organization, you’re on the right track to growth (Zendesk, 2020). In fact, companies that successfully foster a culture of customer-centricity are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t (Deloitte, 2014). 

To truly establish this customer-centric approach, you must unite your teams to create a cross-functional relationship that is based solely on understanding and delivering on the customers’ needs. It takes a customer lifecycle optimization and an empowered team to effectively design processes that increase customers’ success at every stage of their journey.

Without a doubt, driving a successful end-to-end customer lifecycle optimization of this stature is no small feat for an enterprise organization. To help you rally your organization and level up your customer lifecycle, we spoke with 4 value visionaries from Splunk, MetaCX, Databricks and Valuize. In this article, they answer your burning questions about how today’s enterprise leaders can drive a successful end-to-end customer lifecycle transformation and master shared value realization. 

Q: How much time and budget should a revenue organization dedicate to innovation and transformation?

“That’s a tricky question. The short answer is, it depends. In my experience, somewhere between 6-8% of budget resources should be dedicated to the future,” shares Jake Sorofman, former President at MetaCX and current Chief Marketing Officer at Visier Inc. “You don’t want transformation to be a distraction from your current state, but you can’t punt on what’s coming next either. So, having someone on your team who’s thinking and acting on these changes and making an incremental investment in that every year is really important to unlock the potential of what’s next for your organization.”

Q: How did you get your Sales team to embrace the Customer Success team?

“From a Customer Success perspective, one of the challenges you will face  is rarely having your CS organization get a seat at the table with the Sales organization,” Kevin says. “You need to consider the fact that for the last 6 months of this opportunity, the Sales team and their Sales Engineer (SE) have been riding shotgun together and engaging with the customer. They are a duo and the Sales team trusts their SE. You need to ensure that Customer Success becomes a part of that journey. We really encourage our CS teams to engage with the Sales organization, listen and learn from them, and talk about their customers openly and often. At the end of the day, establishing a strong partnership between CS and Sales is all about building trust and relationships. ” 

“When both organizations share the same goals, that helps immensely,” shares Doug. “If your CS team is focused solely on profitability of the PS line of business and not on adoption or usage growth rates, then you’ve got a problem. Executive measurement is really important here as it’s vital that both teams share the same goals. In the same vein, it also helps when they all tree up to the same C-level executive, who ideally is not theCEO. If you’ve got a President of Worldwide Field Operations, it’s much easier to get alignment between the organizations. On the ground level, another way you get the focus and attention of Sales and CS is aligning your compensation for Sales teams around doing the right thing for the customer. You’ve got to ensure that your compensation plan encourages them to be engaged and focused on the health of the customer, as well as the usage and consumption of your solution or products, not just the initial sale.”

Q: We’re predominantly on-prem software, but are moving towards cloud-based offerings. Should we complete the move to cloud first before looking at improving our Sales and Post-Sales handoff?

“You should plan your customer lifecycle optimization in parallel with your technology offering transformation,” counsels Ross Fulton, Founder and CEO of Valuize. “Ensure that as you go-to-market with your cloud offerings, and adopt a recurring subscription model for the first time, that you have the optimum customer lifecycle design already in place. You’ve got to start this transformation now, and your cloud transformation provides that perfect crawl approach to build your ideal lifecycle. Start by applying your optimization plan to the 10% or so of your customer base that’s currently on the cloud and then slowly apply it to the rest of your business. If you’re  currently in the transformation process, you have a great opportunity to start with your customer lifecycle optimization plan and allow your on-prem and Perpetual Revenue Model to continue to tick along; from there, you can slowly extend the transformation until it encompasses your entire customer base.”

Q: When getting Customer Success engaged earlier in the Sales cycle, do you have to train your Customer Success Managers (CSMs) differently to be able to have those conversations?

According to Splunk’s former Vice President of Global CSM and Renewals and Valuize’s current Industry Principal, Kevin Meeks, “You have to get your Customer Success team thinking in terms of outcomes and value, not just product deployment. At Splunk, we spent a lot of time with persona-based training and the art of this conversation, including how to engage with the customer and how to extract their desired outcomes and metrics. If you don’t do it right, your customers may end up feeling like it’s more of an interrogation than a conversation. We also invested in executive presence training for our CSMs. Typically, CS organizations are very technical and sometimes lack the experience of sitting in front of executives to talk about value, business and outcomes. So, we invested  time and money in getting a 3rd party team to help educate our CSMs on how to sit in front of executives and have that conversation effectively.”

“We’ve seen the same thing on the value side,” shares Doug May, VP, Global Value Acceleration at Databricks. “One of the first sessions I was tasked with when I got to Databricks was to teach our Customer Success Engineers to. These are very technical people, but they’re also a bit intimidated about trying to connect the data and AI platform to a customer, reducing churn or growing revenue when they know the product so well. So, we taught them the lingo and how to engage in those conversations. It’s really important to invest some time there.”

Q: How can I get my leadership team to buy into our customer lifecycle optimization?

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to distill this down to dollars,” advises Ross. “Fundamentally, the way we showcase and measure impact is top line and bottom line valuation. In collaboration with your company’s leadership team, you need to understand; where are we at today with our core economic metrics? Where do we want to go? Where do we think we can be? I’d begin by doing a level set and current state analysis, either with an external partner or internally as an organization. That analysis is critical to building the business case for your customer lifecycle optimization. Simply stating that it’s the right thing to do for your customers is not enough to garner your company’s investment in this transformation; you need to tie this powerful initiative to an equally profound economic business case.” 

According to Jake, “Pick your business priority and use that as the benchmark  to launch this initiative. Then, set some baseline goals that prove that you can have an impact on this metric.”

Connect Your Teams Around Customer Value Creation

Leading a customer lifecycle transformation requires a unified view of your customer and a holistic understanding of their journey across your organization. Only when you’ve aligned your cross-functional teams around the customer lifecycle can you deliver a seamless customer experience that ensures optimal value realization for both your business and your customers. 

In this data-driven landscape, creating a frictionless customer experience depends on your ability to effectively collect and analyze the vast amounts of data at your fingertips. Master the data science of Customer Success by following these 4 steps to successfully leverage data for deeper customer insights.

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Rida Ahmed

Rida is Valuize's Content Specialist. With a multi-channel marketing approach, Rida works to share Valuize's story as well as that of its team, clients and partners.