With a continuously expanding range of solutions in today’s digital age, leading cloud service and software providers face a real challenge to be “everything to everyone” across their broad customer bases. The fact that those customers are located all over the world, have different organizational structures, are subject to different regulations, and measure success differently make this matter even more complex. Longevity of tenure with a particular client, rather than inspiring loyalty, can breed contempt if you aren’t constantly providing the right global customer success experience.
This stark reality begs the question: How do you balance an efficient and globally-focused customer success operation with top-tier specialized local delivery in each of the different regions you serve? How do you think globally, but act locally?
Over the course of our nearly two decades helping the world’s leading companies build better customer relationships, we’ve found an answer. It follows a simple equation comprised of three equally important elements: People, Processes, and Platform.
The Human Connection
A global customer success strategy has no chance of making an impact unless you have the right people to execute it. For most organizations, this typically requires setting up delivery centers within the same geographies they play in. Why? Well, a few reasons.
- While an unfortunate reality, it has been proven that people feel more comfortable and more responsive to those who speak their own language and have similar accents. This may not be a concern if you exclusively interact with your customers on digital channels such as email, chat, and social media. But if you speak with them, it is something that will impact your customers’ immediate perception of your company.
- Wide variations in cultural business norms around the world can be difficult to adapt to for those outside of the region.
- Your enterprise needs a strong pool of potential employees to draw from.
This last point is important. You need a large potential employee base so that you can select those individuals with the right mix of customer and sales skills, as well as language proficiency and cultural affinity. A small pool could result in the over-prioritization of language skills, which will no doubt set you up for failure.
While emphasis on artificial intelligence and technological platforms increases by the day, the human connection is still an important element of any effective customer success formula. Finding the right people to connect with your customers around the world will go a long way in creating better customer relationships.
Process Makes Perfect
Building local delivery centers is both time and cost-intensive, but the next step is the real challenge: seamlessly integrating all of those regional teams together within one global customer success organization. Each area will of course have its own local variations in delivery practices, but it’s important that everyone remains aligned around a core set of values to ensure the best service for all customers around the world.
Your customer success department should never operate under a “not invented here,” egotistical mentality. Each region should be stealing innovations from the others and constantly striving to improve their own delivery.
For instance, ServiceSource recently encountered a challenge while executing a customer success strategy on behalf of a major multinational cloud subscription company. The operational delivery spanned Germany and the Nordic region, both of which view this business model quite differently from each other. German customers have proven to be relatively hesitant accepting cloud subscriptions and are still in an infancy adoption phase, whereas the Nordic population has been well-acquainted with this model for several years now. This divide complicates not only the execution of a broadly-aligned customer success strategy, but performance reporting as well.
Recognizing the realities of these geographical and cultural differences, our account team leaders in both regions have very clear and open lines of communications, sharing learnings and best practices on a regular basis to increase customer adoption and retention. We’ve also taken steps to standardize for this specific client what metrics can be reported on a global scale, while identifying the measurements that must be understood within a deeper regional context. In this example, process has promoted a culture of continuous improvement and helped our teams achieve the best possible outcomes around the world for this client and their customers.
Another common difficulty that comes with building a global customer success operation is the lack of agility to change. Large enterprises can be great at defining processes – however, it’s difficult to accept that from the day they are defined, those processes are at constant risk of breaking down or no longer fulfilling the needs they were designed to meet. When it comes to your customer relationships, it’s crucial to develop a sound framework that insulates your business from that risk. We’ve identified a few steps that will help build a solid, but flexible, base:
- You are what you measure, so use data and metrics – not just “gut feel” or proxy measures. Redefine your goal periodically based on these measures and never trust just one or two metrics to show you the true picture of what’s going on.
- Define your goals and what true customer success will look like from the very beginning – this step is important to creating a roadmap that will guide you in the future.
- Identify the types of conversations and interactions you need and want to have with your customers (along with how often those conversations should be happening). This will avoid any miscommunication and ensure all parties are aligned and consistently focused on achieving the correct performance targets.
- Hold regular collaborative meetings with your teams around the globe to recap recent customer outcomes and share local insights that may be beneficial for others within the global operation and delivery team.
While no set of processes will ever be perfect, this list will help get your operation started. Over time, you can refine processes around these guidelines based on what works best for your business and customers. Additionally, it’s important to note that today’s right journey isn’t tomorrow’s. Keep a sharp eye on what is happening within your industry and business, adjacent sectors, and your customer base – be prepared to move quickly and never hesitate to adapt when necessary.
The Tech to Bring it All Together
Identifying and establishing the right people and processes is certainly a start, but they’ll mean nothing without the final element: the platform. Without this underpinning technological engine of growth, your strategy will no doubt fall apart.
What should every successful platform include?
- Consistency of the deployed technology across all regions, which increases returns and reduces effort.
- Technology that gives those on the front-line, sales reps and managers alike, the tools they need. Reps should be able to focus on their daily tasks without having to worry about needless administration. Managers should be able to simply visualize their team’s performance, identifying star performers and their behaviors, without needing to endlessly reformat reports and dashboards for senior managers.
- A customer-driven data strategy. By focusing on the correct metrics and tracking them over time, you’ll be able to highlight important patterns that you can use to help predict regional and global customer performance.
- Similar to processes, data can be localized to a specific region, but should also be interpreted within a global context that will provide valuable insights to the rest of the operations around the world.
You might use an off-the-shelf solution to accomplish this for you, but you may wish to be mindful of hidden integration, training, and licensing costs. At ServiceSource, our clients benefit from our proprietary custom-built technology platform, PRISM. This tool ingests millions of data points taken from two decades of client relationships to give our customer success managers the insights they need to predict, manage, and improve customer outcomes.
As businesses continue to extend their presence around the globe, they need to strongly consider how to implement a customer-centric business model that retains existing business and drives revenue for years to come. Learn how ServiceSource’s Customer Success solution does exactly that, and follow us on LinkedIn to stay up to date on all of our latest industry insights.