Customer Success has been one of the biggest topics in the software world (specifically SaaS) for many years now. Powered by web 2.0 and social media, SaaS companies have come to understand the need to put their customers first. Making sure their customers had a great experience with their software and apps became essential to their business. Because of this, customer care agents and customer success departments were launched, and had one objective: create happy customers that come back and purchase more.
Well, that sounds important enough, doesn’t it? It also sounds like something that should be important to any business, not just those software geeks, right?
The truth is, most retail businesses struggle to adapt to their changing environments. Giants like Target and American Apparel have a hard time competing with the likes of Amazon and eBay. The threat from their internet competitors seems to create hurdles for them that they can barely overcome. The fast pace and the extremely high focus on the customers’ needs and requirements, plus the ability to go the extra mile and be there at all times, takes a bit more effort than just having a web site with an online shop. As a matter of fact, I saw an online department store in Germany the other day that promoted the 24-hour availability…Really? If that is the biggest selling argument for their online store, they are absolutely in trouble.
Change of scenery: Before leaving for Germany, I was walking through New York with my mom who was visiting from Europe, when we walked into an Apple store. Once again, a friend in Europe asked me to bring him something. Well, being the good guy that I am, this is what I did.
So into the Apple store we went. I would think that most people have become numb to that experience by now, since those stores are everywhere. At least it feels that way. Not quite at a Starbucks rate yet, but close.
Upon entering the store, I recognized that my mom was amazed by what she saw. All those red shirts (the color of the day, I guess) the Apple employees were wearing. The speed at which we were able to tell the girl helping us what we wanted, the questions she asked, the services she offered, and the fact that barely 10 minutes later we were leaving the store was almost beyond her comprehension. My mother started asking questions…
Why do they have so, so many people on their floor?
So, that people like us are being serviced as fast as possible. No matter what it is that you are looking for. Be it a new device, accessories or help setting up their device or getting it repaired – right away of course.
Really? So you can come here with a problem and they fix it right away?
Yes, more or less. You most likely will have to make an appointment for the day or in advance (online), but in a nutshell, that’s how it works.
So you don’t have to send it in and then wait for weeks until you get it back? It is at worst 1-2 days until your device is fixed?
Why doesn’t every manufacturer offer that? It is great service? Even I would trust myself to manage that without help.
Yes, and that is the idea. They want to make sure that you have a one-stop shop for all your needs. This, other than their product design and functionality, is the biggest reason why they at one point became the world’s most valuable company.
Watching my mom go through this experience and seeing how amazed she was by it, told me (again) that Apple might be the pioneer in bringing customer success management to the retail business.
Based on that example, there is no way why it wouldn’t be possible to apply the CS principle to any market. Here are some crucial points that drive a successful implementation of Customer Success in your company:
- Put your customers / user at the center of all your activities. Seriously: ALL your processes must be geared towards making your customers happy with their purchase and all sub sequential interactions and experiences with your product, brand and company as a whole. If you think it through, this is a big statement!
- Know your customers. Knowing what makes your customers successful makes it very important, that you know who they are. Collecting information about demographics and general behavior is crucial. Asking for this data and for general feedback will become an important piece of constantly improving the quality of your services.
- What is their desired outcome? One important part about getting to know your customers is the question: Why do you buy my product? What are you trying to do with it? What is your goal? Granted, those are three questions, but they are all aimed at the same data point that you need to get: Does your product or service help your customers fulfill the task that made them come to you in the first place?
- Open and bi-directional communications. Communicate and interact with your customers. When done authentically, they will provide you with all the insights needed to convert them into loyal customers and fans. Creating this relationship with your users will even give you some additional leeway should issues arise.
- Data rules. Collect, analyze, and utilize data. Be honest (non-leading) when phrasing your questions and respect where the data leads you. It won’t always be comfortable and it may need several iterations of testing the results in different settings or conditions. But, if you have done the work right and adhered to the general scientific principles, you will have a good guide for the data you are collecting.
What experiences have you had? Any tips and tricks that we can learn from? Please share your questions or insight with us in the comment section.
The next step will be hiring the right customer success leaders and managers.
Do you have questions? Book a free consulting session!
Thank you, Maurice
4 thoughts on “Is Customer Success only for SaaS companies, or can it be utilized by retail stores as well?”
Interesting concept, applying a customer success model to the retail industry. I like how the author clearly laid out his experience at Apple and how customer success principles can in fact be applied outside of traditional SaaS model.
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