Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Baseball is “America’s favorite pastime”. I offer no apologies to those who believe baseball is too slow, too boring, or too long and requires a clock like football and basketball to move it along. There is something wonderful about a game that ends when it’s over and not when a clock runs out of time. The pitcher and catcher relationship in baseball is iconic. They rely on each other to make the team successful. Pitchers are seen as more glamorous than catchers. Watching a pitcher’s windup is analogous to watching a grand slam tennis player’s graceful serve. The pitcher is the only player on the team that is credited with wins and assigned losses. In contrast, the catcher is on their knees catching pitches, calling pitches and fielding. Not very glamorous. However, if the catcher fails, the pitcher fails. When the pitcher fails, the team suffers and may also fail.
To pitch a “perfect game”, the pitcher and the catcher must be aligned and playing at their highest level!
Customer success and customer service are like pitchers and catchers. Both are critically important to a business, and they need to work together to help the customer succeed.
Customer service is responsible for ensuring that a customer’s requirements are met after the sale of the product is made. If the product is manufacturing equipment, this starts with delivery, installation information and logistics. Follow-on responsibilities include, but are not limited to, equipment installation, responding to customer inquiries, processing quotes and purchase orders for parts and service, purchase order expedites, material return authorization, technical support, operator and maintenance training, scheduling, and delivering preventative maintenance, troubleshooting and onsite repair.
Customer success supports the customer by aligning with their business goals to help them advance within their industry. Customer success is responsible for working with the customer to ensure that the equipment they purchased helps them to meet or exceed their business goals and objectives. This happens by investing time with the customer to better understand how their operation runs, the role the equipment plays in their operation, and by working with the customer to teach them industry best practices and capabilities. Typical deliverables include higher production yield, less waste and efficient use of resources.
“Customer success and customer service are like pitchers and catchers. Both are critically important to a business, and they need to work together to help the customer succeed.”
How Customer Service prepares the way for the Customer Success Team
Before the customer success team will have the full attention of the customer, the equipment must be fully operational, and the customer must be satisfied that there are no impediments to their operation. Unplanned equipment down time, operator training issues, spares or consumable parts shortages, technical issues, quality issues and equipment performance issues, just to name a few, are distractions that will impede the customer’s ability to give the customer success team their undivided attention. It is the role of the customer service team to proactively address issues like these.
Many issues can be proactively avoided by how your company onboards a new customer. A well-defined, customer-centric, onboarding process goes a long way toward minimizing customer dissatisfaction and frustration.
An onboarding process may include:
1. An introduction to the customer service and customer support teams, specifically those individuals that will be servicing their account.
2. An online “Getting Started Guide” which includes available resources and how to access them.
3. A review of the warranty entitlements and the different service contract offerings.
4. A review of how to find part information and the different purchase channel options available.
5. Thorough operator and maintenance training.
The prerequisite for customer service and customer success to create value for the customer is to understand what they want and expect. This begins with surveying the customer and creating, analyzing, and acting on customer journey maps, seeing the total customer experience through the eyes of the customer, and not just through touchpoints with your company. Understanding the customer’s total experience and their goals and objectives is essential to optimize and enable the full potential of the equipment they’ve purchased from your company.
Understanding and acting on the customer journey is the start of making the customer more profitable and successful in their marketplace. Without this insight the customer success and customer service teams are working blind. Surveys, especially voice of the customer (VoC) surveys, are the beginning of the process. Customer needs and preferences are constantly changing. The ability to make data-driven decisions is essential. Survey information is the first step to understanding what the customer wants and expects. Aligning with the customer is the first step to becoming a partner in their business rather than just a supplier.
A voice of the employee (VoE) survey is a great way to find out what your employees, especially your customer-facing employees think about how customers can be better served. Customer service representatives and other customer-facing groups are often overlooked when it comes to finding out what customers really want. Customers are routinely telling them. How your customer-facing representatives feel about their level of empowerment, recognition, and appreciation by management can have a significant impact on how your customers perceive your brand. If you sense a level of frustration with the customer-facing teams, it is likely that your customers are frustrated too. Happy customers and happy customer service teams typically go hand in hand.
“Understanding the customer’s total experience and their goals and objectives is essential to optimize and enable the full potential of the equipment they’ve purchased from your company.”
Conducting customer journey mapping sessions using the survey data collected, with business and operational data already on-hand, will help you to understand what needs to be done to address what the customer expects from your company. By analyzing the customer expectations versus deliverables gaps highlighted in the survey results, and how the customer’s observations, beliefs and expectations are satisfied, or not satisfied by your company’s people, processes, and technology, is your customer experience gap.
The next step is to ideate solutions required to correct the issues identified by the customer experience gap analysis, eliminate waste, reduce customer effort (CE) and work toward a desired, future-state customer experience. It is during the customer experience design phase of the process that changes are mapped out that will enable you to align your business with what your customer wants.
How do you measure success? The following key performance indicators (KPI) are a good start.
Reduction in customer churn which measures customer attrition.
Increase in equipment upgrade revenue.
Increase in hardware under service contract or increase in service contract penetration rate.
Increase in service contract renewal rate.
Increase in warranty conversion rate to a service contract.
Increase in service contract point of sale attach rate.
Increase in customer lifetime value (CLTV). CLTV is a measure of how much revenue a business should expect from a customer over the life of their relationship.
If all of these KPIs are trending up, so is your revenue and profit. In addition to the revenue sources listed in the KPIs there is consulting revenue, time and materials revenue and training revenue. Both customer success and customer service are generating revenue and profit for your company.
This completed customer journey blueprint is what the customer success and customer service teams require to be successful in helping the customer to succeed in their business. It takes a team effort to win customer loyalty and drive revenue and profit.
Customer service and customer support should report to the same member of the senior leadership team. Aligning incentives, establishing complementary goals and objectives, and aligning with the customer’s mission and goals is critical to achieving success. The customer wins and so does your company! What could be a better outcome than that? Now that is a “perfect game”!
“An official perfect game occurs when a pitcher (or pitchers) retires each batter on the opposing team during the entire course of a game, which consists of at least nine innings. In a perfect game, no batter reaches any base during the course of the game.”
- MLB Miscellany: Rules, Regulations and Statistics
To learn more about delivering exceptional customer service, please visit Bass HarborGroup.com
Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.
Read more from Patrick Sandefur by clicking on recent posts below.