After hours of calls, demos, and back-and-forth emails, you’ve closed the deal. The prospect is now a confirmed customer, so on to the next sale, right? Not exactly.
The buyer experience doesn’t suddenly end once the deal closes. While you can (and should) continue to develop other prospects, don’t neglect your paying customers.
Whether it’s onboarding new users or simply providing support to those using your product, post-sale support has two goals: ensuring the customer understands the value that your solution provides and creating opportunities to expand your reach at the company.
As you test the post-sale stage of your buyer journey, use the following guidelines to evaluate customer success managers (CSMs) and account managers (AMs) and identify elements of the customer experience in need of improvement.
Observe team members
At each stage of the sales cycle, the members of your sales team should demonstrate a deep understanding of your product—the better they know the product, the better they can sell it as a solution to specific pain points. That being said, product knowledge is more than just a sales tool. In order to demonstrate how customers can use a product to solve their pain points, onboarding and customer success teams need to know your product’s strengths, limitations, and capabilities.
Record each of your CSM’s onboarding and training calls and review them at least twice a month. Develop a grading rubric—taking into account your industry and success factors—and use that to evaluate each call. While your rubric will be specific to your product and company, here are some general questions to get you started:
- Did the CSM build rapport with the customer?
- Did they provide advice specific to the customer’s pain points?
- Did they reiterate action items and assign owners and due dates?
- Did they demonstrate thorough knowledge of the product?
- Did they ask for more context on objectives and pain points?
If you don’t feel confident evaluating your CSMs’ product knowledge, bring in product managers or developers to critique and uplevel the team’s performance. (Even if you’re an all-around product expert, this is good practice!) Plan training sessions to review features or use cases that the CSM didn’t thoroughly cover.
The handoff from sales to customer success is another potential point of friction in your buyer experience.
Talk to customers directly
You can review as many calls as you want, talk to your CSMs and AMs for hours, and you’ll still never really understand the customer experience of implementation and onboarding.
Want insight into the customer’s thoughts? Go straight to the source. Whether you opt for phone calls or a survey, you should gather feedback from customers regularly and discuss their feedback with your team.
As you gauge customer satisfaction, you should have a framework in place to get the feedback that will be most useful to your sales org. One useful method is to use a standardized customer satisfaction score (CSAT). Qualtrics, a leader in experience management, offers these guidelines for CSAT surveys:
- Ask for an overall company rating or net promoter score (NPS) first.
- Include questions with open-ended responses.
- Optimize the survey for mobile devices.
- Keep the survey short—a majority of CSAT surveys include fewer than 10 questions.
- Avoid industry jargon.
Don’t wait until after the sale to send your surveys—you should be collecting customer satisfaction data throughout the sales cycle. Send the survey after important touchpoints. Your goal is to compile feedback to improve the buyer experience overall, but don’t forget to address customer feedback individually too. Respond quickly and personally to customers who give you strong negative comments.
Net Promoter Score
In Qualtrics’ survey guidelines, they mention asking for an NPS. In short, Net Promoter Score is a popular method for measuring customer satisfaction developed by Bain & Company.
To calculate your NPS, you’ll have to ask customers a simple question: “How likely, on a scale from one to ten, are you to recommend this solution to a friend or colleague?” Sort the responses into Promoters (those who answer 9-10), Passives (7-8), and Detractors (0-6). Your overall NPS score is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters.
Monitor customer health
Developing new leads can help grow your business, but it’s all for naught if you aren’t retaining customers after the initial sale. Once your team has onboarded a customer, track their customer health score to ensure retention. Several factors, all specific to your company, play into customer health scores, which indicate how loyal your customers are.
Gainsight, a company specializing in customer success, acknowledges that an exhaustive list of customer health indicators would be “nearly endless.” They do, however, recommend some of the more important factors to consider:
- How often do customers call support?
- How long do customers’ support tickets stay open?
- Do your customers engage with your user community?
- Do customers open your emails, attend webinars, and engage with other collateral?
- Do they pay their bills on time?
- Have they bought more than one product from you?
- How does the value of their current contract compare to their original contract?
- Have they participated in case studies or testimonials?
Keep these questions in mind as you build out your own method for monitoring customer health.
Evaluate customer churn
When it comes to customer experience testing, lost customers are more valuable than won. Your goal is to shore up the buyer journey—to identify and patch up places where you are losing customers. As you try to reduce customer churn, who better to ask than the customers you lost?
Ask these would-be customers the same questions you would in your customer satisfaction survey, preferably via phone call. If you’re struggling to get responses from these customers, consider offering an incentive—a gift card can go a long way towards getting a candid phone interview.
If you use a survey rather than a call, keep it brief. Include the survey on your website at the time of cancellation or send it via a personalized email.
As you analyze the data behind customer churn, these questions can help you sort through the information and focus on improvement:
1. When are customers most frequently churning?
If customers tend to cancel their accounts or services at a certain point, there’s probably a reason behind it. Pay attention to cancellation trends to identify points of the buyer experience in need of attention. If, for example, churn tends to occur at or around 90 days, reexamine your onboarding program—it may not be as effective as it could be.
2. How engaged were users with the product at the time of churn?
According to ConversionXL, decreased customer engagement and usage is a strong indicator of churn. This could be less time spent on the site, fewer support tickets, or a decrease in new users at the company.
3. Were these customers impacted by bugs and how quickly were those bugs resolved?
It’s an inevitable reality: Most customers will likely experience bugs in a product. The severity and frequency of those bugs can contribute to a negative user experience and cause you to lose users. If bugs aren’t resolved quickly, be sure to establish clear communication between customer success and product management.
4. How quickly does customer support respond to questions or complaints?
A high number of support tickets is not necessarily a bad sign—it means users are, at the very least, trying to engage with your service. But things can quickly sour. If your team doesn’t act fast to address customer questions and complaints, you may lose customers.
See our 6 strategies for customer retention that really work.
Maintaining an improved buyer experience
Customer experience testing is not a one-off process—it’s an ongoing commitment to evaluation and improvement. This blog series has given you strategies and methods for testing your buyer journey. As you implement changes, continue to apply those strategies to track improvement. If something isn’t working, try a different solution. Rinse and repeat until that point of the buyer journey is airtight.
Here’s the bottom line: Your buyer’s experience is the primary factor in influencing the close of a sale. You cannot take proper steps to improve the journey unless you understand the experience your organization is currently delivering. And as you improve, that experience continually changes—this means constant reevaluation and testing. Commit to focusing on the customer, and your revenue will thank you for it.
Stay tuned for our series on improving the buyer experience at each stage!