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How close customer relationships unlock digital transformation success

February 3, 2021

Rajesh Menon   

Vice President - Customer Success Management, Tata Communications

Covid-19 has brought about a fundamental shift in how we live, work and interact with each other. In this piece, Tata Communications’ Rajesh Menon, Vice President – Customer Success Management, explores why the role of his customer success team is more important than ever.

For most businesses, the planning cycle for FY22 will be like no other. We’ve been hearing about digital transformation being high on the C-suite agenda for a while now. But 2020 is the year when it really did get pushed to the top. Transform or perish was no longer a hypothetical statement, but the truth.

It is no surprise that in 2020, 69% of boards of directors accelerated their digital business initiatives in the wake of the COVID-19 disruption. Business models are evolving fast, with how customers are engaged and how employees work both being reviewed. For example, 82% of leaders are now allowing their employees to work from home and a significant percentage are expected to work from home even after they’ve been offered a vaccine.

With the acceleration of digital transformation, it is essential to stay focused on the drivers for change and the ultimate success outcomes businesses want to achieve. This is quite often not the case, as highlighted by a 2019 survey by Bain, where only 12% of corporate transformations achieve their targets.

The role of the Customer Success Team is even more important than ever before; helping businesses make sure digital transformation projects are delivering the right outcomes. In this blog I will share four fundamental factors that need to be in place for a Customer Success Team to achieve true customer success.

  1. Delivering customer experience

“For customers, the Customer Success Manager is your champion within the service provider (SP), ensuring your voice is heard throughout the solution lifecycle.”

To make this happen, the CSM connects you with all the right people in the service provider organisation to drive value. Most service providers have a customer service team which manages customer relationships, but the rest of the team does not necessarily give the same consistent experience.

This could be program management, the change management team, the billing team, those who are all a part of the customer lifecycle perspective. The result is typically big gaps for the customer throughout the journey with the service provider.

In many cases, we are also dealing with complex solutions involving multiple products. These interrelated items are not necessarily closely co-ordinated. All of this leads to a chaotic experience for the customer.

As McKinsey points out: “Buyers are no longer willing to accept less from their professional experience as B2B purchasers than they are accustomed to getting from their personal experience as consumers”.

The CSM therefore needs to have a team across the business they can draw on with dedicated processes, so they can access the connections they need to drive increased value for the customer.

2. Predicting business continuity disruptors or propellers​

The fundamental role of a Customer Success Manager (CSM) as a technology partner is to understand your business inside out, helping to predict and respond to change. They need to be clear on what real business value means to all your stakeholders.

In today’s environment, this is about helping customers adapt to the changing market conditions. For example, retail has been massively impacted as consumers prioritised essentials over other discretionary purchases.

In this case, the Tata Communications CSM’s role is to help the retailers adapt and approach the challenge differently. This came to life when we helped a large retailer blend their physical and online channels. With the pandemic, we know that it is no longer safe to physically browse items, say for example, a refrigerator, at a physical store. These are high value items customers may not be comfortable purchasing without seeing first. The team worked with the client to bring together video, collaboration, and connectivity, coupled with new age technologies such as artificial intelligence, to enable the retailer’s consumers to now see a personalised live demo of the item via the website.

This is about helping our customers not only have a good experience but also to gain a competitive edge. The team went above and beyond and helped them think how they can also improve the in-store experience. This is only possible when you have intimate customer knowledge.

  1. Adopting best practice at both a business and technology level

A CSM has deep knowledge of what you are trying to achieve in your business and how Tata Communications solutions and services can add value.

For example, we worked with a client who was deploying a collaboration solution for remote workers. The CSM knew that simply deploying the solution would not guarantee business success and that to be successful, the customer’s employees would need to embrace the solution.

To achieve this, we implemented a complete communication programme, training, and adoption management in order to ensure that the business saw an ROI from their investment, i.e. increased usage of the solution, reduced telephony costs, lower travel costs, and improved collaboration and productivity.

The programme also covered softer benefits – for example, as we know 89% of employees feel that video helps them to connect better to their co-workers (UC Today, 2020), the training we devised encouraged the customer’s employees to switch cameras on.

“This is what customer success means – ensuring the journey uses the team’s knowledge about what it takes to truly deliver value.”

Knowledge does not stop there. It is also about providing customers with access to all your data in one place, all the time. That allows everyone to see what is working and what needs adapting in real time. It is an ongoing daily process to drive value.

  1. Empowered to drive continuous improvement throughout the journey

For customer success to truly work from the very beginning, the alignment of expectations between what solution you need to deploy and what the experience will be during the lifecycle is key.

The CSM must have real power to enable their organisation to deliver the customer’s definition of success. It is noted by Gartner (2019) that nearly two-thirds of employees think unnecessary effort is preventing their company from consistently excelling in customer experience. The CSM’s position should give them the authority to marshal their organisation’s resources on your behalf.

“In today’s changing world, these four values have never been more important. The Customer Success Team is the driver to unlocking your success by empowering you to realise your desired business growth, profitability, and deeper levels of performance through proven tools, data, and actionable insights.”​

In short, they show the customer the path to realising value and ensure mutual success.

As we move forward, Customer Success will continue to be an evolving role. For some this means being reactive, dealing with churn or simply service management. At Tata Communications it is about the relentless pursuit to deliver sustainable value for the customer.

Discover more about how businesses can deliver the best customer experience in adverse pandemic conditions.