What Defines Customer Experience?
The answer to this question is multifaceted. There are many paths organizations can take when striving to increase customer satisfaction. Depending on the lengths each one of them is willing to go, customer experience can either become the holy grail leading to hypergrowth or the sole denominator making an organization go extinct.
Common questions customer-facing teams may ask themselves prior to purchase can be:
- What is the context behind the customer’s use case? The role, use case, existing workflow, business goals
- What does he want to buy? Purchase history, proficiency level (newbie or proficient user)
- Why does he want to buy? Need that has to be fulfilled (new or existing), buying journey so far, motivations
- Where and how she prefers to buy? Preferred platforms, demographics, channels & touchpoints of engagement.
- How does the customer’s offering affect the purchase decision? Customer’s offering characteristics & alignment with solutions’ offering.
- Who will the purchase affect? Number of departments, end-users & key stakeholders
The Rise of Product Experience
Although all these questions profile prospects’ intent, in the case of SaaS there is a parameter we cannot neglect. The “power of choice” hyper-competition provides. By competition here, we don’t refer to pricing or more advanced features. Nowadays, those things can be copied and iterated within a blink of an eye. A stellar product experience on the other hand, not so much.
The rise of IT consumerization shift customers’ standards. It makes them consider product experience next to the personal relationship they may create with any vendor. This tendency doesn’t go away, no matter the size of the deal. The oversaturation of s/w services and the rise of technology make stellar product experience the one feature a product needs to deliver. This counts both for buyers and end-users, as contrary to people’s beliefs the dynamic of the latter is equally important.
Try not to forget. A traditional sales model may be characterized as Top-down, but inside customers’ organization, it is inversely proportional. End users are the one barrier that reaffirms the internal buy-in. Something that makes the delivery of product experience paramount to organizations’ long term prosperity. If we add on that inconsistency in GTM practices, limited experimentation, and infinite handholding we have the rise of an era, where a whole industry needs to reinforce the power of the “machines” in order to upgrade the human-assisted performance. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s true. When adopting a Product-Led GTM strategy, organizations should go out of their ways. They need to discourage ongoing hand-holding, double down on products’ superpowers and break up silos.
Following that logic, typical dilemmas internal teams may encounter are:
- What affects customer experience product or human-assisted activations? Or maybe is it a composite of both?
- How can personal outreach be replaced by product engagements without downgrading customer experience?
So, does customer experience have as a sole denominator, product experience outcomes? No. This, not an either-or situation. When anticipating the product as a growth lever customer experience can be reinforced by its deliverables. But only when they are monitored and evaluated right, they can deepen the buyer-vendor relationship.
Who Owns Customer Experience?
The short answer to this question can be: The departments responsible for the sum of touchpoints and product delivery. That realization sums up activations delivered by many internal organizations. Sales, Marketing, Customer Success and Product Management being some of them. Their involvement in the customer journey is subject to the product offering and customers’ needs.
1) The Product Imperative
As a rule of thumb, organizations in favor of a Top-down sales model deliver more complex products. Products which are usually followed by equally complex sales cycles. The same stands for customers’ needs. The more demanding and complicated customers’ existing workflows are, the more complex the solution’s deployment. Those two factors are for sure not exhaustive. But they can set the basis to get the conversation started.
The table’s two main axes are the customers’ needs and products’ complexity. While the two top options favor a Top-down approach and the two in the bottom a Bottoms-up. So, there is a case sales delivery to be no-touch and as its complexity grows, the organization to incline towards a traditional sales model. Alternatively, the opposite can happen. A product may target high tier customer segments and then alter its offering and move down market. The only thing we can take for granted is that Sales’ activations get less automated and scalable. While at the same time the product offering gets more sophisticated.
The third wave of SaaS products alters this mindset and revolutionize how people try, buy, and use the software. The buying process does not need anymore a direct interaction with sales. Buyers can now access product-related content through a variety of channels and devices. They can also assess what to expect from any solution before even signing up for a trial. As a matter of fact, two-thirds to 90% of the buyer’s journey can now be completed before even engaging with a salesperson.
The challenge for any organization at this point is not only to reflect on customers’ needs. Organizations need to also sustain those processes across an array of devices and channels. Without neglecting to deliver a stunning product experience at the same time.
2) High Trajectory Customers
High trajectory customers’ needs, go beyond educating key stakeholders and users. In this instance, a systemic process enabling customers to grow and organizations cope with many requests needs to be in order. Internal teams acknowledge that and develop more structured workflows at work. By default, the involvement of human element is increased throughout the customer lifecycle. Not by choice. Only because internal teams need to sustain alignment with customers’ desired business outcomes. And because this is the only way to empower a bond between the two parties.
From the customers’ side, this mentality is inevitable to be reinforced. Having many end-users and departments that need to be in perfect sync, makes it inevitable for them to rely on human-assisted activations. That doesn’t necessarily mean that buyers don’t favor scalable practices. But, once they encounter a heavy administrative part, they will seek help from CSMs who know the use case next to automation. This is how they secure, they are getting the most out of their investment.
The Product-Led shift
The fact that each product engagement can now be mapped and evaluated gives each department a different perspective on how its deliverables affect customer experience. This shift affects the traditional sales model too. Sales & Customer Success can now insert measurable product measurements in their evaluations. This fact alone brings Product Management into the discussion. On the downside, the SaaS industry has still some miles to walk until it harmonizes each team’s inputs throughout the customer journey. In our recent research Customer Success (76%) and Sales (69%) still, have the majority of ownership. While Product Management (38%) and Marketing (23%) come last.
But are only those departments accountable? Assuming an enterprise organization is served, Professional Services may also be part of the equation. Similarly, top-level management, hold the reins of any final decision needs to be taken. So, who owns customer experience after all?
While it’s obvious that ownership is dispersed, the discussion does not seem to slow down. As long as there are no clear lines distinguishing roles and responsibilities, businesses will struggle to have consistency across the customer journey.
3) Self Serve customers
Self serve customers, represent the other side of the same coin. Both parties here need to shorten Time to Value and increase conversions. So far, Marketing was responsible for acquiring and nurturing customers. But now, this is changing. The emerging Product Management practices, put products’ deliverables in the center of attention. They align those deliverables with customers’ ongoing growth. Something that may have lowered Marketing’s prevalence but for sure has not taken it out of the equation.
Self-Serve Vs. Human Assisted Activations
But what about the human element? In a no-touch approach, the product is the growth lever. Does this fact annihilate the importance and role of customer-facing teams? No, it does not. In fact the opposite happens. The product is in the epicenter holding the reins of customer experience. And this is viable when capitalizing on the lessons learned from human-assisted activations.
This is the point where, product experience becomes synonymous to customer experience. How? By delivering a more humane, tailored to users’ needs approach. Product Management needs to insert those learnings into the product itself and reduce customer-facing teams involvement.
That realization, however, may still be far from the reality. In fact, our research showed that Product Management (81%) and Marketing (77%) may be involved. But, Customer Success (68%) and Sales (40%) outreach is still in order.
It is evident that Self Serve adopters strive to balance the involvement of Sales and Customer Success organizations’ to and embrace activation and retention rates. Products’ complexity and limited investment (5%) in tailored onboarding flows reinforce this outcome. Our research results make it obvious. Even on a Self Serve approach, customer experience is paramount to human-assisted activations.