There are a lot of intangible factors in key account management, your customer’s idea for success or failure being one of them. All of your customers likely choose to use your products or services for different reasons and because of this, what they expect/demand out of your product is going to be different from company to company.
While one client is fine using your tools as a quick way to save time and free up some much-needed staff, another client might choose your product as their exclusive software in their company. When companies use products differently, it’s easy to see how their expectations can be different.
Although challenging, measuring your customer’s success with your product and putting a numerical value to it is crucial to nourishing and growing your relationships with key accounts. When you can practically guarantee success and overdeliver time and time again, then it becomes harder and harder for them not to renew every year.
So, how do we go about creating this metric and tracking the success of your customers? Believe it or not, it has less to do with looking at spreadsheets and more to do with the customer’s personal definition of success.
What’s Important to Your Customers?
So, how do you figure out what’s important to your customers? The easy way to find out is to ask them, but you can’t just flat-out ask them a simple question like that because more times than not, the answer is a little bit more complicated. In addition, you’ll also find that customers themselves have a difficult time putting their finger on what really matters to their organization and will instead opt for the easy answer like “make more money” or “grow our customer base.”
While these kinds of answers are better than nothing and can provide you with a touch more insight into their needs, wants, dreams, and goals, if you can dive a bit deeper, you’ll have better luck attaching a specific numerical value to what they want and you can work to meet their highly-specific goal.
We recommend that you look for more probing questions that allow you to get deeper into their expectations from your company and what they foresee happening in the future. Ask them what their best-case scenario is while using your product. Ask them where they want to be a year from now with the help of your product. Ask them how their business would be different if they didn’t use your product or one of your competitors’ either. These questions provide a deeper understanding of what’s going on in your client’s head and will give you something clearer to work with and thus a better chance of reaching their end goals.
Finding a Customer Impact Identifier
Once you have a clearer understanding of what your client ultimately wants to get out of your services and benefits, you can start working towards the metrics you want to set and the specific goals you must meet at specific time points in the account plan. Just like you have KPIs for the sales you make, you should also have set Customer Impact Identifiers for each account to make sure that they are on track and your actions are having a real impact on their account.
Impact is a crucial component of the work that you do daily, and whether you recognize it or not, the impact that you have on a client’s organization will determine whether they renew with you or go to a different provider. Creating and making impact can seem tricky at first, but with the right knowledge of what your customer really wants, turning their goals into a formula is simple.
Consider how they derive value from your services. Maybe you’re able to grow their revenue through your work. Perhaps your company is excellent for generating awareness and driving organic engagement for their company. Whatever the case may be, talk to your clients to learn more about why they work with you and choose your products over the competitors, and you’ll have a deeper understanding of how they justify the cost of your services.
With this in mind, you can start jotting down a list of ways that you have and will make an impact for the client. This serves essentially as the unit in your equation for customer success. Once you have the right unit – be it engagement, % of revenue growth, etc. – you can start getting hyper-specific with a number that you must shoot for in the account plan.
What is one of the primary goals of a Customer Success Manager? To provide and enhance value for the customer. We are the ones that will drop everything to answer a question about their software or provide information about their industry. It’s that added value that is the icing on the cake and the reason that they stick with us and not the other guys.
When it comes to tracking and measuring the overall impact that your work had on the account, it can be hard not to get lost in the weeds measuring the wrong metric that is only a symptom of your work but not the actual value.
Remember that we are not interested in tracking value that we’ve enhanced for the client (i.e., with our help, an already valuable area of their business improved) but we want to know the exact value that we created for them and delivered. Tracking enhanced value for the customer doesn’t really do much good to change their overall outcomes and goals and simply rides the coattails of an already existing program or initiative at their company.
The real value that you bring to your clients largely depends on what their goals are and why they chose to work with your organization in the first place. For example, the clients that found you and are looking for ways to improve their efficiency will have more value in time saved and budget saved in relation to their output. If you can prove that your software tool increased their overall productivity by X%, that will be a win for you and your organization and will show that you not only provided value to the client, but you also had an organization-wide impact.
Again, you must talk to your customer and fully understand their needs, wants, goals, and objectives. As with everything in KAM, knowing these things will help you as you create their account plan, but will also keep you on track for the life of the account. If after reading this you struggle to think of a specific value you provide to your clients it’s time to jump on the phone and start asking some more thoughtful and probing questions. Some clients might seem a bit secretive about why they want to use your software but in the end, the more that they can tell you about their business, the more that you can do to help them get to where they want to be.
It Must Be Measurable
As the old saying goes: what gets measured gets managed. You might have been wondering why we’re making such a big deal about finding a customer success metric in the first place. As long as the client keeps on with your company, that’s all that matters, right? While it is true that simply having the client renew year after is a primary goal, it’s how you get them to renew that matters the most because it provides you with insight into your own processes and you can work to make it repeatable for other clients.
When you measure specific metrics of an account, you’ll be more likely to manage the data and derive meaningful insights from it and make changes along the way to make sure that the account is on the right track and well on its way to crushing its goals. Keep in mind that while collecting data is better than not collecting data in most cases, it’s what you do with it that matters the most.
If you’re just collecting a ton of data from every angle and dimension of the account and you aren’t measuring it over time or taking insights from the numbers, you’re not doing much. You simply have a collection of numbers from the account with no meaningful actions to complete next. For this reason, it’s crucial that you use a KAM platform like Kapta that can make the entire data management and metric tracking process seamless and automatic. Rather than doing things the hard way, the software will do that for you and provide you with clearer insights into the data you collect from your accounts.
Also, one thing worth mentioning is that more times than not, you’ll have to depend on your client to provide you with this data and because some of it is likely confidential such as their number of customers, sales, etc., a few clients might be apprehensive to share it with you. It’s important that you relate to the customer why you want to track and manage this data and how it will benefit them in the long run. With that information, they’ll get on the same page and will likely be an open book moving forward.
To summarize, the steps to finding the metric of customer success for your clients are as follows:
- Identify what we are tracking
- Create a numerical target
- Answer this: did it happen or not?
- Be accountable
- Improve results
When you break it down into five easy steps, then the process seems like a walk in the park. However, once you put this strategy into practice, you’ll quickly realize that there are potential bottlenecks and obstacles in your way, most likely regarding access to information and the how much your clients are ready to tell you about their company.
Remember, without a way to track and manage the impact that your product or services have had on the client’s organization, it’s almost impossible to improve your results. If the client’s goal was to have 50% of their customers sign off on their plans, it’s pretty easy to tell whether you met the goal or not. If you didn’t, it’s back to the drawing board, but if you did, you could add that to the list of things you helped do for the client and can set your sights on what comes next.
It all comes down to finding irrefutable evidence that you are the best KAM that your clients could have chosen to work with. You have a real impact on their bottom line, and these rock-solid numbers and metrics prove that. It’s hard to argue with 50% growth in a quarter, but it is easy to argue with “a smoother customer experience.” One of those metrics has a numerical value attached to it that is as clear as day while the other is less tangible and more opinion-based. Which of those do you think will get a client that’s already on the fence to sign on the dotted line?
Real results earn real revenue, and with this simple, dedicated formula, you can start earning those real results for your clients.
Kapta is less of a KAM company and more of a relationship company. Rather than producing software that keeps you in the weeds and bogs down your daily work, with the Kapta platform, KAMs can spend more time building relationships and working with their clients rather than stuck in spreadsheets. The tool features a variety of innovative features that KAMs in any industry will find practical including the Account Planning tools, relationship health score, and contact management. If you want to see how Kapta can change your KAM program, schedule your free demo here.