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Partners, Don't Conflate Customer Service with Customer Success

Are you sure that those "as a service" offerings you just sold will be renewed come re-up time?

September 6, 2018

4 Min Read
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Ansa Sekharan

By Ansa Sekharan, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Success Officer, Informatica

There’s no doubt that subscription services are becoming the de facto standard. Gartner projects that the public cloud services market will grow 21.4 percent in 2018 alone.

But “cloud-first” doesn’t mean “cloud-only.” In fact, the IT environment we live in is much better described as a hybrid-deployment world that includes on-premises, hybrid and multicloud deployments. For your customers, this is a mixed blessing. On one hand, the rise of subscription services means more options and freedom from vendor lock-in. But it also means coping with public and private clouds, hosted and on-premises solutions, as well as subscription versus traditional licensing models. For vendors, the hybrid deployment world means more sales opportunities, particularly for subscription-based offerings, but also stiffer competition than ever.

Digital-service providers need to bridge the gap between customer service and customer success.

There is one area where end customers, partners and suppliers face the same challenge: The customer support function hasn’t kept pace with today’s fragmented state of affairs. To meet the challenges of the hybrid deployment world, support operations need to evolve and offer a unified approach that’s portfolio-agnostic and a much stronger focus on proactive customer success, as opposed to reactive problem remediation.

From Fragmentation to Unity

Today, customers that migrate a major application from an on-premises deployment with a perpetual license to a hosted subscription model often find that the support services available to them are not identical to those they depended on prior to the migration. There may be changes in cost, availability, escalation procedures or service levels that no one anticipated.

That reflects badly on the partner who advised on the move. What you need to provide is a unified approach to support, no matter what the deployment method. Such a unified approach that preserves the existing tiers of service and price structures would go a long way toward simplifying the decision to take the plunge and migrate mission-critical applications. And yet, all too often, support is seen as a sort of insurance policy, a resource to fall back on when things go wrong. But if we take a step back, the real goals of customer support are delivering value and achieving success in the shortest possible time frame.

Doing that requires taking a broader, yet integrated view of support that includes installation, deployment, training and operationalization — in short, all the components of what could be termed “success services,” in one package. Support that’s focused on keeping customers happy on a long-term basis is a win-win proposition, one that’s particularly important for partners that depend on reselling subscription offerings, where renewals are your life blood.

Ensuring customer success, by this metric, implies taking a new and more comprehensive view that goes beyond deployment to focus on adoption. Deployment means that the new product has been installed by the supplier and is up and running. It’s the base minimum. Adoption means that the customer’s end-users are actually consuming the services or capabilities built on the new product — and receiving the expected business value. Whether it’s using all the features of a new UCaaS solution or learning about just what’s in that Microsoft Teams service, a focus on faster adoption means …

… faster time to value.

3 Pillars of Success

Moving from the old concept of customer support to the new concept of customer success means creating programs based on three principles:

  • Data-driven. Success services should leverage analytics based on machine learning and AI to provide predictive and prescriptive services that can identify and respond to situations before they become problems for the customer, and reduce time to resolution for issues that do arise.

  • Customer-centric. Service offerings should include dedicated customer-success managers who foster a team approach with customers to leverage technology for maximum success. It’s important that you and your suppliers take into account not only customers’ in-house technology, but also the larger technology and vertical ecosystem in which each particular customer participates.

  • Adaptive. Customer-success offerings must be flexible, customizable and scalable to drive tailored business outcomes.

The hybrid deployment world we now live in is not going away. To deliver maximum value, support services must become success services, ones that can meet the needs of all deployment methods and procurement models to ultimately deliver superior ROI.

Ansa Sekharan, executive vice president and chief customer success officer, leads Informatica‘s global customer support and Informatica University, where he is responsible for establishing Informatica as a trusted partner for customers worldwide by ensuring their success with Informatica’s products. Additionally, Ansa leads Informatica’s education services division, with a focus on role-based training programs to ensure the organization gets the most out of investment in Informatica products.

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