The Customer Success Festival is running from February 10-11th 2021 and we have a few pre-event Q&A sessions to get the ball rolling.

Joining us today is Swati Chopra, Director of Customer Success at McAfee.

Her talk is on February 10th: The Pillars of Customer Success Strategy.

We caught up with Swati to discuss her upcoming talk, her views on customer success strategies, and the key steps to overcoming customer retention issues.

So, want a sneak peak into her presentation? You know what to do. 👇

Hi Swati! First of all, could you introduce yourself to our readers and provide an overview of your upcoming festival talk?

Sure. I am currently working as a Customer Success leader at Mcafee. Before this, I have over 15 years of extensive post sales experience working in cybersecurity and data center companies like Cisco, Sonicall and Bitglass. I am a Wharton MBA and strategy and entrepreneurship are my core strengths.

I have managed CS functions globally for large and mid tier companies as well as built the post sales function from scratch at startups.

I am also an investor in startups with ground breaking ideas. A mother of 2 kids who is an avid reader.

Since I have helped organizations to build robust customer success functions, my talk will discuss three core pillars, that when properly implemented would make any organization successful in delivering exceptional customer experience to their customers and enjoy 90%+ retention rates.

Straight onto your topic! Customer success is becoming increasingly important in SaaS. Can you explain why it’s essential for businesses to create a strategy?

With the competition rising everyday, it is not just important to grasp a huge market share but it is equally important to retain that market share. That is the reason Customer Success is becoming increasingly important. If we don't make our customers successful, it's easier for them to switch to any of the tens or hundreds of other options available in the market.

Today, customer acquisition is much easier than customer retention. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to create a robust customer success strategy.

What would you say are the core aspects of an effective customer success strategy?

The 3 core aspects of customer success strategy are 3 pillars that I discuss in detail during my talk: product, people and platform. These are easy fundamentals at the outset but you would be surprised how many companies get them wrong. You need to implement each of these with precision to deliver an effective Customer Success strategy.

Where do you think most businesses go wrong with their customer success strategy?

A mistake that most businesses do is being reactive rather than being proactive. A lot many times they believe solving customers issues helps them to be successful. However, if your customers are facing problems and now you are solving it then you are already late in the game.

A successful business needs to understand their customer’s needs and requirements, build a success plan around those and ensure they are on the path of success even before the customers realize it themselves.

A robust proactive strategy to implement a customer's portfolio and proactively managing and upgrading it, is the key differentiator between a successful CS strategy from a failed one.

What are the key steps to take to correct any problems and get customer retention back on track?

A regular cadence with the customer to ensure we know their current state of stability at all times always helps to stay, one step ahead of any issues that a customer might face. With regular touchpoints, CSMs can plan a customer’s journey end to end, be it implementation, adoption/consumption etc, well in advance. As the customer experiences a smooth and successful experience with the company, retention becomes a non-event in such cases.

Which tools would you recommend to support customer success strategies?

Any internal or external tool works till the time they take care of each and every customer success deliverable in a consolidated and consistent format. Thus saving time for the CSMs so they can focus more on customers rather than manual data entry. Check out my talk which details the features you need to look for in a Customer Success platform.

What sort of metrics should businesses use to track the success of their CS strategy?

First and foremost is the health of the customers. Are customers utilizing your products to accomplish the goals for which they purchased the product? If the products are not utilized then the customers are not getting the value for their buck and sooner or later they would leave you for a competitor.

Then ensure your product’s stability, so the customer’s are always at N or N-1 release of the product. Make sure your CSMs have a regular cadence with the customers and are delivering upon forward looking success plans. Retention and expansion are just the result of the above successful metrics.

For any businesses, such as startups, that don’t have the budget for a customer success team, what are effective ways to get around this?

First they should definitely get an advisor on board to help them design the customer success strategy. I have myself helped a few startups to set up a successful CS function. Expert advice goes a long way and is quite important when customer retention is a necessity.  

A startup can always have their sales and support teams double down as customer success professionals for customers to start with. And as the startup gains more and more customers, they can transform some of these professionals as the founding CS team.

What are your top tips for when dealing with a frustrated customer?

Always start with listening to the customers. Do not listen with the intent to reply but listen with the intent to understand. The customer is upset and they want to be heard. Listen and empathize to start with.

Then make sure that a feasible solution is found to the customer's issues at the earliest. Get key stakeholders and executives involved internally and externally, to drive a quick turnaround to customer’s problems.

Continue to communicate internally and externally to keep everyone on the same page.

And finally, what do you love most about your role in customer success?

It's the opportunity to make a difference for our customers and make them successful in their business goals. My aim is not only to retain them but to make them our partners overtime. Always remember - a happy customer is a happy referral.

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