Building a loyal customer base and a predictable stream of recurring revenue takes more than selling technology, services, and solutions. Companies with strong market position know that it takes delivering customer experiences, building relationships, and helping ensure that customers realize the full benefits that their solutions offer.
That is why innovative companies like SAP gold partner VistaVu are redefining sales organizations into teams with a dedicated focus on existing customers and adding Customer Engagement Executives (CEE) roles.
Distinct from the company’s Net New Sales team, the Customer Success group focuses exclusively on existing customers. According to CEO Jory Lamb, since establishing the CEE role, VistaVu’s recurring revenue has grown year over year and now represents 50 percent of total revenue. This outcome aligns with research from the Temkin Group that says customer experience is highly correlated with loyalty and software companies stand to retain the most business from existing customers.
Characteristics of a Stellar CEE
Lamb said that success reflects the skills and characteristics of the people on the Customer Success team, such as CEE Ami Burns.
Burns, who formerly worked in the oil and gas industry, a target market for VistaVu, began her role at the company managing 40 to 50 customers. Her skillset soon proved to be so effective that her responsibilities shifted to that of only 15 key accounts so she could give even greater attention to helping them meet their objectives.
Although her focus has changed, her primary objectives have not: “It doesn’t matter who or what size customers are. They should all have the same experience,” Burns said. “We want everyone to be raving fans of VistaVu, whether they’re big or small.”
Burns said it is important to fill CEE roles with people who are organized and good communicators. “You need to be able to translate information to customers in ways they can understand, not using technical jargon or our own internal vocabulary.”
She added that successful CEEs are not necessarily money-driven either. “I’m more focused on customer happiness, and when they come back and show true, honest appreciation. That drives me more.”
Lezli Giguere, vice president of Customer Experience at VistaVu, pointed out that successful CEEs like Burns take initiative. “Ami has a willingness to ask tough questions and get into the thick of things with the customer,” she said.
A Day in the Life of a VistaVu CEE
Although each day brings new and diverse challenges, the CEE role at VistaVu can include the following on any given day:
- Single Point-of-Contact: Any time a customer needs to address a problem, pursue enhancements to an existing process, or start a new project, CEEs are the first to get the call.
- Advocacy: Burns describes the role as an extension of her customers, an advocate or “hound dog” working for them so VistaVu delivers what a customer needs to be successful and meet business objectives. CEEs work directly with one or two key contacts within the customer organization on the front lines of day-to-day operations and have direct influence on their buying decisions.
- Listening for Opportunities: While the focus of customer interactions is not selling, Burns listens for opportunities: “They may say they’re spending too much time entering data and that they know they can build an integration, but they need to know how they can do it. Or, they may ask how they can reduce the time their employees spend on administration so they can focus on quality tasks. I take those opportunities from start to finish so they receive a consistent experience.”
- Seamless Handover: CEEs lay the foundation for a strong relationship with a new client with a smooth transition from the Net New team. Burns prefers to begin her involvement during the implementation phase to understand details of the client’s solution. She also reviews documentation. “Clients are usually clear in the RFP what they want to achieve. The official handover process begins with a warm introduction and discussions about the client’s needs and objectives.”
- Scheduled Calls: Burns establishes a calendar of calls with clients, depending on whether they prefer weekly, biweekly, or, most commonly, monthly calls. She tailors interactions based on initial goals and how much progress has been made. Progress can be measured quantitatively and qualitatively, reviewing data as well as asking the client’s perception of how the technology is working — “ensuring that the customer is leveraging their technology solution to their maximum value.”
- Achieving Goals, Not Quotas: CEEs are not required to meet quotas; instead, team goals are set annually and relate to maintaining recurring revenue, gathering customer testimonials, and responding to customer feedback. “It’s the healthiest way to realize value for the customer,” Burns explained. Instead of being driven to meet quotas, she is encouraged to help her customers succeed. “When I see a customer’s corporate announcement about a new business accomplishment, I know we helped them achieve that.”
Future of Customer Success at VistaVu
The success of the first phase of VistaVu’s CEE initiative coupled with the positive feedback the company is getting from its Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys has inspired VistaVu to explore new opportunities to involve customers in its business growth.
The second phase is a deeper advocacy strategy and creating a symbiotic ecosystem with customers. “Customers are invested in wanting to make VistaVu better for them,” Burns said. “They want to learn what other VistaVu customers are doing to solve specific problems.”
In 2020, VistaVu will explore going deeper in understanding the customer journey and increasing the value it can bring. Customer communities will create opportunities to network, share information, and increase knowledge.
“We’re excited to see how that will develop, and the impact it will have on our overall company,” Giguere shared.