Today's business environment dictates that customer satisfaction be an integral part of operating a successful business. Information is abundant, providing customers with more buying power-and more temptation to switch providers-than ever before. The sooner vendors realize the customer is their number one asset, the quicker they can pave the road to success.
Consequently, the shift from customer satisfaction to customer success, although subtle, is crucial. Satisfaction, by definition, "is the state of being content." Whereas success is defined as "performance or achievement based on a stated objective."
A vendor may have many satisfied customers, however, that does not always translate to loyalty. To become a truly customer-focused organization, which feeds and grows off its own success, a vendor needs its customers to be successful-not just satisfied. Vendors that focus on success, rather than satisfaction, understand the viral effect a successful customer base can provide when it comes to marketing their products and services to unsuspecting prospects. The credibility of a peer company recommending a solution to a prospect outweighs the best lead generation efforts by 100 to 1.
The focus on customer success needs to be a part of the fabric of the organization's culture and has to be pervasive throughout every department. Following are a new set of rules to live by. Remember; satisfaction equals contentment. Success breeds loyalty and referrals.
1. The customer rules, period.
2. Be a partner not a vendor.
3. Listen, listen, and then listen some more to what the customer is saying.
4. Understand how your customer defines success.
5. Measure your organization's success by the customer's definition of how you are doing as a vendor, not just by traditional business metrics.
6. Set realistic expectations with the customer, early and often, with the goal of meeting and exceeding them.
7. Stay connected. If you are not communicating with your customers on a regular basis, someone else is.
8. Appreciate the customer. A simple thank-you card can go a long way.
9. Do right by the customer, even if it is unprofitable in the short term, and you will gain your profit in the future.
10. Get your customers involved with your future product plans.
If you think these rules sound obvious, you might be surprised to learn how many vendors don't practice them. The big question: "Is your organization living by these rules?" If not, you may be missing out on your most valuable lead generation system.
Bernie Kassar is the vice president of support and customer success at Xactly Corporation