Customer Success Starts With Listening

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Jay Topper, senior vice president, customer success, Rosetta Stone, translates customer insight and a customer-centric environment into ongoing customer experience improvements.

Three years ago, if someone would have told Jay Topper he'd someday be in charge of the customer experience at Rosetta Stone, he would have told that person he was crazy. "The concept of having 300 million more people come at me with their needsseemed daunting," says Topper, who was CIO for 15 years.

Now, Topper says he wouldn't trade his current position of senior vice president of customer success for anything. He credits his work as CIO in helping him to establish his current role. Analyzing data streams on a daily basis led Topper to recognize a need for improving the organization's customer experience. "I realized that we weren't really doing the customer justice," he says.

Three years ago he took his findings to the executive team, with the idea of implementing an organization within the language learning company that would be responsible for every aspect of the customer experience. The executive team bought the idea, and almost overnight, Topper went from technologist to customer strategist, with 800 employees reporting to him. "I went from someone who never listened to customers at all, to being totally immersed. It was a complete flip," he says.

Today, a number of customer-facing and operational departments across the organization report to the Customer Success team, including the CMO, language coaches, moderators who monitor the language communities, a customer retention group focused on renewals, R&D, the CRM department, analytics, and social media.

Their joint mission, Topper explains, is to dramatically increase lifetime measurements of customers, efficiency, satisfaction, and dollars. "At the end of the day that equals happy usage," he explains. "We believe that, in turn, will lead to renewals, higher NPS, and word of mouth."

To continuously move the needle on the happiness dial, Topper has become immersed in listening to customers. He does so in "any way, shape, or form," whether it's personally monitoring social media (which he says provides rich behavioral data), interacting with customers on his own social profile, reviewing weekly chat logs (which he says offers layers of unstructured data), or teaching one of the company's English courses. He engages with customers two hours per week in post-sale learning webinars. Topper's mission: to continuously learn from customers and, based on his findings, improve their overall customer experience, as well as send tailored communications and offers.

Over the past nine months he's also worked to shift the mentality of the organization to a customer-nurturing one. Topper's ability to achieve this is due, in part, to how he fosters an environment that encourages risk taking, promotes customer centricity, and rewards employees for their ideas. There is a company-wide ethos, he says, around optimizing the customer experience. "I can't think of any area in the company that isn't super-charged and energetic about trying new things and pushing the envelope as it relates to the customer experience," he says.

These cross-organizational efforts, he hopes, will proactively build long-lasting relationships. Reactive support, he says, is dead. More companies, he advises, must work on establishing proactive relationships. "Customer expectations are higher," he says. "If you don't meet them you will die."

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EXPERT OPINION