How to Turn Customer Success Encounters into Action and Knowledge

Companies with vibrant customer success practices know that customer success professionals are often in the right place at the right time to gain valuable customer insight. One of the most essential qualities of a customer success professional is the ability to listen to customers. While sometimes this listening is part of a transactional or task-oriented process, such as to ensure a renewal, solve a problem, kick off a new customer engagement, or establish additional customer contacts, many customer conversations are not anchored to a particular assignment.

In the process of periodic customer conversations, customer success representatives often uncover information that is highly important. How companies make use of this information varies widely. Insight gained from these encounters might provide extremely valuable feedback about products or services and even ideas for entirely new products or services. Other insight could improve marketing precision and the way the company gets attention from prospective customers or gains credibility. Some insights will lead to new ways of boosting customer satisfaction, preventing churn, and increasing goodwill, Net Promoter Scores, and referrals. Some will lead to opportunities for expansion and incremental revenue.

The problem that most organizations face is how to effectively distribute and store the insights and how to make them actionable. Many times this function is relegated to an email and is then destined to suffer the great inefficiencies of work process or knowledge done in email form. Often, emails are simply not read at all or simply glanced at between tasks and then buried and forgotten. Sometimes emails will achieve their intended result, but there is no assurance this will happen.

Some customer success platforms will include a notes function to capture details from customer meetings and conversations. Customer success teams might also rely on stand-alone notes applications, ranging from legacy Lotus Notes, or newer applications, such as Evernote, or document storage platforms, such as Google Notes, or shared documents in repositories like Box.

Having notes as an integrated function of the customer success platform is especially productive, as it ensures more consistency and centrality and makes it a focus of customer success methodology. Having raw, unstructured, unaided note retention is good, but the capability could be made far more powerful with some additional functionality.

The most valuable added functions to customer notes are the ability to create robust actions directly from within each note and the ability to route the insight and suggested or required actions to specific individuals. Even if email is used as a vehicle for routing or conveying the information, at least it has been systematized to establish reminders and assigned tasks and make the insight easier to retain and recall.

Actions might involve something on the part of service or support to remedy a problem; a bug report or flagging of a product/service problem to developers or product teams; opportunities for the sales team; and more. Insights without specific actions can be distributed to relevant people and groups and also referenced with each customer record. The ability to monitor and report on disbursed information and assigned actions and the capability to search is also quite valuable.

More advanced customer success note capabilities should provide the ability to tag various people, groups or even topics. Actions should be able to have priority levels attached to them and specific due dates established as appropriate. Integrations with other systems, such as workflow ticketing systems, CRM systems, or other applications, further improves communication, collaboration, and accountability.

Capturing insights or information can be aided with pre-made templates that correspond to the type of customer encounter or the topic of the discussion. Ideally, customer success professionals will not be forced into particular templates but can use them when appropriate. For instance, perhaps there is a pre-set template for quarterly business review meetings and another for complaints or problems. A general meeting template might be able to organize the notetaking into sections to clearly indicate the attendees or participants, goals, discussion items, and actions.

More than anything, the key with customer notetaking is capturing relevant information, creating actions, distributing the insight or actions, and establishing ways to retain the information. Having notes readily available for each customer enables more seamless handover when there is a change in customer success personnel or when others get involved.

Gaining customer insight is strategic advantage to any company, but understanding how to share it and make it actionable is even more critical. As organizations evolve their customer success practices, leveraging insight and knowledge will further underscore the value of customer success and will advance the company considerably.

Shreesha Ramdas is senior vice president at Medallia and general manager of Strikedeck, a company he co-founded prior to its acquisition by Medallia. Prior to Strikedeck, Ramdas was general manager of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, co-founder of LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) and OuterJoin, and general manager of Yodlee. Ramdas has led teams in sales and marketing at Catalytic Software, MW2 Consulting, and Tata and also advises startups on marketing and growth hacking.