Peter Armaly is a Senior Director of Customer Success Business Advisory Services at Oracle and frequent Modern Marketing Blog contributor.
With over 20 years of experience in the high-tech field, Armaly found early on that he has an affinity for customer needs and their business goals that revolve around the software in which they invest. During his earlier roles in sales, he found that it’s one thing to sell and demo software, but it’s quite another to work with customers and be able to make an impact on their ability to extract the kind of value they expect to get out of it. In short, what he was thinking and talking about was customer success before the phrase had even been coined and even before most had realized that customer experience plus the achievement of customer outcomes equals customer success.
But in order to get a full appreciation for the work involved in helping customers extract that value, Armaly says it’s important to understand that being in customer support is actually a really good starting point. So he did just that – moving over from sales to support in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the customer experience and the effort they put into adopting the product. He believes support offers one of the better ways to get close to the customer because it provides an invaluable opportunity to observe and collect critical feedback about their use of the product along with the ability to gain a more intimate knowledge of the experience they are receiving from the various vendor teams they interact with. The great potential value for the software provider is if that information is programmatically shared throughout the rest of the company. And this is where many companies fail to implement the necessary measures to unlock and action that information. Moreover, many support leaders, he thinks, have historically not realized the immense knowledge at their own fingertips and have systematically settled into a standard industry routine of waiting and reacting, thinking that’s what support is designed to do. Fixing and then moving on to the next problem. This reactive style of operations, while offering short-term help for customers, fails them over the long-term because it doesn’t address more macro patterns of product deficiencies, education gaps, adoption challenges, and communication weaknesses. These are all focus areas that the industry has now come to accept as being within the realm of influence of customer success and so, in many ways, Armaly views customer support as the precursor to customer success.
Support begets success
And so smart leaders layered on top of their conventional customer engagement models one (customer success) that holds the promise of a more consultative approach. One that presents the chance to get ahead of customer challenges before they manifest themselves in problems. With the way technology has matured over the years, this more modern engagement approach has benefited the vendor through better insights into customer behaviors and their ability to progress towards their goals. Technology has delivered better reporting and analysis and the ability to identify patterns in product use and in the customer’s experience that can enhance the ability for customer success to deliver on the consultative approach that customers really need. And interestingly, this has provided some relief for harried customer support teams by helping them better-address customers’ issues when they are first logged. More knowledge collected and driven into an engine for generating insights allows customer success and customer support to act in concert in the best interest of the software provider and of the customer.
Armaly thinks all that story up to here has really been the story of how customer success came to be but it doesn’t speak to where he feels it needs to go. To understand that part of the story, he believes you need to focus on the Voice of the Customer (VoC).
VoC and customer outreach
His evolving role at Oracle involved, in part, him bringing more of a formalized point of view to the VoC program, specific to the customer success service, and to conduct deep dives into the observations and opinions customers had about the company’s Customer Success initiative up to that point. Equipped with a mountain of data, he and his team noted the gaps in their program and how they could fix them. This way, they could develop a program that was more:
Consultative and expert based
Nimble and dynamically engaging
Driven by understanding a customer’s specific business goals, including metrics around KPIs
Launched from this base, his team is now formalizing its thought leadership practice and building a content management model that is focused on evangelizing customer stories of success that were driven largely by a strong customer success practice.
Marketing takes on a more prominent role
Every example of a customer achieving their desired business outcomes is a story. Armaly wants all blog readers to know about each one either individually or in the aggregate. He believes the stories can inspire other customers to develop stronger narratives for how they can move their own plans from conception to reality. Showing past results is a critical element of garnering more business and in order to achieve those results you need two things:
A strong service delivery practice
The ability to reach and connect with a broader audience to show them what can be done and how your practice has helped others solve their business problems.
How do you reach audiences with your stories of customer success? You have to put pen to paper. You have to produce content (which Armaly and his team are doing).
How can you reach customers?
- Emails and newsletters
- Social media
- Events and promotions
- Your website (and/or landing pages)
And don’t forget that how you built your team can be a part of the story about a customer’s success. Your own story can inspire others. How you developed your approach, reached out to them, and worked together all goes into the story. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Success is never a story that should be kept quiet.
Data helps marketers tell stories. It puts things into the proper context and conveys how a solution was found. Find out more about how to work with results and data when you “Do More with ROI and Marketing Attribution.”