A little more human

7 How to use software to manage customer relationships

You’ve got data by the gigaton, and in that stream are the keys to your customer’s long-term health. But a rich information flow can quickly turn into an overflow if not managed properly.

What do you do? You could stick to spreadsheets and email, but that won’t scale. You’re going to need the right technology to capture, understand, and use data to inform your actions.

Customer success software is like the nervous system of your business. It effortlessly takes complex signals from all around and triggers insights and actions.

Why is this important? Keri Keeling, VP of Customer Success and Operations at Bluenose Analytics, explains:

Let’s start with the big picture.

What customer data and interactions
do you need to manage?

Take a step back and think about all the ways you interact with customers.

What comes to mind? Some obvious things:

  • Customer contact, historical interactions, and account information
  • Reactive support tickets and help center usage
  • Proactive outreach for education, upsells, and email marketing
  • User behavior and analytics from how they interact with your product

To gauge customer health, you need a finger on all this information.

Ready? Let’s find the right system for you.

Resolve problems with your help desk,
support center, and knowledge base

Support is typically reactive. A customer has a problem, complaint, bug report, or feature suggestion. And if you’re doing it right, they may get in touch just to say thanks.

This is where most companies start–the next step after a Gmail account for business.

Help desk software gives you a centralized, shared inbox for handling support tickets from various channels. No more sharing passwords or having two people respond to the same email at once.

There are tons of options out there, all with their own interface, set of features, and areas of expertise.

Looking for a simple ticketing system and knowledge base for a small business? Here are some popular places to start:

  • Groove
  • Help Scout
  • Desk.com

Even if you don’t use Groove as your help desk software, we recommend Groove’s blog for insights on customer success and the startup journey.

Ready to step it up to a multi-agent, multi-channel tool with more in-depth reporting and insights? Here’s a few options to check out:

  • Zendesk
  • Freshdesk
  • Kayako

These also have APIs that let you hook up to your data warehouse. Useful stuff.

Looking for a way to train your support staff?
Check out how Freshdesk does it with a customer support glossary and quiz.

Are you just getting started, overwhelmed by email, but not ready to invest in a full support solution? Another option for entrepreneurs of small businesses is to create your own support center with a typeform.

Oh, and by the way, if you’re hosting your own help center, make sure you add Google Analytics. It will help you keep tabs on what questions people have, and how effectively they’re solving their own problems.

Manage the funnel with Customer
Relationship Management (CRM) software

Have you heard the term “CRM,” but were too ashamed to ask what it means?

It stands for Customer Relationship Management, but it’s typically used to refer to the software that manages these relations.

What relations do they manage? Salesforce tells us it’s about: “customer and prospect contact information, accounts, leads and sales opportunities in one central location.”

This sums up the origin and intent of traditional CRM systems. They’re designed to manage customer interactions as you push them through your sales funnel, from lead generation to close.

They’re not really designed to combine and interpret data signals from multiple sources, like your help desk and product platform. But most now offer APIs and powerful integrations.

Salesforce, Zoho, and Microsoft Dynamics are some of the big CRM players. Some other cloud-based CRMs we’ve heard good things about: Insightly, Hubspot CRM, Close.io, and Pipedrive.

Engage through customer messaging software

Imagine you’re sitting at your computer, staring at that empty Google search box, about to ask a questi… Shazam! The answer appears out of nowhere. Mindreading to the rescue.

Customer success isn’t quite there yet. But proactive communications targeted to specific user needs at just the right time is where you should be heading.

Email marketing, in-app chat, messages for onboarding, scheduled newsletters and updates—these are all part of the conversation.

Intercom is a great solution for scheduling outgoing messages. It hooks up to your SaaS platform so you can send automated messaging triggered by a predefined event.

Relevant, proactive engagement. Customers appreciate this.

Pull it together with Customer
Success Management software

Recurring revenue companies have exploded. Data is everywhere. And this means big opportunity for a new breed of software designed to pull it all together.

Enter customer success management software, designed to:

Aggregate data from multiple sources: platform usage, customer feedback, support tickets, accounting systems—all in one place.
Indicate what’s important in the data based on your goals and KPIs. Helps separate the signal from the noise.
Automate actions through pre-defined workflows.

Basically, it helps you connect the dots between signals from all corners of the business, so you can focus on what matters. If used right, the technology should allow bigger growth to your customer base, without proportional growth to your success team.

As Omer Gotlieb, co-founder & chief customer officer at Totango, says:

Gainsight, Totango, Amity, and Natero are some of the bigger names competing in this space. These aren’t solutions for the lighthearted. But if you’re serious about using customer data to drive growth, have a look.

What are the best customer success
tools and software out there?

So what’s the best solution for you?

There are lots of good tools out there. We’ve mentioned some of the most popular to help point you in the right direction.

Of course “the best” software depends on your company’s needs and goals. So the first step is to do some soul searching.

Zoltan Radnai, Global Director of Customer Care at Prezi, has some pointers to get you started:

Are you a SaaS company? You’ll need a tool to peek in on user behavior. Want to support customers through social media? Your help desk better oblige. Is sales your secret sauce? You’ll need a good CRM.

The good news for SaaS products is they often offer freemium plans or trial periods. So take a few test runs, check reviews, and talk to others in your shoes.

Last thing. Just having the right tool sitting on your desk won’t make you or your customers successful. So find something the feels right to you, and put it to work for your customers.

Here are a few tips as you put technology to work for you:

  • Tag, tag, tag. Your support center isn’t just a vehicle to ease user pains. It’s a rich source of insight into what customers expect and how they perceive and use your product. So start tagging all support tickets that come in—bugs, features, pains, whatever.
  • Create feature roadmaps. Use frequent user requests to prioritize your product development.
  • Segment. It’s great to know that 55% of your customers use feature X. It’s much more interesting to know that feature X is used by 80% of designers but only 15% of marketers. This helps you better understand who to target with your messaging and marketing dollars.
  • Identify. Use this data to identify at-risk users so you can proactively reach out. This data can also help you pinpoint power users who might be ripe for the upsell or happy to advocate for you.