The Rule Book Has Changed: Shifting to Customer-Led Growth

Lauren Culbertson

We’ve talked about customer-obsession for a while now — about the need to prioritize the customer and deliver excellent experiences.

In the past few months, there’s been a shift from talking about how important customer-centric strategies are to growth to talking about how critical customer-centric strategies are to retention and survival.

The bells and whistles have been stripped off and we’re left with one thing: how well we’re delivering value to our customers. Everything else has been cancelled.

Our customers need products and resources that deliver impact quickly.  But speed of delivery alone won’t be the defining factor of market leaders. Christine Crandell says that “deep, actionable understanding of expectations through the eyes of the customer will.

The companies that come out of this and prosper will be those that understand that the rule book has changed. We can’t just say that customers are at the center of everything we do - we have to live this.

To do this successfully, companies have to shift their approach to Customer-Led Growth.

Customer-led growth unifies cross-functional teams around the needs of the customer. Rather than just focusing solely on product usage, customer-led growth focuses on a culture of collective responsibility for the customer experience.

Every team from product to sales and marketing are aligned around the customer, and use customer feedback to deliver better marketing, monetization, product, and experience strategies.

It starts with a shift in culture

Cross-functional collaboration is difficult. Conflicting goals, siloed data, and competing priorities create friction for teams across the organization. We need a shift in how we think about goal-setting across teams.

If we align all teams around the customer, we can start operating from places of mutual interest and shared outcomes.

How do we do this?

1. Make the customer experience everyone’s responsibility

Every team influences the customer experience, yet only certain teams are accountable for it. This means that we are limiting the scope of impact that every team member can have.

Rather than understanding the critical role they play in enhancing the customer experience, and approaching their role and responsibilities through this lens, team members feel disengaged from both the problem and the solution.

If we’re all accountable and empowered to innovate for customers, we will see a difference in how individuals and teams work together to drive customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention. Jeff Sheehan, Customer Experience Consultant, says:

“There needs to be a Top-Down and a Bottom-Up approach to customer experience management. The C-suite at the Top needs to provide the strategy, mission, vision, values, goals and CX Governance that points the company in the direction it wants to go and sets the example for how important the customer is. Thousands of customer interactions happen every day in the call centers, retail stores, online stores and web sites where front-line customer-facing staff interact and personify the brand experience. Inbetween is where I think the Improvement Council can be established with heads of cross-functional departments aligning, prioritizing and accountable for accomplishing CX projects. For example, IT and Call Center can align to pilot chatbots to deflect calls or the CFO and Billing can team up to reduce receivables by designing simpler invoices that customers understand and pay.”

Creating an incredible customer experience spans beyond product functionality and services delivered. It’s every conversation and interaction, from the messages we deliver to the invoices we send.

2. Treat customer feedback like the gift that it is

Customer feedback is everywhere and we’re collecting it all the time, but we often wait to prioritize customer feedback until quarterly surveys or win/loss analyses.

Every conversation that your frontline employees have is a chance to gather feedback. Every conversation thread in your Community or support ticket is a chance to learn more about what your customers want, need, and where they need more support.

The disconnect in how we collect and analyze customer feedback, and what we consider customer feedback, means that we’re wasting time searching for answers rather than taking action.

I experienced this problem firsthand. Sales, Support, and Customer Success were on the frontlines every day having conversations with prospects and customers, gathering valuable intel about customer needs and opportunities. Rather than having some formalized way for analyzing and understanding trends across these conversations, notes would be recorded in our CRM and then basically collect dust.

This was a huge missed opportunity. As a Product Marketer, I’d spend countless hours and resources on customer and market surveys to discover what my counterparts already knew.

If frontline conversations were treated as a source of intelligence, marketing can focus surveys on what we DON’T know, and go deeper into issues that might not be uncovered in these conversations.

3. Align company and customer growth strategies  

Your success is directly tied to your customers’ success. The more value your customers find in your products and services, the more likely they are to stick around and expand investment.

Your growth strategies should be driven by customer opportunities. How will expansion or investment bring value to your current customers? How will your growth empower your customers’ growth?

If your growth is focused solely on new logos, you’re leaving opportunity on the table and likely neglecting your most valuable asset: your existing customer base.

The more you understand what success means and looks like for your customers, the more you can understand how your company and product plays a role in the vision.

Customer-led growth is the hyper-focus on making the customer the glue across the organization. It’s giving customers a seat at the table, and committing to working smarter and more collaboratively to deliver value and authenticity across every touchpoint and interaction.

When teams align around the customer, we can more purposefully focus on building the products and experiences that matter. We’ll go from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have, and there will be fewer questions about the value your product delivers.

Lauren Culbertson is the Co-founder and CEO of LoopVOC, Voice of the Customer software that uses text analytics to provide companies with a faster & more affordable alternative to traditional market research. She’s on a mission to help enterprise SaaS companies use customer feedback to make highly informed go-to-market decisions that lead to faster growth.