Software company Allocadia has used AI to look beyond product adoption as a measure of customer success, creating a new ‘health score’ vital to the organisation’s growth, writes Joel Harrison
‘Customer success’ has been one of the
fastest growing and most exciting aspects of sales and marketing in B2B tech
and other related sectors in recent years, with companies of all sizes pumping in more and more money and attention into it.
The reasons for the explosive growth of this area are not difficult to fathom: unless you ensure your customers are both using your products/services and getting results from them, they are unlikely to remain a customer for long, and they may even churn in a matter of weeks. This is particularly the case for SaaS products, where the ability to churn is an evil necessary to enable the kind of flexible access that these platforms promise.
The brief for customer success as a function or team is therefore pretty clear and obvious: make sure people are using your products, help them with any challenges they have getting set up, and do whatever you can within reason to enable them to be successful with their use of your product and to meet their objectives. In other words, it’s about making their success your success; and to make this happen, tech companies in particular are becoming increasingly creative.
One such company is Vancouver-based Allocadia, which provides marketing performance management technology to 150 companies and 10,000 individual users. Allocadia had an established customer success team, which was performing well, but was conscious that in an ever-changing environment it needed to understand if it could do more and do better – to be more effective in meeting customer needs, resulting in greater satisfaction and the consequent commercial returns. In short, it wanted to make customer success a driving force for the business.
Although the customer success function was operating at a ‘solid pace’, it didn’t have a formula or way to understand who the next generation customer was, or why. Furthermore, whilst Allocadia was confident about the quality of relationships that it had with its customers, it was conscious that it lacked the ability to measure them, leaving the relationship open to risk.
A solution for best-in-class customer retention
So Allocadia knew it needed better and more actionable insights, to scale its activities better, and to look beyond product adoption as a measure of health and success – its aspiration was for best-in-class customer retention and ‘no surprises’. The solution it came up with to meet these challenges was a new and improved ‘health score’, which would take advantage of what’s already working to create opportunities for continued growth.
A previous attempt to create this health score metric went some of the way towards the desired solution (eg. showing which customers were logging in, which features they were using, and what support cases they had started), but the individuals in the project team felt that it had lacked key aspects of the picture. So for this new attempt, the team focused on addressing three new areas of customer health:
1. Perceived customer value.
The team identified that the previous health score model did not focus on or account for the value that customers perceived they were getting from the solution. Using data provided by its Gainsight insights solution, it developed a metric called ‘value realisation’ to within the overall health score, using the individual success metrics of each customer as a starting point. These are then formally and regularly reviewed to determine now just how well Allocadia thinks they are doing, but how this relates to their internal value determiners.
2. Relationship strength.
The ability to measure value of the relationship or product was one challenge, the objective measurement of relationship strength was another. To address this, Allocadia deployed an AI-enabled relationship intelligence platform from Toronto-based Nudge.ai. It works by allowing team members to share network information, such as email and social, providing visibility into who has the best access to decision-makers and key accounts. This was deployed across the whole post-sales team, to ensure those with the best and broadest access to clients were contributing to the overall health score. Nudge has allowed the team to identify how many relationships are required for an account to be considered ‘healthy’ and how that differed between segments, setting thresholds and ensuring the right type of connections to de-risk relationships.
3. Actionable insights.
Although there’s obvious value in measuring the health of a customer, without insights on how, where and when to make improvements, this information can be rather redundant. A key objective of the Health Score project, therefore, was to establish an outcome for every interaction – ensuring every piece of information services a specific purpose and drives a high value interaction. To achieve this, the team ensured that the following key data points were captured for each account: most recent challenges; measures of success; KPIs. Once captured, this could be combined with the score to drive contextually relevant interactions, not just for the customer success team, but across every relevant level of the business.
The unintended consequence of this initiative, working across multiple teams and business units was an exercise in organisational alignment – or perhaps realignment. It has helped place the customer success team at the heart of the business, and made it vital to the organisation’s growth plans.