By Dave Duke, MetaCX and Ross Fulton, Valuize
“Software is eating the world.”
This famous statement made by Marc Andreessen in 2011 set the tone for the proliferation of software that has since engulfed almost every aspect of business across all industries and ecosystems.
The software avalanche has provided opportunities for companies to reimagine the way they go to market and serve and support their employees and customers. The best companies have embraced the opportunity to use technology to improve the employee and customer experience.
Customer management has been a tremendous beneficiary of technology innovation over the last 20-plus years. The tech stack companies build to support their customer base plays an increasingly critical role in determining how teams effectively manage and serve customers day-to-day. There are countless ways in which innovation can catapult an organization to the future and create a competitive advantage.
But where should companies start? Below, we will outline how a tech stack that is specifically designed for deep customer collaboration can elevate customer management and ultimately make customers more successful en route to higher retention and growth rates.
We will define the concept of deep customer collaboration, explain how it relates to the other layers of the customer management tech stack, and share the benefits of adopting such an approach. We’ll also outline the use cases that should be considered to facilitate deep customer collaboration and deliver more value to customers.
What Is Deep Customer Collaboration?
Deep customer collaboration builds on the deep collaboration concept that productivity and collaboration applications are on a collision course — an output of the evolution of the way people work. Originally explained by Jake Saper, partner at Emergence Capital, deep collaboration recognizes that a person doing a specific task shouldn’t have to leave a single piece of software to get that job done. All the productivity and collaboration (internal and external) features needed to accomplish a task should live in the same place.
“Deep Collaboration … The term refers to software that combines productivity and collaboration functionality in one place to get a specific job done.”
– Jake Saper, Partner, Emergence Capital
Deep customer collaboration is the confluence of information, data, and assets that are used to productively manage a customer relationship alongside the strategies, activities, and conversations that create effective alignment between a company and its customers.
The idea of deep customer collaboration highlights that it is increasingly necessary for organizations to consider how they are navigating the crossroads of productivity and collaboration to effectively manage customers across the life cycle. More specifically, it dictates that customer management should have the ultimate goal of value creation and delivery. If a company is going to bring deep customer collaboration to life, it has to build systems and use technology that ensures customer management teams are put in the best position to align with customers to deliver real business impact.
Across the spectrum of customer management responsibilities, there are various strategies for customer engagement and collaboration. On one side, tech-touch models have been deployed to empower suppliers to manage the customer journey with minimal direct conversation. On the other side, high-touch models exist where the customer/supplier relationship is very strategic and hands-on — where strong collaboration is paramount to developing successful, long-term relationships.
As sales and customer success strategies become more centered around the creation and delivery of value, the customer management tech stack must be enhanced to support this evolution across all customer segments. Deep customer collaboration is at the core of this enhancement.
Deep Customer Collaboration And The Layers Of The Tech Stack
In business today, there are numerous untapped opportunities for technology to create stronger bonds between companies and their customers. For all of the technological innovation that has been applied to the customer life cycle in recent years, cracks remain that prevent sales and post-sales teams from realizing the true potential of customer collaboration and success. Boundaries need to be pushed even further to better position organizations to work collaboratively in the context of customer needs and objectives.
It’s time to think bigger and cast a new vision for how the tech stack can facilitate deep customer collaboration to ensure customer value realization.
The big question, of course, is where does customer collaboration fit into the customer management tech stack? While collaboration applications have existed for years, customer management technology has not been purpose-built for deep customer collaboration.
The first step in building a tech stack for deep customer collaboration is to understand what the customer management technical landscape looks like today. Typically, there are three layers to an organization’s customer management tech stack: a system of customer record, a system of customer insight, and a system of customer action. The layers work together to enable data-driven action to be taken by the company on their customers. Note the deliberate use of the word “on.” On their customers — not with their customers. We will return to this critical point later.
Let’s further break down the three layers of the customer management tech stack seen in organizations today.
The Layers Of The Customer Management Tech Stack
The System(s) of Customer Record – The system(s) of customer record is where, in theory, the golden record of a customer sits in an organization. It’s where you go to access the core information about a customer: contact, opportunity, contract, and activity data. In reality, there is nothing golden about the customer record in most organizations. It’s more of a murky brown record plagued with data inconsistencies and cleanliness issues. But that is a whole other topic to tackle in another article!
The System of Customer Insight – Building upon the system(s) of record is the system of customer insight — technology designed to enable questions to be asked of the customer data stored in the system(s) of record. The system of insight performs an analysis of customer data to enable answers to any number of questions — the insights. These insights are typically presented via dashboards and reports visible only to the vendor/supplier. More advanced organizations are enhancing their system of customer insight to monitor customer actions to deliver insights on progress and success. These insights may be related to product usage, user activity, feature utilization, and more.
The System of Customer Action – The system of customer action facilitates customer-facing teams to act on customer insights. These actions may be executed manually or automated by the system itself. Ideally, the action has been triggered by one or more customer insights.
There we have the three layers of the customer management tech stack seen in most organizations today. When properly integrated, these layers enable data-driven action to be taken on the right customer at the right time. It’s a powerful trio, but it can be so much more impactful by transitioning from acting on the customer to acting with the customer.
In part two of this two-part series, we will discuss how to get more tactical. We elaborate on the customer collaboration use cases that fit into the customer collaboration layer, the power of integration en route to consolidation, and the opportunities the customer collaboration layer creates for an organization.
About The Authors
Dave Duke is the cofounder and chief community officer at MetaCX, the pioneer in building a Value Network that brings suppliers and buyers together to manage the expected value from their relationship. Before MetaCX, he led customer success at Sigstr (acquired by Terminus) and held various customer management roles during his tenure at ExactTarget and Salesforce Marketing Cloud from 2005-2015. Dave also is the host of Revenue Revolutionaries, a podcast that showcases today’s best revenue and customer leaders and other big thinkers. For more information on MetaCX, please visit https://metacx.com/, and follow the company on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Ross Fulton is CEO and founder of Valuize. Before founding Valuize, Ross spent over 16 years scaling industry-leading software companies on both sides of the Atlantic. With a mission to empower today’s B2B software leaders to retain and expand their customers, Ross is passionate about fusing customer success strategy, technology, and operations to drive sustainable growth. For more information on Valuize, please visit https://www.valuize.co/. and follow the company on LinkedIn and Twitter.