Tenet 2 for Managing the Customer Experience in a Subscription Economy

December 15, 2009

by Katrina Wong, Director of Customer Experience


In my last post, I discussed why a focus on the customer experience is essential to growing your subscription business and outlined the three tenets of operating a thriving subscription business with a customer experience focus:


  • Anchor your business around the customer’s experience
  • Embrace the voice of the customer
  • Build a company culture that internalizes the customer experience


In this post, I’ll elaborate on Tenet #2 – Embrace the voice of the customer.


The good, the bad, and the in between.


Whether you do formal focus groups and surveys or gather customer feedback through informal lunches or face-to-face meetings, your goal is to understand a day-in-the-life of a customer and how your service makes his day easier or better.


Feedback will generally be a mixture of the good, the bad (and we all hope that there is more good than bad), and the in between. The key is to embrace all feedback and understand what your customers are saying about your product.


Take the good and understand why. Take the bad and internalize what it means to your service and take action. The in between is valuable and is usually due to your customers not understanding how best to use your product. Strive to tip the scale on the in between toward the good. The good serves as a benchmark for the bad and the in between. Turn around negative or neutral sentiment by employing learning tools such as better training or knowledge share.


The bad is where you get the most value. Embrace it and understand that it is usually at the core of what your customers want and need from your product. Take Syncplicity, a Zuora customer since March ’09, who self-implemented only to run into challenges, as reported in Cloud Ave’s blog:


In frustration, Syncplicity CEO Leonard Chung posted a scathing comment on LinkedIn. Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo saw the comment and, after a reportedly sleepless night, contacted Leonard wanting to repair a very public falling out. He assigned his top engineering exec to the problem. In turn, Chung assigned his key person to work with Zuora on the issues.


The process to fix Syncplicity’s issues took 3 months but at the end of it all there was a successful roll out of the new Syncplicity product in November and, in a happy ending to a sad story, Chung is now a reference customer for Zuora and is pretty positive given the history, as he says, “we had a rocky start, but they really pulled through for us”.


Share customer insight across your company on a regular basis.


Once you have your findings, it is important to share them with the rest of your company. Build a feedback loop to the relevant departments (e.g., feature requests to product management, service issues to customer care, etc.) or publish them across the company. Just make sure it happens consistently and regularly. Make customer feedback a standing topic at company-wide, executive, departmental and/or operations meetings and off-sites.


Talk about customer needs and not personal or organizational preferences.


The goal is to act on your customer feedback. Maybe a cross-functional initiative gets created as a result or simply a project for one department. Whatever plan you put in place, what is key is that your actions are based on what your customers need. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we know we should be doing (listening to our customers) and actually doing it (getting the feedback). Building a culture that truly embraces the voice of the customer will keep you focused on the right actions to take.


Stay tuned for my next post on Tenet #3: Build a company culture that internalizes the customer experience and customer feedback.