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Back to the future!
This is not the right way to manage customer relationships. How can one cater to customer problems without physically meeting them? Why don’t folks at Fyle get it!!” I once vented to my wife, after a particularly frustrating day on calls with a really demanding customer
This was over a year and a half back when I had just joined Fyle, a promising SaaS startup in the Expense Management space. Things were at a point where I was really frustrated and was reconsidering my decision to move to Fyle. Today, 18 months later, I can safely claim that moving to Fyle has been one of the best decisions in my professional career. To know more about what caused this change, read on.
Avatar 1 — Traveling ‘Success’ man
My professional journey in Customer Success started over 10 years ago when I worked for a leading company that provided CRM solutions for the real estate industry. As a Customer Success Lead, I was responsible for managing a portfolio of over 50 clients scattered across the country. This was a travel-intensive role where I used to travel quite a lot to client locations to help with implementation, training, customer support, and stakeholder engagement.
The entire model was customer-onsite based. Starting from the post-sale kick-off meeting, to gathering requirements, putting together the implementation plan, working with customer teams to ensure implementation is on track to finally ensuring that customers are able to successfully use the product, all of these activities were executed onsite with close engagement with the customer sponsor and related stakeholders.
Whether it was to sort out any issues on the platform, to collect feedback, to cross-sell or upsell propositions, all these were also onsite activities that required my physical presence at the customer location.
Working in this model day-in and day-out, I believed that this was the only customer engagement model that worked. I also thought that to ‘build’ relations, you had to get there in front of the client. And, to sort out customer problems, you had to be there to bring issues to closure physically.
I had assumed there was no other ‘mantra’ to manage customers effectively. Little did I know that this model would be thrown out of the window when I joined Fyle in late 2018 to take on new challenges.
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If you want to know more about my journey at Fyle — read here.
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Avatar 2 — ‘Confused’cius
At Fyle, I was pushed into a new way of working. There were no direct meetings; all customers were remote, nobody, including the sales folks, had ever seen the client (even while selling the product!). Nobody knew how our customers looked in flesh and blood. It was a whole new world where every interaction was carried out over email, calls, tickets, or video chats. No direct meetings at all. This unknown territory confused and scared the daylights out of me!
My initial days were uncomfortable and confusing, to say the least. This wasn’t my idea of managing clients. Time and again, I questioned if we were following the right model to client engagement by attempting to engage with them remotely.
This discomfort further amplified when I got assigned a customer that was on the verge of churning. A demanding sponsor, multiple escalations, and concurrent open points were really stretching the remote model to a point where I was starting to question if we are doing things the right way.
But there was something that worked to my favour. Fyle is genuinely obsessed with customer satisfaction, and the team leaves no stone unturned to ensure that customers are kept happy with our product. I, therefore, decided to approach this problem differently.
In essence, I worked with the customer sponsor to prioritize issues and bottlenecks. I also ensured we provide the right support and attention to resolve matters on priority. I kept in constant touch with the project sponsor. I made sure that he and other key stakeholders were aware of the plan to work around the problems they had raised. I also provided them with regular updates to demonstrate that we were doing everything in our control to bring things back to the track.
Slowly, but steadily, this customer focus and transparency allowed us to gain the customer’s trust and confidence, allowing us to get their support. Yes, there were difficult days and difficult conversations, but we were able to constructively work around it thanks to our rock-solid focus on customer outcomes.
Avatar 3 — The ‘Remote’ Guru
As I started to work with clients who were miles away, I realized one crucial thing. Businesses can build a good relationship and deliver a magical experience through the holy trinity of transparency, regular interaction, and, most importantly, an unshakeable focus on doing the right thing for the customer.
I understood how patience, building trust, and staying connected with the customer helps to achieve success even without meeting them in person. Over the last year, I have successfully applied these learnings, and it has worked wonders every time, with every customer, without ever having set foot in their office!
A bumper benefit of this model is the time, effort, and money saved. Previously, I would spend days travelling back and forth and have a pile of work waiting for me when I came back from travel. This is not the case at Fyle, where I could have crisp, agenda-driven meetings completing on time. This has also enabled us to deliver successful outcomes to customers without incurring additional costs.
I have started to believe in this model, and my idea of managing clients has changed. I am now the biggest proponent of this model within Fyle. When I got a new manager who believed in the old model like me back then, I was able to change his thinking process to the new paradigm that I had just lived through.
I have started to appreciate the power of the SaaS world and often wonder how much I could have done if I were doing the same in my previous organization. I sometimes wish I could go back in time and manage clients in this model — ah, how much time and effort I would have saved!
In closing, it’s all about building relationships. And, like all other relationships, constant tending and genuine care go a long mile, and it doesn’t always have to be in a direct meeting. Once your customers get a feeling that someone is out there to help them, we don’t have to get in front of them. With this in mind, go out there and bring cheer to your customer’s faces remotely. (literally!)