Q&A: Customer Success at Cognism

On Friday 26th October 2018, Cognism’s Customer Success team won Customer Service Team of the Year at the 2018 BESMA (British Excellence in Sales Management) Awards.

Customer success (CS) is a concept that is vital to our business. We help our customers succeed by providing them with the data and the prospecting technology to scale up fast. This in turn fuels our success - the more customers who come on board and generate revenue with us, the more referrals we get and the larger our client base becomes.

Kristapor Giragosian, Cognism’s VP of Customer Success, and Aileen Duffy, Head of Outbound Services, have taken time out of their busy schedules to talk all things CS, and share their top tips and insights.

Kristapor Giragosian, VP of Customer Success

Hi, Kris. First of all, congratulations for winning Customer Service Team of the Year at BESMA 2018. That’s a great achievement. Traditionally, there has been some confusion between the two terms - customer service and customer success. To start with, could you explain the difference between them?

Customer service is reactive, while customer success is proactive. Customer service is all about fixing specific problems, while customer success is about expanding customer knowledge. Good CS is all about guiding the customer along a path and adding value at every step of their journey. That’s what we always try to do at Cognism.

Based on your experiences at Cognism, what would you call excellent customer success?

At Cognism, we’ve put in place a very robust CS process. Every customer who comes on board with us gets their own, dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM). It’s the CSM’s role to build a relationship with the customer and show them how to get the very best out of our products. The CSM is more than an appointed contact for customers should anything go wrong; their function is to become a trusted advisor to the customer, and to demonstrate how to make things go right.

Another thing to consider is that excellent customer success is a process that never stops. As long as the customer is a customer, we’re there for them.  

What processes have you put in place to ensure excellent customer success?

We use tools like Intercom and Keen.io to simplify and measure interactions with our customers. We tackle all issues in a timely manner. For instance, Cognism CS is committed to providing an immediate response to queries.

What do you always remember when dealing with a difficult customer? How do you deal with them?

I’m always aware that using software can be frustrating. People can always have a bad day. When dealing with a difficult customer, it’s best to lead by example. Stay calm, stay positive. Show them that you’re determined to solve their problem. If you do that, usually the customer relaxes and you’re able to work on the issue together.

What processes have you put in place to make sure you retain your customers every month?

Every Cognism customer is assigned a customer health score. The scoreboard is updated weekly, based on information from our CSMs. If a customer is happy, their score is raised. Similarly, if a customer is dissatisfied, then their score is lowered. If a customer’s health score falls below a certain level, then the customer is deemed “at risk”. When that happens, we implement a full review of that customer’s account. A CS task-force is put together, and we discuss the steps we need to take to get that customer back on track.

Could you share any tips on how to make a customer feel extra-special?

Sure. From my experience, I can tell you that working at Cognism is more than just a job. We live and breathe this company. We take it personally when a customer isn’t happy. That makes us go the extra mile for our clients.

My advice to anyone working in CS is to adopt a can-do attitude. Educate yourself in the product. Speak with confidence. Remember you’re not just there to solve a problem - you’re there to give insight. Think about what the customer will need in the future, not just on the day. Do that, and you can’t go very wrong!

Last but certainly not least, why do you think Cognism CS triumphed at BESMA this year?

If you look at the finalists for the Customer Service Team of the Year Award, we were up against some big household names. I think we won because we have a committed, passionate team of people working here. We know the product inside out and we work very hard to transmit our knowledge to the customer.

We always strive to do the best for our customers - because, as our CEO James Isilay says, “Customers are at the heart of Cognism.”

Aileen Duffy, Head of Outbound Services

Hi, Aileen. You are one of Cognism Customer Success’s outstanding performers, from winning our “Star CSM of Quarter 2” Award to your recent promotion to Head of Outbound Services. Why do you think you’ve flourished at Cognism CS?

I would say it’s because I’ve gone above and beyond for my customers. It’s the little things that count, I think - giving them extra time, being super-friendly. I always try to make them feel like they’re Number 1! I don’t treat all customers the same. You have to personalise the experience for them.

What tips would you give to people starting out in CS?

You’ve got to make sure you spend time understanding the product. Educate yourself about it. A good CSM must be able to help with any and all queries - even if it’s just knowing who to refer the customer on to. When I joined Cognism, I took a lot of time watching videos and demonstrations on how our products worked. I think that’s helped me a lot.

It’s also good to ask questions of your customers. Ask them how they’re doing, how they’re using the product. Is there anything they’re unsure about or need help with? That’s a really good thing to do, and it helps to build a relationship over time.

If you have an indecisive client, how do you identify their needs?

My method is simple: offer them two routes. If there’s a problem, give them options on how you can resolve it for them. This makes them feel like they’re involved in your work. If they’re having difficulties with the product, you can show them how you dealt with the issue for a prior customer. It’s good to remember things you’ve done before for other clients, as the same problems can come up again.

Sometimes customers can get frustrated, but I find giving them options help to take the stress away. Again, it’s all about building a relationship with them.

How do you go about solving problems for your customers?

If a problem comes up, I always think: can I solve this myself? I think what I’ve done before. Have I dealt with a problem like this for another customer? I find that really helps.

Do you approach all customers the same, or do you adjust the way you work for each customer?

When it comes to our onboarding sessions, I approach all customers the same - to begin with. As you talk to them, you quickly find out what they like or don’t like. Some customers like to be shown everything about the product, others just want to be shown certain things. You adjust your approach as you get to know them.

Communication is key. Some customers like to be contacted by email, others really like a phone call. You quickly work out how to approach a new customer.

Thanks for your time today Aileen. Do you have any final thoughts on customer success? What do you do to make your customers feel extra special?

Always be positive! Be upbeat and speak confidently. Always make sure you sound really excited and happy to speak to them. If you come across in a positive way, then your customers will engage positively, too. And that makes your job easier, and a lot more fun as well.

The best piece of advice I ever heard when it comes to customer success is: “at the end of the day, a customer won’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel”. That really stuck with me. So I try to make all my customers feel good, whether they’re having a good day or a bad day. To me, that’s the real secret of good customer success!

To see how Cognism’s lead generation solutions and award-winning Customer Success team can make a real difference to your business, contact us today for a demo. Or alternatively, call us on +44 203 858 0822.