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Source: SAP

Headline: Building an Ecosystem of Customer Success at Acloudear

Acloudear has had a great deal of success. Since its founding in 2014, the company has grown to become one of the top solution providers in the small and midsize business market in China and Asia-Pacific.

This year, Acloudear received an SAP Pinnacle Award as the SAP Cloud Partner of the Year, Small and Midsize Companies category.

Customer Success Woven into DNA

A number of factors play into Acloudear’s growth, but the company recognizes that one foundational principle has been key: customer success.

“When we began, we didn’t frame customer success as clearly as we define it today,” said Tracy Zhou, Acloudear CEO. “But we knew we couldn’t fail our customers. We needed to help them implement SAP Cloud successfully.”

Zhou explained that from the start, Acloudear has always had strong hiring practices, making industry expertise and a strong cloud mindset requisite for team members. Her team also took special care during the implementation phase to see that the customer had the tools they needed, those tools were properly configured, and that their employees were prepared and trained to use them.

Zhou added that she, as CEO, takes a hands-on approach, helping ensure that the company is providing optimal solutions and services and that customers experience a high rate of adoption. It has always been her role to contact decision-makers if her customer success team sounds the alarm that an account is at risk.

“These were the seeds of our customer success program today,” she shared. “We set our minds on making customers successful and then extended that idea to every area of our business. Now, customer success is everywhere and in everything. It has to be in the mindset of all stakeholders.”

Zhou defines customer success by phases in the customer’s life cycle. For example, in presales and sales, her team achieves customer success by aligning the SAP Cloud portfolio with the customer’s needs, setting the stage for greater efficiency, productivity, and innovation. In the implementation and support phases, the Acloudear team aims for flawless configuration and customization, deploying SAP Cloud and its own intellectual property (IP). Ultimately, user adoption, customer satisfaction, and renewal rate indicate that Acloudear has been successful in helping its customers reach their business goals and objectives.

Customer Success Strategy and the CEE Role

Even though each team – marketing, presales, sales, development, and support – has a role to play in customer success and all teams work together, Acloudear has five customer engagement executives (CEEs) that are responsible for customer success each step of the way. CEEs are assigned accounts from specific segments of Acloudear’s customer base, so they can best meet their clients’ needs and motivate customers to begin using SAP solutions as quickly as they can to boost adoption.

Acloudear’s customer success team found that CEEs can work most efficiently and best serve customers if they focus on specific segments of Acloudear’s client list. CEEs specialize in particular industries or types of businesses, as well as the solutions that provide them with the greatest value. Now, two CEEs are industry-focused, one is responsible for fast-growing accounts, one for continued success for established users, and one on areas of innovation, such as cross-border e-commerce.

Acloudear’s CEE team does not take on the role of the complaint department or responsibility for solving implementation problems. Rather, their determined and responsible spirit enables them to focus on consumption and customer satisfaction, which lead to renewals.

Customer Success Is a Profit Center

Acloudear CEEs understand that their department was established as a profit driver. They focus on retention and growth, measuring their performance against key performance indicators (KPIs), including renewal goals of 90 percent.

Zhou pointed out that with cloud solutions, there is typically a 24- to 36-month timeframe before profit, so renewals are particularly vital to Acloudear’s success. CEEs also manage upsells with the supervision of sales managers, working toward a goal of 10 to 30 percent of the company’s new revenue.

“Our goal is to ensure that our service package, comprised of SAP products and Acloudear IP, is motivating and hands-on. We want our customers to adopt cloud as quickly as possible and make full use of their investments so that they will want to purchase our services again and again,” Zhou said. “Not from a business application point of view, but that the customer appreciates how to fully use the SAP system and how they can put the solution together with their business. This drives a very high renewal rate in the end.”

Additionally, Acloudear sets expectations from the beginning of each contract that clients will be references for the company. At the outset, customers grant Acloudear permission to use their logos, but, more importantly, Acloudear lets them know they are going to provide solutions and services that deliver such impressive results that they will want to tell other people about them. According to Zhou, “This makes us more visible in the market, rather than selling to a market.”

To build relationships that turn new customers into advocates, Acloudear CEEs closely monitor accounts, performing monthly customer health checks and taking action when they see changes or signs of risk. Acloudear CEEs have learned that it is important to dig deep to understand the reasons for change and not act on assumptions.

How Customer Success Increases Marketing ROI

Taking a company-wide approach to customer success has additional benefits for Acloudear. “The customer success team helps our company learn the key areas and core values in terms of the industries we serve and the products we provide,” Zhou said. “This shows us which areas we need to focus on and helps us concentrate on the value Acloudear can provide to customers.”

CEEs share this information with the sales and marketing teams, who can then target their efforts based on accounts with the greatest potential. “It’s changed the way we sell,” Zhou said. Feedback from CEEs has also helped Acloudear develop SAP-qualified partner-packaged solutions that have successfully addressed the needs of businesses in particular markets.

The Payoff

According to Zhou, growing and evolving Acloudear’s customer success program as the company grew has been a smart strategy. “It’s not enough just to say the customer is happy. You need a clear understanding of the tangible and intangible things that make up customer success.”

“Customer success has allowed us to differentiate our business,” she explained. “We have been able to understand our strengths and alarm our company much earlier to risks. We also have information to proactively justify where we go and where we have to improve. Our customer success team puts us one step ahead of other companies in our market.”

“SAP is the world’s leading cloud vendor with continuous investment and innovation over the last decade. We are still trying to learn what the successful SAP experience looks like for our customers and optimize our strategy with processes, tools, and resources to help them achieve greater success,” said Zhou. “Customer success is a long-term strategy, and we are on our way.”

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