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5 CX Tips for Achieving a Self-Service Environment

Nov 19, 2020
Charles Coaxum
VP of Customer Experience

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Among cybersecurity solution providers, the notion of a self-service environment has long been a kind of Holy Grail, shimmering gloriously in the distance but too often proving elusive. One reason is that medium to large enterprises, with their vast scale and unique requirements, expect and deserve more hands-on, bespoke attention. Another is that achieving a self-service environment for security solutions isn’t exactly easy. A lot of things have to fall into place for it to be successful.

Still, it’s a winnable goal, and it’s one that ultimately benefits everyone. And Customer Experience (CX) Teams play an essential role in helping customers achieve it. 

It’s also a worthy one. Surveys show that users prefer a self-service experience. It gives customers a sense of control and greater confidence with a solution. Well-designed self-service environments create an experience that’s easily replicated across user groups, which helps broad adoption and in turn maximizes the customer’s return on its technology investment. Every time customers can add a new data source, connect with another third-party solution, stand up a new dashboard or configure access controls–and all without having to call in reinforcements–that’s a CX win.

So it’s not difficult to imagine that a largely seamless self-service experience helps enhance customer retention and boost renewal rates, whereas frequent calls to the CX team for help (especially if the meter is running on those calls) may well have the opposite effect.

It’s a delicate mix, and it’s the job of CX leaders like me to know where self-service makes sense and where it doesn’t. But it’s also our job to field a team that can scale to meet all those needs, and to make it clear to customers that even if they prefer a highly self-service experience, we’re always by their side ready to jump in with whatever level of personal attention they need. In other words, they should never feel they’re on their own.

Let CX take the lead

As I mentioned, a world-class CX team should have the expertise and resources to handle all types of customers and all kinds of engagements. That means highly customized implementations (and intense, even on-site support) for those who need it, as well as enabling a more self-service environment for those with fewer internal resources, or who simply see the advantage of allowing themselves to get the most from their security solution.

Here are five ways cybersecurity vendors and their CX teams can work toward making that happen.  

  1. Turn customers into partners. When we begin an implementation, we work alongside customers to define what success looks like. Then we help them set goals and metrics that help them measure that success. But the key is collaboration: Making the customer an equal partner in the process helps ensure that as their vulnerability management program evolves and matures, they have the confidence and knowledge to add new features or capabilities (say, adding enhanced threat intelligence to further speed remediation) themselves without always having to pay us to help them. (But if they want to, well, that’s fine too.)
  2. Train customers not just on use, but on maintenance and support as well. Most customers like to work at their own pace, if possible, and they gain a sense of accomplishment when they solve a problem–so long as the solution is readily available. In one survey of digital application users, 91% said they prefer to solve problems by referring to a knowledge base, but only if that knowledge base is well designed, robust (think up-to-date screenshots), and tailored to their needs. The CX team should make sure those resources are there for customers.
  3. Leverage an engaging customer community to share expertise and keep customers learning. Customers have shown an affinity to tap their peer networks for best practices, answers to troubleshooting questions, and all-around support. Software providers know this, and the leading ones create vibrant, active online user communities that encourage and reward participation. Our community, Kenna Defenders, is a great example. Our customers return to it over and over to access onboarding and training resources, share best practices, provide product input and ideas, vote on ideas submitted by others, and contribute to groundbreaking research. Kenna Defenders keeps users engaged by building all of these activities around challenges–creating a “gamified” experience that rewards points and badges for progress and engenders friendly competition by recognizing top Defenders on a leaderboard. And that leaderboard attracts a lot of eyeballs.
  4. Empower customers to lead their own maturity efforts. Nearly every customer of a cybersecurity software solution is interested in becoming more effective, efficient and self-reliant. By all means, they can engage the CX team directly for guidance. But if you have a robust enough success environment in place–with intuitive tutorials for users at all levels, readily available resources to handle maintenance and support, and an engaged user community–it’s not a heavy lift to help them realize that they themselves can lead those initiatives. And if they need an extra hand? You’re just an email, text or phone call away.
  5. Insist on software that supports success. These measures set the table for a customer relationship that is sustainable over many renewals. But your software product has to support your efforts. It needs features like pre-built integration with multiple enterprise data sources and security tools, an intuitive, user-friendly UX, context-aware help features, straightforward configuration, highly customizable reports and risk meters that anyone (from c-suite execs to board members) can understand, and the ability to work across on-premise, cloud or hybrid environments. Without a great product, your dream of creating a self-service experience for customers can’t be fully realized.

Don’t worry: This is good for business

All this may sound like the opposite of what someone like me should be encouraging for CX operations. After all, with customers gaining a more self-service posture, they won’t be calling on customer success and support teams for assistance as often. And that means less services revenue, right?

Well, yes. But over the long term, the business wins. For security SaaS vendors (which today is most of the market), it’s much more profitable to keep customers than to acquire new ones. And 89% of companies see CX as a key factor in driving loyalty and retention (literally my favorite stat ever). And with remote work increasingly becoming a permanent thing, ensuring your security software CX is as seamlessly self-service as possible can only help build lasting loyalty with customers.

So from a business perspective, it should be the job of the CX team (including customer success managers, customer success engineers and technical support engineers) to deliver the best possible customer experience, even if that means white glove treatment for enterprise-class customers while empowering others to feel ownership for the care and feeding of their cybersecurity solution. The best CX teams will know which approach makes sense to deliver that optimal customer experience.

Maximizing services revenues is an understandable goal. But as a SaaS software company, you’ll derive more–much more–from maximizing customer lifetime value (CLV).  And in many cases, enabling a self-service environment may go a long way to help drive that metric up.

To learn more about what a success plan will look like for you talk to an expert.

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