Interviews 20 Dec 18 Madhurima Das

The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on business milestones and accomplishments and 2018 was no different at FieldAssist. Automating business processes such that customers work smarter with SFA solution and ensuring timely resolutions has been the core focus of FieldAssist’s Customer Success Team (CST) that worked relentlessly towards this objective.
In a brief chat session, Nikhil Aggarwal, AVP, Customer Success Team, FieldAssist, shares broadly the industry challenges, SFA adoption propensities and the evolving role of technology in FMCG business ever since Sales Force Automation solution entered in the Indian retail market scenario.

We would ideally like to begin by understanding from you, what are the business goals of Customer Success Team? Did you have to build up additional vertical expertise to address challenges?

A: Your customer success stories is key to your business growth. Our business goals of Customer Success Team include:

Proper Product Usage: 46% SaaS companies fail purely due to limited product usage knowledge and proper execution levels.

Value against the motive: It is important to understand the buying motive of your customer and show them the value against the motive.

Reducing Churn Rates: CST’s most important objective is to minimize churn rates for the company.

Upsell: Enhance monthly recurring revenue by upselling.

References: Client references play an important role in increasing your clients and business. Customer Success leads to higher reference propensities eventually leading towards healthy growth.

Making Customer Success Stories: Your culture and customer obsession lead to an excellent Customer Success Team. Our teams are high on customer obsession, they always pick up lessons from the internal business environment. The Customer Success vertical is more about on-ground learning and less about academic lessons.

From the initial stages of business, we have been clear about the customer success function at FieldAssist. We have decentralized customer success teams. Each region has a Business Head followed by a Customer Success Managers (Daredevils) and then Customer Success Executives (Prince Charming). That’s not all. To make the system fool proof, we also have dedicated teams of Technical Support which is a ticketing support system and call support team equipped with the latest and best technology tools to serve customers faster, better and more efficiently.

How did Support services contribute to achieving business goals?

A: As the saying goes, “Sales can go up and down but service remains forever”. If you want to control customer churn out levels and increase the recurring revenue subsequently, then Customer Success or Service is key. Technology product will have intermittent glitches but if customer services levels suffer, your business is bound to fail. At FieldAssist, we vouch by this golden approach – Customers First!

Nikhil, owing to your association with FieldAssist, you have closely experienced the evolution of SFA with respect to the FMCG industry. Can you give an overview on how things have changed or improved ever since you started?

A: Oh Yes Absolutely! It is one of the major technology change management I have seen in my professional space. Back in 2014 SFA App implementation was a challenge for a company both in terms of cost and usability. There were additional challenges like poor network connectivity, lower penetration of Android phones, field force resistance of using SFA App etc. With newer messaging apps and high-speed mobile internet networks, things drastically changed. Hardware costs for organizations have gone down to negligible limits along with reduced implementation efforts. FMCG is such a hugely competitive market in India today that one needs a technically sturdy solution in an SFA App to impact their business growth metrices. That’s what drives the product innovation at FieldAssist.

As you were gaining foothold in the FMCG market, what were the biggest challenges you faced with respect to SFA adoption?

A: FMCG companies have large sales teams. Records suggests that the SFA App failure rates in the past 5-8 years are much higher than the enterprise failure rates. There are several reasons for the same but the most important is your user buy-in of SFA App. In better words, higher adoption levels! The ultimate field user requires a simple and easy-to-use application. Hence, the user interface and experience are 2 most important factors of consideration that also doubles up as USPs of FieldAssist SFA App. This generates customer confidence in the solution before he agrees to sign up.

Do you find other companies in a similar space today? What sets you apart in the mind of your customers?

A: While there are many big and small players in the SFA business today, not many strive for a superior Customer Experience Index. Well, Focus, Team, Technology, Customer Success and Industry Knowledge sets us apart in the mind of our customers.

With retail giants like Walmart jumping in to the bandwagon of modernizing Kirana stores, what role do you think will Technology play in this process?

A: If you go by statistics, retail business share in India is 90% against modern trade business at 10%. At the outset, technology helps organizations to collect and analyse customer data in which SFA App is playing the most important role. Markets are continuously growing and becoming more complex. Simple retail processes have started to deploy more advanced retail information systems to cope with all the transactions involved. Agile technology solutions are therefore finding their way into traditional retail structures playing an instrumental role in their business transformation.

Which are, in your opinion, the most important Customer Success best practices followed in the industry today?

A: Though each organization has its own set of practices, these are some of the commonly followed practices today:
Engaging more people with customer: Not just the customer success manager but Product Managers, Quality Analysts, Marketing managers must interact and understand customers for better understanding and empathy.

Create customer Journey Maps: Customer success can be achieved with timely and planned execution. Building effective execution plans including customer success parameters and outcomes makes for seamless execution.

Become a Family Doctor of the Customer: Regular Client Health Check of the product usage via automation is the most important part of customer success parameters.

Help How they want help: Gone are the days when a mail reply SLA was 2-3 days and customer keeps waiting for a day for resolution phone calls from service providers. Today, advanced technology tools for efficient customer service like ticketing system, CRM’s and Call Support tools provide them the requisite support.

Decentralization of the teams and process: Be at your customer door step is the philosophy behind. Geographically decentralizing the Sales and Customer Success Team plays an important role in ensuring higher customer success ratios.

Well to sum it up, I must say that Customer Success and Customer Value are equally important approaches but different from each other. While the former is a pro-active approach to ensure customer delight, the latter is realized through long-term relationships by investing in meaningful customer association by becoming their subject knowledge partner through their business journey. Hence, an ideal business approach is a combination of both these courses.

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Madhurima Das

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