Product School

Chapter 3: Empowering Product To Drive Cross-Functional Collaboration

Zaina Alhmoud

Author: Zaina Alhmoud

July 5, 2023 - 10 min read

Updated: January 24, 2024 - 10 min read

Now that you’ve grasped the impact of digital user journeys and leading the charge as a Product Leader, let’s finally unlock the full potential of your product adoption and retention.

In this chapter, we will explore effective strategies for driving the digital user journey across different functions within an organization. We will focus on key intersections between customer and product experience teams, highlighting the importance of collaboration in creating seamless and frictionless customer experiences. Additionally, we will discuss how organizations can foster a culture of innovation to drive exceptional product development and deliver outstanding user experiences.

Join us as we explore real-world examples, insights, and strategies to unlock the full potential of your products and create meaningful experiences for your users!

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What’s the difference between Customer Success and Product Experience? 

In the realm of digital products, it is crucial to understand the distinction between product experience and customer success, as they play specific but interconnected roles in shaping the overall user journey.

Product Experience

Product experience (PX) refers to the holistic perception and satisfaction a user derives from interacting with a digital product or service. It encompasses all aspects of the user's engagement, including the interface design, functionality, performance, ease of use, and the value it delivers. Product experience is focused on the user's direct interactions with the digital product and how it fulfills their needs and expectations.

For instance, imagine using a music streaming app. The product experience would encompass the smoothness of the app's interface, the intuitiveness of the navigation, the quality of the audio playback, and the availability of personalized recommendations. It is the sum of all these elements that shape the user's perception of the product and determine their level of satisfaction.

Customer Success

On the other hand, customer success (CS) encompasses the broader journey and interactions a customer has with a company throughout their entire relationship. It includes every touchpoint, both online and offline, from pre-purchase to post-purchase stages. Customer success or post-sales teams usually take into account factors such as customer support, account management, and overall brand perception.

Continuing with the music streaming app example, customer success would include elements like the welcome emails after sign-up, the responsiveness of customer support for queries or issues, the billing process, and the overall consistency of the brand's messaging and values across different channels. It focuses on the entire customer journey and aims to build a positive and lasting relationship between the customer and the company.

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How CS and PX Intersect Around the Digital User Journey

While product experience is analogous to the experience of living inside a well-designed and functional house, customer success is akin to the neighborhood and community surrounding the house. Understanding and optimizing both product experience and customer success is essential for delivering exceptional digital experiences and fostering long-term customer loyalty. Companies can create a harmonious and satisfying journey for their users, leading to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy.

Product experience plays a pivotal role in driving customer outcomes and retention. High adoption rates and customer satisfaction are critical indicators of a product's value to customers. According to Gainsight, understanding and leveraging product adoption data is mission-critical for driving results with customer success teams and running an effective customer success organization.

Product adoption data provides valuable insights into how customers are using a product, which features they find most valuable, and their overall level of engagement. Without access to good data, customer success managers (CSMs) enter customer meetings or business reviews without a clear understanding of how customers are utilizing the product. This lack of information can immediately undermine the CSM's credibility and hinder their ability to provide valuable guidance and support to customers.

Traditionally, CS organizations have relied on qualitative assessments or customer surveys to gather information on product usage. While these approaches provide valuable insights, they have limitations when it comes to pinpointing low adoption before it becomes a churn risk. Qualitative assessments are subjective and lack a clear baseline for evaluating good adoption. Waiting for contextual or anecdotal customer feedback can result in low response rates and subjective interpretations. To proactively address adoption challenges, CS teams need access to timely and accurate data that highlights potential issues before customers themselves voice concerns. 

Product data must be shared and leveraged across different teams, including product, engineering, and customer success. Instead of having your CS team solely rely on anecdotal feedback, tools like Gainsight PX enable seamless data sharing and offer real-time data to help CS teams identify friction points for customers. By providing your cross-functional teams with these valuable insights, they can address any areas with low adoption by making adjustments to in-app messaging instead of waiting for the next heavy feature iteration.

Customer success teams play a crucial role in connecting with product teams and fostering cross-functional collaboration. Since CS teams actively engage with customers and gather user feedback, they can help identify specific needs and capture valuable insights that customers may not necessarily express through traditional feedback channels. This bridge between CS and product teams allows for a more seamless flow of information, enabling product managers to address customer needs more effectively.

Additionally, customer success teams can act as ambassadors for product updates and betas. They can communicate important information to customers on behalf of product managers, ensuring that customers are informed and engaged in the latest developments. This collaborative approach strengthens the connection between the product and the customer, leading to improved customer satisfaction and increased product adoption.

Collaboration To Improve the Customer Experience

When you gather and analyze user behavior and patterns at different points in the user journey, and via cross-functional teams, you can gain valuable insights into how users interact and identify friction points. With a deep understanding of user data, product leaders can lower friction during customer acquisition and adoption. For example, you may discover that a significant portion of users struggle to find a specific feature. These insights enable you to identify pain points and uncover opportunities for improvement, such as optimizing the UX/UI or providing personalized and targeted in-app guidance at the right time and place. 

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Further, as product teams look to build user-centric experiences, leveraging the power of customer success and other business partners helps you to deliver compelling experiences that align with customer communications, objectives, and business needs. For example, you may discover that customers are focused on achieving a specific value-based objective with your product, and need to tailor your in-app experience to promote a certain feature as a result. This information allows your product teams to prioritize the right features to deliver product-market fit and optimize product roadmaps to focus only on the highest ROI initiatives.

Efficiency and scalability should be your priorities when taking action on these inputs, and one way to increase efficiency for your business is by delivering in-app guidance at scale. Your product is a primary communication channel with your customers and users, so deliver many communications at scale through in-app communications about new or critical features. In this way, product teams can not only drive feature adoption but drive the holistic customer experience towards retention and advocacy and increase contributions to larger business needs. 

This user-centric approach, fueled by data, empowers you to continuously enhance the product experience, deliver exceptional value to users, and drive sustainable business growth.

Empowering Product Teams to Drive the Digital Customer Journey

While stakeholders, including customer success and other teams, provide valuable inputs, it is the product teams that excel in delivering digital experiences and journeys that drive business growth. Product teams possess a deep understanding of usage patterns, feature adoption, and how users engage with in-app guidance and other communications. Through connecting digital touchpoints with human interactions facilitated by support, customer success, and other teams, product teams can extend their impact and create a cohesive message across the organization, resulting in improved customer experiences, satisfaction, and retention.

Senior Director of Strategy at Gainsight, Harshi Banka, emphasizes the impact of digital journeys on business growth. She explains, "Tech companies experienced unprecedented growth over the past couple of years, but 2023 presents a whole new game. Everything from how we serve our customers, retain them, and grow our business has changed—customer retention is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a critical growth axis." Harshi further highlights that product teams can play a significant role in helping the broader business achieve more with less by leveraging scale, automation, and digital capabilities such as in-app guidance and self-serve programs.

Several key drivers underscore the need for strategic and cohesive digital programs, as emphasized by Harshi:

1. Increased Competition 

With the rise in B2B SaaS companies, competition has become intense. Digital experiences serve as a crucial differentiator, enabling companies to win new business and scale efficiently. For example, creating an online community of like-minded peers fosters a sense of community and belonging, particularly in the current remote work environment.

2. Customer Expectations

Research shows that certain experiences are more favorable through digital channels, and customers prefer to keep it that way. According to Salesforce's 2023 State of the Connected Customer report, 57% of users prefer self-service over human interaction. Customers now expect a seamless digital experience in their business interactions, mirroring their experiences in their personal lives. B2B SaaS companies failing to meet these expectations risk losing customers to competitors who can provide superior digital customer engagement. Implementing in-app guides, onboarding checklists, and a comprehensive knowledge base can expedite time to value.

3. Increased Efficiency

Digital solutions enable companies to streamline processes, reduce costs, and enhance efficiency. Self-service portals, chatbots, and other digital tools empower customers to quickly and easily find the information they need, minimizing the need for human interaction. For example, deploying self-service portals allows customers to find answers to their questions without reaching out to their customer success manager or support team.

4. Customer Retention

According to Harvard Business Review's 2022 Achieving Growth with Positive Product Experience report, 81% of respondents strongly agree that a strong digital product experience positively impacts business growth. A positive digital customer experience enhances customer retention rates. Customers are more likely to continue doing business with a company that provides immediate and relevant assistance when and where they need it. Automating key adoption programs accelerates customers' journey toward realizing value with the product.

These needs underscore the critical importance for product teams to leverage data analytics, in-app toolkits, and cross-functional collaboration to build strategic and personalized digital user experiences into their products. This approach enables them to effectively navigate increased competition, align with business objectives, and meet evolving customer expectations.

Key takeaways

  • PX focuses on the user's direct interactions with the digital product, while CS or post-sale teams encompass the broader journey and interactions a customer has with the company throughout their entire relationship.

  • Through bridging the gap between CS and product teams, valuable insights can be captured, specific customer needs can be addressed, and product updates can be effectively communicated, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and increased product adoption.

  • Gain insights into how users interact with your product, identify friction points, and optimize the user journey by providing personalized and targeted in-app guidance, optimizing UX/UI, and addressing pain points to enhance the overall product experience.

  • Product teams, with their deep understanding of usage patterns and user engagement, play a crucial role in delivering digital experiences that drive business growth. Through cohesive messaging and user-centric approaches, product teams can improve customer experiences, satisfaction, and retention, ultimately leading to sustainable business growth.

Learn More

To learn more about how digital user journeys drive adoption & retention, watch the on-demand recording of Tori Jeffcoat, Product Marketing Leader at Gainsight, for the Product School webinar on effective digital user journeys.

Coming Up in Chapter 4

In Chapter 4, we’ll learn how to unlock the power of digital user journeys to overcome PX challenges. Learn how to simplify onboarding, drive feature adoption, improve user engagement and retention, streamline customer support, and enhance product iteration with real-life case studies.

Updated: January 24, 2024

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