For Angela Bucher, customer enablement is all about the value you create together. Seasoned by a dozen years in the ever-evolving fields of customer experience and customer success, she’s tackled all phases of SaaS: from early-stage growth (wearing all the hats) to large-series investments (driving scale). Now, as the Senior Director of Customer Enablement at Unbounce, Angela’s teams watch over the entire customer journey, from prospect to product adoption and beyond.
Thinkific’s Plus Marketing Manager, Amber McLennan, recently caught up with Angela at Thinkific’s first-ever customer education summit, Thinkific Activate, and asked her a few questions about improving the digital customer experience. Check out Angela’s presentation and talks from other industry experts on the Thinkific Activate replay for free!
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- How to improve customer experience by considering personality types, communication preferences, and a multi-channel approach
- How to measure and benchmark your customer’s experience and effort
- How to reduce churn by implementing an effective customer onboarding process
- How to create a scalable and personalized customer onboarding experience
Creating a customer experience program that works for your company
Amber: Many businesses are on the hunt for a one-size-fits-all approach to creating a successful digital customer experience program which typically starts with a company website. Now that easy access to information has changed customer expectations, it continues to be crucial to deliver the best customer experience across all channels as an extension of your brand. How can companies go beyond their website?
Angela: For some companies, it’s a failure if your customers are only engaging with your website directly. It might mean they don’t know all the resources or channels available to them. I totally agree that expectations have changed–think about what we used to tolerate from internet and phone companies (and sometimes still do). Now we want fast, knowledgeable and PROACTIVE service. Nowadays, customers need all sorts of ways to communicate with us and we need to be able to adapt to their preferences. Not only that, but we also need to take into account their personality type, as much as possible–are they chatty? Do they get bored by details? How can we adjust and change our context, language, and transfer of information to give them the best service experience?
Amber: Well it seems Unbounce has done a fantastic job of creating ways for customers to communicate with your team. Over the years, Unbounce has created a number of channels to drive customer engagement such as your CTA Conference, knowledge-base, blog, video content, and an online academy. As you’ve continued to grow your programs, what impact have you seen on your customers’ experiences?
Angela: By creating a number of different channels from online to offline and really focusing all of our content on providing actionable insights that help customers grow their businesses, and increase their number of conversions, we’ve been able to build both a brand that marketers love and are inspired by as well an engaged community of marketers around the world.
Our strategy is to not only provide a best-in-class landing page builder, but also be the leaders in Marketing and Conversion Intelligence, so customers come to us for industry-specific best practices, and AI-powered tools that help them to optimize their content to drive more conversions.
Amber: So with that strategy of being the leader in Marketing and Conversion Intelligence, how do you create engaging content for your customers across your channels? How do you measure its effectiveness?
Angela: I think this strategy really starts as high up on the funnel as you can go: a strong social presence, artifacts of your expertise in the industry, or having something similar to the Community we have at Unbounce where marketers come for advice and conversion optimization.
One way we can measure the effectiveness of specific campaigns or content is by the New Trial Starts (NTS) they drive – NTS is our measure of customers who have signed up for a free trial. We can attribute them to any specific campaign, or our blog, or the community.
As a measure of quality, we have the ability to score these leads as well, which we use to tweak future campaigns and the data we use to define that quality. In other words, we learn from it.
We also seek out customer feedback in several forms (NPS being one of them), such as feature requests, and most recently, product-market fit surveys and other questionnaires run by our Product Marketing team. This is another way to ensure the content we are delivering is landing with our target audience.
Amber: That is fantastic. There is an easy trap to get into in which we produce content in a silo and I think that your last point is key, that your team listens to the voice of the customer through several forms to find out the content they need.
When it comes to looking at program effectiveness, what goals should a company look at when planning to enhance their digital customer experience? Are there any benchmarks that you’ve used in the past?
Angela: Customer Effort Score, or CES, is a huge one for benchmarking. What this means for Unbounce is that we set goals around making a customer’s experience more effortless.
We believe that low-effort interactions with our customers lead to customer loyalty which has the biggest impact on retention and expansion. We’re actually reading “Effortless Experience” by Matt Dixon and are working on implementing the strategies from this across Customer Success.
At the center of this strategy is to reduce customer effort as the most successful way to mitigate disloyalty. It’s still pretty early days for this strategy at Unbounce, but we have made big strides in 2020 and have really exciting plans to keep the momentum going into 2021.
Amber: Can you give me an example of a CES indicator?
It’s very similar to NPS but it’s not based on the product alone, rather an interaction that a customer has with someone at Unbounce. It’s triggered after an interaction and asks for the amount of effort required for the interaction and if the problem was solved.
Implementing a scalable digital onboarding program
Amber: Let’s switch gears a bit. As you know, we are currently in strange times with the global pandemic. How has COVID-19 and remote work impacted your customer experience strategy?
Angela: Super strange times. At Unbounce, we’re in the very fortunate position of being in a digital business that is still experiencing stability during this time. That said, our first response was to ensure we could help the companies suffering the most, and try and take some of the burden and uncertainty off their plates.
We did create a strike team to get all-hands-on-deck to help support these customers, and the team did such an amazing job with it. We pivoted really quickly, got coupons and discounts out to those companies that were most affected; made decisions around free accounts for industries like healthcare so they could keep helping; and created specific campaigns to educate other struggling industries with what we learned. For example, when a gym successfully shifted online and offered virtual training and exercise classes, we shared how other companies could do this as well. We came together and ended up retaining almost all of our customers while growing ourselves.
Throughout that time, we moved forward with our own strategy as well, and continue to be focused on driving successful customer behaviors in our product that yields us the most sticky and engaged customers, as well as advancing product value with things like AI and machine learning. In fact, during the height of COVID-19 we raised our first major funding round of $52M. We’re now in an even better position to continue to grow and accelerate our strategy.
Amber: Now, let’s discuss one of the most important pieces of an education program – onboarding.
As companies grow, the ability to do one-on-one training and onboarding can become unsustainable. According to Preact’s study on churn, poor onboarding leads to 22.9% of churn – churn that is within a company’s control. Because of this, it’s important to create a program that is built to scale and deliver consistent value. How has Unbounce tackled the challenge of scaling your onboarding programs? What have been the most effective tactics you’ve used?
Angela That percentage doesn’t surprise me. We sometimes call it “failure to launch” and it almost always has one of the highest impacts on churn, particularly early churn.
In reality, the most effective strategy is one with a certain amount of variety, and always an openness to experimentation, but there is not one perfect strategy. As I mentioned earlier, not all channels or methods are the right fit for everyone, or at the right time, so we need many ways of engaging with our diverse customers.
In previous companies, I’ve experimented with different “nurture” flows, such as personalized contact in a specific timeframe, more emails, fewer emails, etc.
Also, in the past, as a way to tackle onboarding at scale, I’ve also implemented “one to many” or group training options to mimic 1:1 onboarding while keeping turnaround times, as well as the number of employees needed for the delivery, more reasonable and sustainable. An additional benefit that came out of implementing this strategy was that it also gave customers an opportunity to learn from each other — what problems they had to solve, what questions they asked and got answered, and so on.
At Unbounce, running frequent webinars on really specific actions or workflows is a tactic we employ, and get really good engagement from. This is something we’ll continue to do to supplement our existing onboarding programs. Rather than having all of these educational sessions one-on-one, the way we can support scale with webinars is to invite many customers at once. Seems obvious, but it’s a tried-and-true method.
In short, there are many ways to address this, and I always recommend trying new things out and having a way to measure if they worked well or not.
Amber: What are your thoughts on using self-paced learning for onboarding? Does it replace in-person training?
Angela: What I see more and more often is actually the need for a balance of both self-serve options and in-person. Going back to the effortless experience, making choices available to customers (as long as there aren’t too many and they’re not hard to find) is really the balance we hope to strike.
There is always going to be the customer who wants the white-glove treatment, the 1:1 support and nurturing, and will need more time to understand new technology. We typically see this in the larger, more enterprise type of customer who both appreciates and understands the value of good relationship management.
That said, there is also a large percentage of customers who want the quick and dirty training, want to learn on their own time, and want to see the lower price point it often comes with.
At Unbounce, we’ve got lots of options for education, both self-guided and individual:
- We run marketing and educational campaigns specific to functionality that will help improve a customer’s landing page, like with our landing page analyzer and copy analyzer
- We set targets for new trial users to receive outreach within 15 minutes — to mitigate failure to launch
- We run targeted email nurturing campaigns, some of which lead to a 1:1 session with a CSM or someone in Sales
- We also have in-app guidance for those self-servers
And I can’t overlook what underpins all of this, our incredible Support team who will go to any length to help a customer.
Amber: Striking a balance between self-paced and interactive, in-person training is an effective way to enable your customers to find the right help when they need it. With that being said, with scalability being so closely tied to the use of digital platforms how do you establish the feeling of a personalized onboarding experience at scale?
Angela: I think the concept of group training and webinars as mentioned earlier is one of the best ways to scale personalized onboarding. That said, this should not replace a really good in-app onboarding experience. It’s like a “choose your own adventure!”! We create all the different methods for onboarding, and you can choose the one that works best for you — what’s highly personal and scalable about this is an individual customer has the choice of how much and when!
Impacting your customers for long term success
Amber: The strongest customer training programs result in your customers being able to effectively engage with your product over the long term. When it comes to building out these onboarding programs what elements are key for accomplishing this?
Angela: If I think of myself in these kinds of situations, I want the product to work, first and foremost. I want it to be user-friendly and when I need help, I want it fast and easy-to-understand.
For a product like ours, in addition to all those things, the conversions our customers receive is the ultimate indicator of health and happiness. We can impact this in a few ways, one of them is evolving from purely time-based targets for the frontline teams to having some of them focus on educating our customers on how to best optimize their landing pages.
We believe that the future of marketing optimization really rests with the concept of conversion intelligence. Conversion intelligence is the pairing of our customers’ expertise with AI-powered insights which takes a lot of the optimization work off of our customers’ plates while continuing to help them earn the highest-converting content possible.
Amber: Now that we know what makes an effective customer onboarding program, how do you recommend measuring the impact?
Angela: Probably Customer Satisfaction, or CES…the knock-on impact of those being stable and healthy are, of course, retention and expansion. One of these things alone isn’t the silver bullet, it’s important to be able to use all inputs in your measurements and decision-making. Especially if you see a dip in one, it helps to be able to dig into it and try and find out why it happened and attempt to solve it.
While NPS is an important high-level metric, I think it’s better used as a gut-check for your business overall, but if NPS dips, you have all these other ways of slicing data, and digging deeper to investigate.
I would also say that individual KPIs are another way we can measure the effectiveness of certain aspects of onboarding, especially if any sort of experimentation is being conducted. It’s also important to me to be able to show our teams the impact of their work as well.
Amber: Angela, thank you so much for all of your insights today. Before we end things if there is one takeaway or tip that you’d like to share with those looking to improve their digital customer experience, what would it be?
Angela: Just one?
- Never stop listening to your customers.
- Access to data will set you free.
- Happy employees are the foundation for happy customers.
Unbounce is the global leader in landing page and conversion optimization software empowering marketers to build and test landing pages without a web developer. The landing page platform helps marketers dramatically increase their conversions leveraging the Unbounce Conversion Intelligence™️ technology. Founded in Vancouver, B.C., Unbounce is a people-first business, one of Canada’s most admired corporate cultures, and has powered over one billion conversions worldwide.
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