Customer Success in Digital Vending

Customer Success in Digital Vending

Customer success is all the rage in the business world, and the digital vending industry is no exception.

However, like all (relatively) new things, it still has its doubters.

Is it a fad or a paradigm shift?

In this blog, we’ll define customer success management, discuss its difference from customer support, look at its growing popularity and explore the reasons behind it.

Then, we’ll consider its relevance for the vending industry.

Finally, we’ll share examples from our experience at Invenda Group.

Table of contents

What is Customer Success Management?

Customer success or customer success management is a business practice aimed at helping customers achieve their goals while using a product or service that you provide.

Often referred to as a mentor, a dedicated customer success manager (CSM) guides the client through the whole process from sales onwards.

A CSM’s job is to get to know the client and their needs, to make sure the purchased product or service is smoothly integrated into their operation, and to give them all the tools necessary to realize the full potential of your product or service.

In a nutshell, a CSM is:

  • A person of trust and knowledge,
  • Customer’s go-to person within the vendor company,
  • A devoted point of contact for the customer,
  • Someone who the customer feels is on their team,
  • Someone who makes the customer’s job easier and yes, more successful.

They advocate for the customer within your company, adding value and reducing the dreaded churn. Because your customer’s success is your success.

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Customer Success vs. Customer Support

Confused about the difference between customer success and customer support?

You’re not the only one.

But despair not.

Our own customer success manager Julian Vasiljevic explains it with a practical example: “Customer support will help the client make price fields on the display of our smart vending machines blue instead of black. And we’re the ones who tell them that they have that option.”

Julian says that a CSM’s relationship with the customer is proactive, whereas the customer support role is reactive and focused on solving individual problems at hand.

“We inform customers of different features and benefits our product has. We may advise them on the best possible location for our vending machines or how to use our advertising options to boost revenue.”

Here are some of the key differences between customer success and customer support:

Customer Success: Customer Support:
Proactive (gives ideas and suggestions) Reactive (acts upon request)
Whole forest (focused on building a long-term relationship and helping customers achieve their goals) Trees (focused on immediate problems and challenges)
Strategic Supportive
Trains/onboards Helps when necessary
Measures business impact (e.g., customer health score, Net Promoter Score, customer lifetime value, churn rate) Measures customer satisfaction with the service provided

The rising popularity of CSM

Jeff Bezos famously says that “obsessive-compulsive focus on the customer” is “the secret sauce of Amazon”.

It seems that a rapidly growing number of companies are using the same recipe to cook up their own success.

Microsoft has around 1.600 CSMs, while in February, Google Cloud announced that they’re expanding resources and teams for customer success.

LinkedIn ranked Customer Success Manager as the sixth most promising job of 2019.

In LinkedIn’s ‘2020 Emerging Jobs Report‘, the Customer Success Specialist role was:

  • 6th in the US with a 7x increase since 2015,
  • 3rd in Germany with a 15x increase since 2015.

Furthermore, Business Insider listed Customer Success Specialist as one of the 15 jobs no one knew about in 2010 that everyone will want in 2020, citing a 34% annual growth in demand over the last five years.

The reasons for the rise

So why is customer success so popular?

Almost unheard of a decade ago, why is it gaining so much traction in today’s business world?

In short, because the business world is changing. With so much of it going digital, the relationship between vendors and customers has transformed.

1. The client-provider relationship change

Gone are the days when you could sell a product and be done with it, leaving the customer to fend for themselves.

Especially in the IT market, many companies have adopted the subscription business model (software-as-a-service or SaaS) or the consumption-based model. This means they depend on monthly recurring revenue, and that requires nurturing the relationship with the client.

The moment the purchase happens is only the beginning of the transaction that is mutually valuable. Over time, the relationship develops, bringing benefits for both parties – the customer gets their changing needs addressed and realizes value while renewing the contract with the provider and maybe even buying more.

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2. The product change

Products are becoming ever more complex and intelligent, which may leave customers in a bind.

Even if you offer a superior new product with advanced capabilities, without help, customers may find it daunting and be reluctant to embrace it.  

That’s where the customer success managers jump in, providing all the necessary information, onboarding, and training, at the same time being open to tweaking the product to meet the customer’s needs.

In his paper How Smart, Connected Products Are Transforming Companies published in the Harvard Business Review, Professor Michael E. Porter argues that smart products shift the focus of the relationship with customers. While traditionally the focus was on selling, now it’s on helping clients draw maximum value from your product.

This changes how the product itself is perceived – instead of being “the end”, the product is viewed as “a means” of delivering the promised value. It offers the provider insight into the needs and satisfaction of customers, rather than leaving the ball in their court and expecting them to adapt to the product.

The role of customer success in unattended retail

And how is the unattended retail industry coping with these changes in B2B relationships?

Despite still being predominantly conservative when it comes to technological advancements, the unattended retail industry is experiencing significant growth.

It seems that consumers enjoy the control, convenience, and privacy that automated retail provides, and the growth is set to continue. That growth will inevitably involve the adoption of smart solutions, such as those that Invenda offers.

In the vending machine business, smart digital solutions offer connectivity, remote management, reduced operating costs, higher revenue, and large amounts of invaluable data. But at first, the system may seem a bit more complicated to run.

Enter customer success managers.

In the new, digital era of vending, they are the ones who ease customers into the operation.

Acting as trusted advisors, they help customers learn about the product, make the most of its features, and feel confident using it.

Examples from Invenda

Priding itself on being a disruptor in the vending industry, Invenda brings new digital solutions to the market.

Even though Invenda’s ecosystem offers unprecedented capabilities and still unexplored revenue avenues, the company is aware of the challenges adopting a new system can pose to customers.

That’s why Invenda’s CSMs work hard to ease the process and produce mutually satisfactory outcomes in synergy with customers

Old vs. New

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Our customer success specialist Julian Vasiljevic draws an illuminating parallel.

He compares traditional vending machines (the ones you had to bang to get your product) to the Nokia 3310 cell phone. The good old Nokia was trusted and reliable and did its job very well, but within the scope of its limited possibilities.

On the other hand, Invenda’s digital solutions are like smartphones. Julian: “Initially, we were all a bit apprehensive about them, but once you learn how to use them, you can never go back. The wealth of options you get with smart devices is almost incomparable.”

Julian stresses that a customer can experience the same product in very different ways depending on how much support they get when they start using it. He explains: “When you’re not properly trained and supported, the whole process can become quite frustrating and even make you want to give up. Even though the product itself is excellent, with CSM, it’s even better.”

Apart from teaching customers how to use Invenda’s products, Julian gives them ideas on how to increase their sales – how to use product images and animations to make it more appealing or how to use ads to create additional revenue.

Space-Age Vending

Sinisa Malinovic, another CSM at Invenda, works with different clients, both with and without experience in the vending industry.

“My goal is to create a win-win situation for all parties involved. Ensuring long-term success for our clients guarantees Invenda’s longevity. If I do my job correctly, all my clients will see me as their partner”, says Sinisa.

Having a dedicated customer success manager is especially important when working with large multinational companies such as Mars Wrigley with teams all over the world that need coordinating.

“I’m working with Mars’ global team which supervises local teams in different countries, all of which have different needs and requests.”

Together, they discuss plans and try to find the best roadmap to success.

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Wrapping Up: The new era of vending needs customer success management

In the world of the digital boom, the relationship between vendors and customers has changed.

Due to the complex and ever-changing nature of the products and services offered, that relationship is moving towards a model that is much more thoughtful and collaborative, centered around the customer’s success and focused on the long haul.

Even though some still consider CSMs to be just account managers in a new disguise, industry reports clearly show the advantages of having a team that’ll use all the tools in the box to build success for the customer.

The same goes for the vending industry.

Showing remarkable growth in the last several years, automated retail is bound to go fully digital in an effort to provide a modern shopping experience to tech-savvy 21st-century consumers.

And smart devices require building smart relationships with customers.

In this case, ‘smart’ means knowing that customers’ success is your success.

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