S01 Ep.07: Packaging your services and creating the right offering for your customers

Chitra Madhwacharyula, Head, Customer Success, Couchbase talks about what goes into baking services into your offering and more

In this edition of the Launch Station, we have Chitra Madhwacharyula, Director of Customer Success, Couchbase. Chitra is part of the Customer Success Top 100 Strategists 2020 list. She has over 15 years of experience in professional services and customer success roles in organizations such as TIBCO, LinkedIn, Ayla, and Couchbase. 

Here’s what Chitra talks to us about in this episode:

  • Her experience building in-house consulting functions for customer services and how you can package services to create the right customer offerings
  • The right time to think of productizing professional/consulting services
  • Investing in in-house consultation offerings vs. investing in a partner network to do it on your behalf
  • How to decide whether you need to add services as a part of your offering if you have a product
  • How to become a trusted advisor to your customers

... and more.

Summary and Takeaways 

We kicked the episode off with a conversation around Chitra’s early experiences with creating packaged offerings for customers. During her stint at TIBCO, Chitra and her team noticed patterns in requirements, use cases, and modules across customers from different domains and industries. At this point, they began building reusable and deployable modules and offering them as packages to customers — instead of building them out individually for each of them. Doing so helped on two fronts: It made solutions cost-effective for customers and allowed the Customer Services team to standardize systems and processes at their end.  

Here’s a quick summary of our key takeaways from the conversation: 

The right time to productize professional and consulting services

The best time to think about productizing service offerings is when you have a complete understanding of your customer journey from start to end. This way, you know exactly when and where services can augment the product offering and fill gaps in deployment or customer understanding. 

These productized services should be designed to help your customers at every step of the journey. For example, packages could serve multiple objectives such as building awareness (e.g., discovery workshops to help map business needs), streamlining onboarding, and even helping with ecosystem planning and expansion. 

The right way to look at in-house consulting

Look at consulting as a tool to help you scale, as separate from sales or service. Besides being an additional revenue stream, an in-house consulting function can help you build and demonstrate authority in your domain. 

As a customer service professional, you are your customers’ best advocate. The perspective that CS managers gain from experience with varied customers can be tremendously helpful in creating concrete solutions that benefit your customers and your company. 

Investing in your own consulting/professional services vs. building a partner network

Even if you have a robust professional services offering, partner networks can help expand and enhance your offering. This is especially true when you want to expand your presence in regions or technologies where you don’t currently have one. One way to do this is to lay down a defined/limited scope for your services and bring in partners for complementary services. 

Pricing packaged offerings

While this depends significantly on the offering, here are some guidelines:

  • For out-of-the-box deployable modules, charge per user or per deployment
  • For consulting workshops, charge based on the number of hours, number of participants, number and seniority of resources, etc.   
  • Price other service offerings based on the promised value and deliverables committed to. A good way would be to look at how much it would cost to build that module every time and use that as a metric to price the value.

Best practices  for making consulting services sustainable

  • Align services to the customer journey at all points
  • Identify the gaps that services can fill and offer these services as a differentiator 
  • Build structure into your offering to ensure standardization and scale. Templatize everything — presentations, session worksheets, workshops, etc. — with details such as the number of days, deliverables, sessions, etc., clearly laid out. 

Subscription revenue vs. services revenue

Build services with the intent to maximize efficiency and scale — not to increase service revenue. 

Building services only when they are essential, for example, if your product/user journey is complex or if you are in a domain that your customers don’t fully understand. 

Handling customer resistance to paying for services

Customers push back when they don’t see or understand the value they can gain from your services. It becomes easier if you introduce services upfront so they can be factored into overall costs. In cases where you know that customers will not be successful without certain services, it helps to include the related training and consultancy as a mandatory requirement in the contract. 

The best way to avoid any customer resistance is to make sure that customers see you as their trusted advisors.

Becoming a trusted advisor to the customer  

  • Have a consultative mindset: ask the right questions. Understand why they bought your product, what their culture is like, what their pain points are, etc. 
  • Use this understanding to connect the dots back to your products and services 
  • Use the knowledge gained from other customers and projects to articulate your offerings in a way that makes sense for them
  • Be empathetic and show integrity, always. 

Budgeting for promoting consulting services

Most companies carve out the budget for promoting consulting services (through PR, blogs, etc.) out of the overall customer success budget. 

However, the sales and service teams talking directly to the customers can have a more significant role to play in promoting consulting as a service.

 Recommendations

  • High-yield investments to make in Customer Services: Hiring the right team, investing in them, and equipping them with the best tools
  • The right skills for Customer Services: While hiring, place a high focus on consultative skills, i.e., the ability to ask the right questions, connect the dots, and work empathetically to bring value to customers and the internal team 
  • Organizational structures for Professional Services and Customer Services: Having PS and CS teams working under the same umbrella ensures cohesiveness and makes working towards a common goal easier
  • Must-read for CS professionals: Never Split the Difference (by Chris Voss), a book on negotiation principles


Bringing order to your
implementation and onboarding chaos.

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