With the launch of a reimagined customer success program, software company VMware is seeking to improve experiences and make it easier for clients to achieve positive business outcomes.
VMware has a long-standing reputation for innovation in tech. The 22-year-old Palo Alto, Calif.-based software provider—whose offerings include app modernization, cloud solutions, intrinsic security, and digital workspaces—prides itself on solving complex problems to help organizations better serve their customers and empower their people.
“Our goal is to bring innovation to life in everything we do, whether that’s the way we build technology or the way we serve customers,” says Sumit Dhawan, VMware senior vice president and chief customer experience officer.
Over the past year, VMware has applied that ethos to transforming its approach to customer success, an evolving business discipline focused on helping customers realize the full value of an enterprise’s products or services. As part of that transformation, VMware combined multiple functions and business lines in order to streamline the way it interacts with clients throughout the customer journey. Led by Dhawan, the new customer experience and success organization includes global support, customer success, professional services, and learning.
A critical first step in the company’s customer success transformation was the launch of VMware Success 360™, an initiative that includes personalized guidance to help clients achieve faster results from their investments in VMware’s technology, whether on-premise or in the cloud. “Our vision is to ensure that all of our customers have more rewarding experiences with our technologies, solutions, and teams,” says Meenu Agarwal, VMware’s senior vice president of customer success.
As a business discipline, customer success has advanced in the last few years, says Marybeth D’Souza, a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Given that the field is rapidly evolving, VMware has an opportunity to make its mark as a leader in defining its customer success discipline and becoming a destination for talent in the industry,” she says.
Customer Success Components
After revamping its customer experience organization, the company quickly began planning the launch of VMware Success 360. VMware designed the initiative—which includes success planning, ongoing adoption guidance and design workshops, and dedicated and proactive support—in partnership with customers. It then piloted the program with a handful of clients.
Customer success initiatives like VMware’s—which addresses its full portfolio of software products—are especially significant given the shift to cloud solutions, says Deepak Sharma, a managing director at Deloitte Consulting LLP. “This refreshed offering enables VMware to more effectively drive meaningful business outcomes for its clients, such as reducing tech debt, enabling new operating models for IT, and transforming the workforce,” he says.
Launched in September, the program includes the following components to support customers along their entire journey with VMware, from establishing objectives to adopting technology to driving outcomes:
Success planning. For any customer implementation, VMware begins by identifying and documenting desired outcomes and mutually agreed-upon metrics for success. Customers receive a personalized plan that plots the steps needed to reach their objectives, identifies which stakeholders are responsible for each step, and outlines the timeline for completion. VMware continually updates the plan as customer needs change.
Each customer is also paired with a customer success executive, who serves as a single point of contact with VMware. “The success executive is the customer champion, helping to navigate the support we offer,” Agarwal says. Stakeholders from both VMware and the customer team meet regularly to review an implementation and ensure alignment—a process that helps VMware tailor its support and build trust.
VMware gives customers access to a customer success health scorecard, which shows how they are tracking along several metrics related to business value, experience value, and performance value. The interactive dashboard tells users, for example, the cost savings they are achieving from a VMware solution, how often they’ve experienced uninterrupted usage, the number of support requests received, and the number of product defects. The scorecard also includes the status of the success plan.
For VMware, the scorecard is a powerful tool for strengthening the customer relationship and establishing joint accountability. “Customers are not alone on the journey,” Agarwal says. “Having a common view of progress is fundamental to our partnership.”
Ongoing adoption guidance and design workshops. Along their path to implementation, customers can access self-service assistance that empowers them to deploy, configure, and integrate their VMware products. VMware provides them with prescriptive pathways for adoption that include videos, white papers, and on-demand instructional webinars. Customers can also attend live, remote workshops with VMware engineers, who can assist with new features, capabilities, and configurations.
“If the majority of our customers are following the same route to adoption, a prescriptive pathway makes the process more efficient,” Agarwal says. When customers need to deviate from the standard route, a customer success executive steps in to craft a tailored plan to help them meet their objectives.
Shift to proactive support. VMware deploys pods of technical experts, who work together to resolve customer problems as they arise, with 24/7 availability. Just as important, VMware also provides proactive support that is powered by AI and machine learning. Through a global command center, the company monitors live data to preemptively identify issues and alert customers. “We also look at historical trends so we can make a recommendation based on past scenarios and prevent problems from arising,” Agarwal says.
Launching VMware Success 360 required integration and alignment across multiple business lines and functions, including customer support, sales, and service. “It was critical to educate everybody: ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Why is it good for customers?’” Agarwal explains. “We want to more deeply instill a focus on customer experience within the DNA of our organization.” Ultimately, infusing that customer-focused mindset was essential to creating a seamless experience for clients.
Bringing together the organization’s diverse teams—including professional services, support, and several customer success groups with experience in a variety of industries—was also critical to creating a program that worked for VMware’s broad array of global clients. “Whenever you’re solving a complex problem, it’s even more important to have diverse teams,” notes Agarwal.
Going forward, the company plans to leverage the customer success offering to gather client input, amplify and enhance existing feedback mechanisms, and hold the right team accountable for acting on that information. “We have to close the loop on feedback,” Agarwal says.
VMware is also working with partners to define an integrated model for selling and delivering VMware Success 360 in the near future. Eventually, the company plans to expand automation and self-service options with a digital experience to make it easier for customers to implement and troubleshoot VMware’s products on their own. “Launching the customer success initiative is a big, bold first step—but there is a lot more to do,” Agarwal says. “We’ll keep listening to our customers, learning from our experiences, and working to improve our offerings in order to help our clients solve complex business problems.”
—by Jennifer D. Fisher, writer, Deloitte Insights in The Wall Street Journal