Alet Drijfhout joined the global Property Inspect team as a Customer Success Manager in 2021, bringing with her fifteen years of experience providing efficient solutions to her clients. In this interview, Alet shares her secrets for customer success and explains how Property Inspect continually manages to exceed the expectations of its clients.
As a curious professional with an honours degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology, Alet’s focus has been firmly fixed on enabling client efficiency through automation and optimisation.
Prior to her work in customer success, Alet was a key member of the business solutions team, where she oversaw the implementation of IT systems, projects and processes within the organisation.
This solid grasp of digital solutions, coupled with a deep understanding of organisational behaviour has been a huge boost for Property Inspect as it continues to develop solutions that streamline operations, increase throughput and boost efficiency in markets around the world.
Alet firmly believes that in order for Property Inspect to be adopted effectively by her clients, she must first understand their pain points. This encapsulates everything from using the software to the management processes driving the need for the solution, as well as the systems and processes used alongside our software.
For Alet, partnering with the client’s team to implement the software and bridge these gaps makes customer success extremely rewarding while providing solutions for problems her clients haven’t even thought of makes her an even happier person.
What inspired you to work in customer success?
The customer success role is really something that found me. I was working as a business systems and solution specialist when an opportunity presented itself within the sales department. I was given a platform to help customers utilise our solutions to their full capacity, all while gaining an understanding of their pain points.
Customer success within a SaaS environment explores the many ways people interact with technology within the constraints of their physical environment, all while abiding by organisational processes within a company’s culture.
As a student of organisational psychology, this role gives me the opportunity to make a person’s workday a little better with each new enhancement, while providing the organisation with solutions that promote compliance, and a sense of harmony when the process works and the workload is easily managed.
It is an honour to transform the way an organisation operates, celebrating every victory alongside them.
Can you describe your experience in managing customer relationships at Property Inspect?
I joined the Property Inspect team at an exhilarating time. Our solution has been tried and tested within various markets and industries and is proven to be invaluable. When I joined the team in 2021, I was tasked to focus my efforts as a customer success manager in two areas.
Firstly, automating the onboarding journey for our clients in order for them to utilise the solution faster while benefiting from every available feature and powerful software integrations in the best possible way. Secondly, delivering an effective onboarding process for customers with technical or unique requirements.
The Property Inspect solution is simple and easy to use, but often, there are so many Property Inspect features available to our customers that they don’t know how to apply to their business so they can add extra services or revenue streams. A part of my core focus has been to educate customers on how to implement and use Property Inspect and all of its features effectively, showing them what is possible with the software.
For some customers, this means automating things like price lists and invoicing directly from the platform. For others, it has been demonstrating advanced features like work orders, teams and permissions.
How do you prioritise and manage your customer accounts to ensure their success?
I believe the only real way to prioritise our customers’ success is to work as a team. Thankfully, it is really easy to prioritise the success of the customer when it is a priority for the entire team.
Not only do we have an incredible Customer Support and Training Manager who is always willing and able to assist, she really does go over and beyond. Further to that the entire team is hands-on, willing to assist and always ready to learn themselves.
Personally, I manage and prioritise my clients’ success by means of open and honest communication. I set clear expectations in terms of the deliverables and provide proactive feedback if there is a delay. By listening to the client’s needs, I am able to gauge whether their requirements are in line with our offering or if they need a potential future enhancement.
Truthfully, no one gains from overpromising on something. I often find that it helps to reflect on the client’s requirements for a few days so I can find creative ways to meet their needs within the existing framework of our solution while expanding the boundaries a little bit at a time. As an added bonus, providing a client with the deployed feature within as little as a couple of weeks is always a pleasant surprise and appreciated gesture, showing we can deploy exactly what they need quickly and at scale.
How do you measure customer satisfaction and success in your role?
Customers who are fully immersed in the solution will use the system, therefore, customer success is tracked by user adoption. We look at the customer data and review their usage of various functions with Property Inspect. By analysing the number of reports, the number of reports per user, and so on, we can see the growth or decline over a period of time, like the year-on-year usage of the software for example.
Seasonality and economic factors will naturally influence the numbers. For this reason, it is imperative to consider the number of accounts that have upgraded their subscriptions while looking at the number of customers that have churned or ended their subscriptions.
Customer surveys give us a chance to gain a few testimonials or reviews while giving the clients a platform to voice their feedback and suggest enhancements. When clients provide feedback about the software, it is welcomed. We use that crucial information to gain an understanding of the users’ overall experience and where we can improve our offering as an organisation.
For me personally, the biggest confirmation of success is when customers come to you saying that they’ve implemented something you’ve suggested.
How do you handle challenging customer situations or escalations?
Challenging situations are often caused when a customer feels misunderstood. I believe it is best to give the customer the space to communicate their frustrations while actively listening and qualifying their needs. In these situations, I always try to remain calm, understanding and professional.
Sometimes I find it useful to be a little assertive in setting boundaries and helpful in pointing out the limitations of a software solution. In a recent situation with a customer, I needed to explain to the customer that technology cannot control all aspects of employee management, even when we enforce rules to drive behaviour. The customer and I sat together and considered what workflow process we could implement and use in order to drive the results he was looking for.
After a challenging incident, it is also best practice to summarise the incident to a line manager or superior and ask for input. Along with providing the customer with feedback in writing, noting the solution or providing feedback on the problem.
How do you collaborate with other departments within the company to ensure customer success?
Customer success is essential within every thriving business and in order to be effective within your role, you need to be extremely curious about what’s happening in the various departments within the organisation.
You can do this by listening and learning from the strategic management team, so you gain a vision of where the organisation is going and can in turn paint the picture and direct your efforts in line with the goals and mission of the organisation.
It can also be achieved through listening to the sales and account management teams so you can gain valuable insight into the customers’ requirements and help to translate the information in a way that the developers or engineers understand, so they can then develop Property Inspect in such a way that the clients benefit fully.
The engineers really become your best friends. Not only do they help you to help your clients, but they also often provide the technical guidance needed to better understand how the software is built and how best it can be used.
I have sung the praises of the customer support and training team already, but honestly, this is the team that will look after your clients when you move on to the next technical implementation. Working hand in hand with customer support ensures that the customer is looked after even when you aren’t available to personally assist.
What is your approach to onboarding new customers and ensuring a smooth transition to the platform or product?
I’m probably a little old school here, but I do believe in honouring the sales manager that converted the lead and working with them within the boundaries of the relationship that they’ve built with the customer. The sales manager remains involved in the project in order for them to stay informed about the nature of the project and allow them to fulfil their responsibilities during the full lifecycle of the account.
Depending on the nature of the implementation, we manage it from inception to when it goes live. This helps us to manage the deliverables, and timelines and exceed the client’s expectations.
How do you keep up to date with customer feedback and use it to drive product or service improvements?
I find it beneficial to make notes during a meeting with the client, these are filed and easy to refer to in future. If I believe the suggestion to be of great value to our global customer base, I jot the notes as use cases using the productivity tool Monday.com, where I can use the information gained during the scoping process.
In a few instances, I have requested follow-up meetings with the client to inform them that their requirement is something that’s actively being worked towards. During the meeting, I will share what our proposed solution would entail and ask them to provide me with an update regarding their needs and requirements while trying to ensure that most of their requirements will be met when the solution is deployed.
Finally, can you share a success story of how you helped a high-profile customer achieve their goals through your role as a customer success manager?
A large South African organisation requested assistance with a security-related concern. The illegal subletting of a property is unavoidable when the approved applicant isn’t the applicant that takes occupancy of the property. For the protection of their inspectors, they asked for a way to enable the security staff at the entrance of the estates to verify the identity of the tenant before granting them access.
Some of the challenges with the request included the fact that the security staff were contracted to the individual estates, and therefore, not existing users of Property Inspect. We overcame the challenge by implementing a series of conditional logic rules that forced a desired outcome.
The first identity verification was to be completed informally by means of printing a register of expected visitors to the estate for a particular day. The security staff would prevent the tenant from entering the premises without the needed identification requirements.
A second verification step was completed by the inspector as a part of the formal inspection process and the results of the verification were recorded for reporting purposes. The nature of the solution required a few tests to meet their validity and requirements for the clients, implementation of the solution for the client and user training.
To learn more about Alet and her work at Property Inspect, connect with her on Linkedin.