Interview with Net One Systems, “What is the real value of ‘Customer Success’ and the practical methods?”
In March 2021, Net One Systems Co., Ltd. became Japan’s first Cisco® Advanced Customer Experience Specialized Partner locally and second in the Asia Pacific and Japan. The Cisco® Advanced Customer Experience Specialization is Cisco’s highest qualification in the area of customer experience. Today, we interview Mr. Taizo Fukamachi who led the specialization project about why they focused on customer success, how they aimed to earn this specialization, any struggles during the journey to achieve it, and the learnings through such a journey and after the achievement of the specialization.
Congratulations on earning the qualification! Please tell us the background and the reason why you decided to achieve the Advanced Customer Experience Specialization.
Mr. Fukamachi: In 2019, Net One launched a customer success division as per one of our company initiatives. It had been active since then. In the beginning, the division was responsible for providing the maintenance and operations management of customers’ ICT infrastructure. We felt a slight gap in the naming of the division and the services we provided. At that time, ICT technology was growing highly sophisticated and multi functionalized. Through our everyday operations, we found the problem that many customers are left behind and marginalized from the evolution and have not enjoyed its value and effects. It was at that time when Cisco introduced to us to the Advanced Customer Experience Specialization which they newly created. Attaining the specialization would be a chance to transform our company’s service and we would be able to resolve the issue.
The concept of customer success was very abstract and unclear to us. We wanted to have an in-depth understanding on customer success and adopt it into the work of our division to deliver a customer success practice to our customers. We wanted to “Net One-ize” it further. That was the reason we decided to attain the specialization. I learned about the Advanced Customer Experience Specialization and found it was extremely well created – all essential elements, such as the concept of customer success, customer success resources, the planning and execution method for promoting utilization and adoption to customers, and the structure of measuring the business outcomes are concretely assembled into the specialization. We regarded it as an opportunity to enhance the work of the customer success division and include the lifecycle approach in our existing services rather than an ad-hoc structure of a lifecycle approach. Furthermore, we enabled and matured our business of customer success. The decision was made, and then we started aiming for the Advanced level of specialization.
We saw that there were two levels of the Customer Experience specialization: standard and advanced. To tell the truth, it took a bit of time to decide which one to go for. We have pride in being Cisco’s top partner in Japan, and “if we’re going to challenge ourselves, we should aim the highest”. So, we chose the “Advanced” one and started the project towards attainment.
Please tell us about the preparation and steps for achieving the Specialization. What was the biggest challenge?
Fukamachi: To me, and many people might feel the same, the concept of “customer success” was extremely broad. My first hurdle was gaining depth of understanding on the concept of “customer success” as a leader of the project. I collected all sorts of materials from Cisco, studied the content systematically, and achieved the CSM (customer success manager) certification. The next step was to respond to a wide range of audit questions. It was like we replaced our company’s mid-term business plan with the perspective of customer success and recreated it as a business plan. The final step to clear was creating customer references. It was extremely tough too.
It was the first time for not only me but also for the team members in the division to have heard the concept of “customer success” which sounded very Western. It was crucial for us to understand, absorb, and put it into practice. The audit questions needed to be put together comprehensively, with everything from the beginning to the end. It was challenging for us because at first, we had to get to know the value of customer success and the impact it had on businesses. Secondly, it was difficult to design it with logic as consistently as our own. Otherwise, there will be contradictions and we would have to reassemble it from the beginning. And finally, as a result of the execution of Customer Success, we needed to create the customer references and get agreement from the customers. To get agreement on the execution of customer success from the customers, we needed our customers to understand thoroughly and agree on the purpose and value of these efforts. If not, they wouldn’t endorse it. It was extremely challenging, and we had to pay a lot of attention to it.
How was Cisco’s support during this time?
Fukamachi: Cisco gave us all kinds of advice and support throughout the preparation period. Cisco was reachable and responsive whenever we had questions. In addition, when we were not confident enough to go through the audit, Cisco introduced an audit consulting (NSF International) firm to us. We had used their services twice beforehand. The pre-Audit consultation from NSF was extremely useful. We prepared as much as possible from our side and still we needed someone to see what we had prepared from different aspects before the audit. In that respect, the pre-Audit consultation was very useful.
What did you get from the prior consultation?
Fukamachi: We were able to get lots of valuable information. Dividing the business process into phases, we were able to visualize and grasp numerical values such as health scores using indices and frameworks. We did not have to rely on our assumptions to get the results at each stage. Through such a method, we were able to grasp methodologically the activities we were working on every day and found where we needed to focus more. With the prior consultation, the issues we had in the past were cleared up, and we felt all the questions had been “answered”. In fact, recently we have heard from many customers, “we want not only a new deal proposal on the Pre-sales phase but also more suggestions on the utilization and adoption after the implementation”. In the past, the SI industry, including ourselves, traditionally had the common idea of having the Pre-sales team provide new deal proposals and the post-sales team provides operations and maintenance. These days, we need to actively provide many more proposals including the lifecycle approach (utilization and adoption) after implementation. Maintenance and management are the fundamental services which we should provide with the customer lifecycle service. We reaffirmed that the activity to achieve the specialization was the journey to learning the methodology and creating the necessary tools and structures to precisely execute the customer success practice.
Internally, we called the overall activity “the customer success of the infrastructure company (インフラ屋Infra-ya)*”. Customer success provided by the SaaS vendors contributes significantly to the user experience. In addition, we see it often becomes a blind spot that missing customer success on the network platform will impact the customer’s user experience. For example, let’s think of how the quality network platform (e,g, LAN/WAN, Wi-Fi, Internet Gateway, Security system) affects Webex meetings. The application is more directly linked to user experience. However, we want to focus more on the approaches to customer success on network platforms that have traditionally been ignored. We needed to change the mindset of “how can we firmly protect network infrastructures?” to “how can we maximize the utility of network infrastructures?”. We got the concrete methodologies. We reacknowledged it is the major pillar when we worked on the specialization acquisition.
Could you comment on the final requirement, customer references?
Fukamachi: The audit required us to show the logs of our actual interaction with customers as evidence that we had built the business process and put together everyday practices on customer success so far. Numeric values such as KPIs, renewal rates, and customer forecasts were audited in detail, whether they were correctly managed and processed using digital tools, and whether they were based on consistent policy criteria.
After the project, we heard fantastic comments from the information systems division of a customer’s company which agreed to let us use their project as one of our customer references. The message was, “our company acknowledged the effort and recognized the success of the recent initiative. It became a good appeal of our division”. It was a heartwarming message. We felt these words described the form of our customer success practice – we worked as a member of the information systems division of the customer’s company, worked together as one team, and delivered a huge contribution to the business division at the customer’s company. We are extremely happy about that.
Tell us about your plan around lifecycle service offers after the specialization achievement.
Fukamachi: Net One Systems are working on including the service with lifecycle approach as an options menu to the existing support services. It improves the value of existing support services such as operations management. Currently, we offer operations management and optimization through the overall lifecycle service – planning, building, operation, and optimization and focus more on the service with a lifecycle approach after implementation. We provide operation management services (on-site service) to 53 customer companies. We have 4 levels of service; level 0 is to provide product replacement and maintenance to customers we sold the products and solutions to; level 1 is integration and systematic maintenance services. Level 2 provides operations management and maintenance on behalf of the customer (on-site service) including usage and adoption services. Level 3 is we want to provide services based on data that we collect while providing level 2 services to customers. For example, we want to work on the Business and IT strategy together with our customers and support to enhance the customer’s organization.
Lastly, tell us about the outcomes of the initiative and your expectations of Cisco.
Fukamachi: The achievement of the specialization is proof that we have good skills in providing lifecycle services with a customer success practice which was outlined in our mid-term business plan for 3 years which started in 2019. Taking this opportunity, we wanted to provide services that contribute to the success of customers’ businesses by blending the perspective of customer success into conventional product sales and integration.
I believe further collaboration with Cisco is essential for future initiatives on customer success. Through collaboration with Cisco, we want to learn the depth and breadth of customer success through brushing up our skills on products and solutions that have become sophisticated and multi functionalized.
As a result of attaining the specialization, Net One Systems laid the groundwork to consistently support the utilization and customer success adoption and improve the customer experience in addition to the existing implementation and operations management service of ICT infrastructure with high quality. To promote the value of this initiative to customers, we need to add on the latest digital technology in addition to our resources and organization. We believe tools such as Cisco CX Cloud and programmability of API integration will offer massive scalability on our services. Consequently, it will provide higher productivity and huge differentiation to Net One Systems. This can never be done by us alone. We wish to evolve our existing relationship with Cisco to a mutual business partnership to grow together with continuous discussions for the success of the customer’s business with Cisco,
Thank you very much for today.
*”インフラ屋（Infra-ya）“ refers to ‘Infrastructure shop’ an internal team here at Net One Systems that provided traditional services including infrastructure frameworks to customers.
Cisco Advanced Customer Experience Specialization
It is the highest specialization level in customer experience certified by Cisco. Customers are increasingly moving to software as a service (SaaS) and recurring offers, requiring them to work with trusted providers. This makes a focus on customer experience critical to your success. Specialized partners can deliver value-added services after the initial purchase, utilization, and customer success adoption through their Lifecyle and maximizing their business outcomes. Partners can develop new skillsets to drive recurring revenue and build a sustainable lifecycle practice. This specialization opens new opportunities for you to interact with customers, create value, and impact customer business outcomes.
Get more details on Customer Experience Specialization