What really makes a customer reference manager shine
How does an athletic woman from Spain with a background in law find not only a fit, but amazing success in the world of customer reference management? Well, we dug a little deeper to find out…
Ana Bauer, the Customer Reference Manager at FICO, created the company’s first reference program from scratch. As the newest inductee into the Reference Management Elite hall of fame, she’s here to share her success, growing pains, and a few laughs along the way.
How the Reference Manager Role Found Ana
Ana’s expertise stems from her loyalty to FICO. She spent many years in sales, customer support, and collections. When she and her family moved to the United States, FICO offered her a role on the marketing team – an entirely new venture for Ana. She began doing advocacy work and slowly added reference content. Her previous background at FICO gave her a high-level of experience with both internal and external customers, so she intuitively knew “how to get to a customer and how to treat a customer.” That served as an excellent foundation for her responsibilities and tasks she was given with building a reference program.
FICO’s customer reference program was nonexistent before Ana took charge. Ana believes it was the “right decision for FICO to have a reference management tool” so she could grow the role from scratch. The automated workflows and built-in tracking and reporting made building the customer reference database and managing the program more efficient.
Ana’s Strategy for Building a Reference Program from the Ground Up
Ana knew without a database of references to pull from to fulfil the sales team’s requests, the program wouldn’t work. So naturally, the first feature she made sure was in place when they purchased their customer reference technology was the nomination workflows. Shortly after, she spearheaded their strategy to “build a simple program that consisted of two tiers – the gold tier and the platinum tier.” Each tier had different perks and incentives for customers. For example, providing nominations and references and committing to some reference activity gave customers a free pass to FICO World. Platinum customers had the opportunity to receive advanced training from FICO advisors. With an organized structure and benefit plan for advocates, Ana used two platforms to help her execute this nomination and recruitment strategy: Social Media and FICO’s Global Conference.
Build the Sales Team’s Trust
As those of us in the reference management world can relate, the sales team plays a big(ger than we’d like) influence in the success of a customer reference management solution you put into place. Ana takes us through what she did to get FICO’s sales team to board the customer reference train.
When Ana first launched the program, the sales team was very reactive in their requests for references. However, as Ana worked on growing a relationship between her team and the sales team, confidence was built that Ana’s team would be able to source the right reference contacts Sales’ needed to help them close their deals. “It’s so important to build that internal relationship with the sales team,” says Ana. “It’s a physical reminder that we are here to help them out with what they need to do their jobs.” As trust and credibility grew, Sales began considering references as a validated way to grow their current opportunity sizes, and now are much more proactive in the ways they approach Ana for references.
Get Executive Support from Marketing AND Sales
Like most customer reference programs, Ana’s team reports to and is supported primarily by Marketing leadership at FICO. However, Ana recognizes the power in securing greater executive support from the Sales side to solidify the program’s positioning within FICO, and has made positive strides in making that the next logical step for FICO’s reference program.
“Sales leaders are able to create a sense of urgency between the team they manage, which helps spur growth of customer reference nominations. Sales has very close relationships with customers, so it makes sense to ask them to nominate customers into the program. By improving the executive support and levels of communication in this area it helps increase the volume of customers in the program as well as transparency from both sides,” says Ana.
Knocking It Out of the Park
One of our favorite parts of talking with our Reference Elite crew is hearing their stories of moments that have stood out to them in their career. Here is one of Ana’s that we had to share because it showcases just how much she goes above and beyond.
Last summer, FICO participated in an analyst study that required 12 references to complete a survey over the course of three months. Ana provided 33 references to the analyst team, 32 of which actually completed the analyst survey! This past summer, FICO participated again, but this time had to put together 25 references in just under one month that would be happy to participate in the analyst survey. This request was more than double of the previous year, with a mere 30 days to complete. Ana rose to the challenge, turning in over 37 references that participated in survey.
Key to Success: The Right Mindset
Given her unique background and journey into the world of customer reference management, we asked Ana to divulge a few of her keys to success:
- Be diplomatic. You need the sales team to trust you. You need to understand how the sales team works and try to team up with them.
- Be proactive. Find ways to communicate when your first effort is not reciprocated. Stay positive and optimistic in all communications. For example, Ana provides updates about the reference program and new available customers in monthly sales newsletter updates.
- Be a team player. Internal references are just as important as external references, so build their trust and your credibility. Know the company your operating within and don’t lose sight of the bigger picture and your role in it. If you cannot help someone, point them in a direction of someone who can.
- Forecast your opportunities. Know which of your teams will need customer references and get ahead of that with your recruiting efforts. Treat your references well, one-off customer references should be treated as well as your loyal customers.
Advice on Launching a Program from Scratch
Given the fact she stepped into a brand new role and launched a brand new program, Ana is a wealth of information in regards to “learning to ride a bike while riding it.” So we asked her what she would say to someone stepping up or into a first time role of Customer Reference Manager. She advises people to stay persistent. Be open to listening to any type of advice. Get in contact with other customer reference managers, product and project managers. Listen first, strategize second.
Fun Facts About Ana
- Ana speaks 4 languages fluently: English, German, French, and Spanish being her native language.
- Ana is a member of a group of physically active colleagues at FICO, the Watermelon team. They don watermelon swim caps, inspiring the team name. They participate in everything from swimming to biking to various exercise classes and trends.
- A social butterfly, Ana coordinates and hosts many happy hours and potlucks at her company.
- She loves travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures.
- Ana moved with her family to the United States from Spain so her children could experience a new culture and another language.