We know that there’s a business model revolution going on that’s transforming modern software.
This transformation is leading to radical changes in how we deliver products, how we support and service our customers, and how we drive value for customers. This change has birthed the discipline of Customer Success, and 2015 is shaping up to be the year where it’s more critical than ever to have a way to consistently ensure customers getting to value quickly.
Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate to host a series of Customer Success Supper Clubs with various industry leaders where we discuss our challenges over great food. These discussions, along with the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with Customer Success leaders, have led to a collective “Aha Moment”: In order for an organization to truly deliver Customer Success it cannot just come from one department … it must be a mindset that permeates throughout the entire organization.
While the charter of Customer Success is to drive product adoption and help customers unlock the value of your solution, many departments are stuck in red account hell. Escalation management dominates the day and churn prevention is the goal.
This mode of operating can’t continue. In order for Customer Success leaders to get out of this constant fire fighting mode they must start to identify root cause issues and work with their e-staff peers in driving change that will ultimately deliver against the promise of Customer Success.
Mapping the entire customer journey is a powerful way to spot and address these issues. This identifies the roles each department plays in creating a satisfied customer, as well as illuminates potential gaps in the process. Demandbase‘s David Lieberman recently wrote about how a clearly defined customer journey can align departments around the goal of driving value.
Below, you’ll find some ways that different departments can align their goals with the Customer Success mindset.
There’s the stereotype that Sales is all about landing that next client, no matter the consequences. While I’m sure we’ve all met a few of those “Always Be Closing” types, the modern Sales department understands the value of selling the right product to the right customer. I’m a fan of Jill Rowley’s “Always Be Connected” ethos that emphasizes the importance of selling your next advocate. Smart businesses based on a recurring revenue model are beginning to tie Sales incentives to customer retention and loyalty.
If a customer is dissatisfied because they’ve been fundamentally sold the wrong product, no amount of “loving the customer to death” will ameliorate the issue. Customer Success can and should act as a mirror back to the organization about what makes a good and happy customer.
It’s obvious that all departments benefit from happy and successful customers, especially sales. Happy customers become useful references, the origins of marketing material and they become advocates. Advocates open up new opportunities and lower the costs to acquire new customers.
I’m a firm believer that Customer Success starts with the product and the Success department can and should be the glue in helping customers keep the faith with an early product. But you can only put a finger in the dike for so long. Constant and/or major product concerns are a recipe for churn. That’s why it’s extremely important to incorporate customer feedback into the product roadmap in a structured way.
Customer Success is the best source of truth for this feedback because they’re in the trenches every day hearing about what frustrates customers, as well as what makes them achieve their business objectives quickly. There’s always going to be a delicate balance between listening to your customers and establishing your vision but at the very least, Product has to be aware of what’s actually happening when the rubber hits the road.
If goals aren’t aligned, it’s pretty easy for marketing and Customer Success to stay in their respective silos. But the entire organization benefits greatly from having these departments working together in an effective manner. The chief goal of marketing is delivering the right message to the right person at the right time in order to create new customers and create more value from existing customers. It’s only possible to do that if Marketing has a keen understanding of what’s going on with the customer at every point of the lifecycle.
Once again, Customer Success becomes an invaluable source of knowledge due to its daily interactions with people using the product. Marketers can utilize this information to tailor campaigns that compliment the efforts of Customer Success in driving end user adoption as well as identify and nurture future advocates.
Departments and individuals may want to live and breathe the Customer Success mindset but if their goals aren’t aligned around Success, it’s nearly impossible for it to happen. Without proper goal alignment, you wind up with a lot of “I’d love to help but …” responses.
As simple as it sounds, the buck really does stop at the top. Over at Zuora, CEO Tien Tzuo has done a great job of organizing the entire company around the “9 Keys to Subscription Success.” Every key is built around driving success, and every department has its goals aligned with these keys. Similarly, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff has written about how you can create alignment within your company geared toward success.
These goals can be NPS, reducing churn or even increasing upsells and cross sells, but what’s vital is that every department has their goals tied to this and understands their role in achieving these outcomes. Make 2015 the year where you push to make sure your CEO has their own “Aha Moment” where they realize they ultimately hold the keys to driving the Customer Success mindset.
Catherine Blackmore is a thought leader and innovator in the area of Customer Success, with over 20 years of experience helping a diverse list of clients from small businesses to Fortune 100 clients. As Chief Customer Officer at Bluenose, Catherine is responsible for the experience and success of all customers. She also owns strategic initiatives around category-awareness for the Customer Success discipline in order to engage and educate the market.
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