Customer Success - Where Did It All Begin? ............. (for me anyway!)
Back in around 2009-2010 I read Marc Benioff's book "Behind the Cloud" for the first time (I have since referenced it several times a year even up to last week where a project I am working on used Marc's V2MOM methodology). An ex-colleague from my time at OneSource Information had started working at SalesForce.com as a Customer Success Manager and OneSource had started partnering with SalesForce.com to integrate their data into the SalesForce.com platform. My obsession with SalesForce.com had begun; alongside my respect, interest and admiration of Marc Benioff. At this time I made it my mission to seek a role there as a CSM; the company and culture sounded like a great fit, the role sounded ideal aligned with my skills and experience so I was sure I would get there one day. I actually had two opportunities that I pursued at SalesForce.com - one that I was unsuccessful with and one where I was successful but chose my career at Autodesk instead. Saying all of this, I am very clear in my mind that the career I am living and enjoying today started when I was introduced to Marc, SalesForce.com and his Behind the Cloud book.
However, in catching up with that same colleague referenced above (Tim Wood if anyone is interested, and now a Customer Success Manager at Microsoft) during the last week we started discussing "the good, old days" as you do when you hit a certain age - 40 years old if you are wondering. We started reminiscing of our time at OneSource as Business Application Consultants - the job title sounded fancy, but what was it all about? So we started thinking and talking; we were responsible for ensuring the adoption of the OneSource platform, we educated the userbase on the full functionality of the platform, we ensured that the adoption lead to real tangible impact on their business aligned to their business goals. Sound familiar?
So, answer me - have we been "doing" customer success for many years in all but name? Well, as the below graph indicates the interest over time (the last 5 years) the terms "Customer Success" (red) and "Customer Success Manager" (blue) have clearly increased. However, surely 10 years ago we didn't know that we were in the midst of creating something great, something different, something that we now call customer success management.
What did happen though was the creation of the "SaaS world", a world that exploded but struggled with one major element. Retention. What the SaaS industry didn't consider was the ease that allowed their customers to switch between suppliers with very little challenges or difficulty, and with no financial penalties. So the creation of a role, a function that ensured a relationship between vendor and customer was developed alongside the need to drive adoption (for the vendor - making their software more "sticky") and demonstrating value, real tangible value (for the customer - ensuring they were getting a full RoI on their investment). This is the Customer Success Manager. But is this any different from those days at OneSource as a Business Application Consultant? I really don't know - I don't know if what I was doing then was customer success but I do know now that I am deeply passionate, even obsessed with this great, ever-growing, fast-moving industry.
So if Marc Benioff was the original Godfather of customer success then the likes of Lincoln Murphy and Nick Mehta are the new additions to the family; the new Godfathers of today's and tomorrow's customer success. These and others are the ones that will drive the customer success industry of the future.
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters