The Race To Value Is On
With the Summer Olympics a distant memory the words “ready, steady, go…” were uttered hundreds of times, but it is not just sport where the race is on but in the world of customer success.
Let’s be honest, in this world of customer success we are here to bring and demonstrate value – first and foremost to your customer, and then to your organisation. But now the race is on, it isn’t anymore just about the value but the importance of reducing the time “to first value”. As yet, that urgency is not ingrained consistently into the role of each and every CSM – but why not? Why don’t we show the same type of urgency to deliver value that say for example a sales executive does to close his deal?
A sales executive is constantly having to think of all the factors that may impact his deal – stakeholder changes, budgets get reduced and potentially even removed, the customer’s needs change, etc. Any of these things could impact his deal, so every day where that deal doesn’t get signed is a day closer to that deal never happening. Doesn’t the same thought process apply in the post-sales world where traditionally the CSM exists? Rather than counting down to the deal being signed, the CSM is counting down to the renewal and everyday where value isn’t being demonstrated is a day closer to that renewal not happening.
So when does the race start? In all honesty it should be within that pre-sales phase but realistically the starters gun fires when the pen on that contract is removed. This is the start of the on-boarding phase and arguably the most critical phase of the entire customer lifecycle. Any of us men (and probably women as well but I can only talk knowledgeably from one aspect) will know from our early dating days when we were trying to impress that special person and we turned to our mums before hitting town and asked if we looked OK, I am sure along the way your mum if she was anything like mine would have muttered those time-old words in her response: “first impressions count”. It was true then, and it is even more true now in the world of customer success and hence your on-boarding is critical in make that right, first impression.
“First Value” is defined as the initial success your customer has while using your software, your solution or benefiting from your service. However, two key points though that are imperative in this statement:
Whenever I talk with my team about success and demonstrating value for their customer I occasionally get the response that they don’t know what success looks like for that customer. Now, if this is in the early stages of the customer lifecycle this question should have been asked, and answered in the pre-sales phase as part of your discovery process.
Entering into the onboarding phase you should always know what success is; i.e. what “good” looks like and if you don’t know there is one simple answer. Just ask. And when it comes to what success looks like for that specifc “First Value” and you don’t know, then the same principle exists. Just ask.
The exciting part of that onboarding phase is not just about the attempt to deliver that first value but also the next success, the “second value” if you wish. Keeping the momentum while continuously delivering value and success is critical to ensuring that maximum chance of renewal. The momentum relies on having a plan, what do you want to achieve for your customer, in what time period and what is that specifc value they will see; their desired outcome. Keeping score and ensuring that this is communicated to your customer is critical and hence the importance of business reviews, ideally on a quarterly basis.
The most challenging piece for realising that first value (or any other value) is showing it in a tangible way, and there are only a few ways of doing this.
Through surveys and other tracking methods you evidence the desired outcome that specific activity or initiative strived to deliver for your customer.
So going back to my first analogy with the sales executive, and while they wake everyday with the first thought being around closing the next deal we need to ensure the Customer Success Manager wakes up with their first thought being how they will demonstrate the next value. Lets start getting this ingrained in each CSM and ensuring we are securing that renewal through demonstrable, acknowledged value starting with that “time to first value”.
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters