July 09th, 2016
The Culture Club: Customer Success
There is a lot written about customer success. Customer success the role, customer success the department, customer success the industry, customer success and the numerous best practices but the reality of the matter is that all of these are nothing without a culture of customer success. The culture of customer success starts from the very top of your organisation and penetrates the very depth of your organisation. Or does it? Maybe the culture of customer success is initiated at the very depth of your organisation and infiltrates other departments and roles, until the value and importance of customer success is realized. Realistically though for a lot of companies I believe this is how the culture of customer success has their first seeds sown. Then, and only then when the value is seen, understood, appreciated and realised does it become a top-down approach.
The creation of the culture of customer success is dependent on the positioning of your customer within your organisation. Only when your customer is situated at the very heart of all you do through the entire customer journey can you lay claim to this - a creation of a customer success team does not replace this. Saying you want your customers to be successful isn't enough, saying retention is important isn't enough, saying the Customer Success Manager is the most valuable relationship you have with your customer isn't enough. It requires a complete mindset and philosophy through every role within your company - everyone that touches, influences or impacts the experience of your customer through that customer journey has a part to play. From your sales team in the pre-sales phase, to your technical sales team in the technical implementation phase, to the operations team in processing the order, to the legal team in the contract negotiation phase and ultimately it ends with the CSM, the Customer Success Manager in the delivery phase. While the Customer Success Management organisation bring a lot of skills, experience and value they cannot ultimately be successful unless the entire company is with them and the customer on that journey of being successful.
So what should you do to ensure that Customer Success is a company-wide philosophy and mindset, and culture that everyone buys into?
So, we have spoken about the need for a customer success culture, where it starts, who it includes and why. But what is that culture you are seeking? What values underpin your desire for customer success to be organizationally adopted? What are those behaviors you require from your Customer Success Managers?
This is something my own company Autodesk are looking at now as we look to relaunch the Customer Success Management organisation with a clearly defined identity, philosophy and value. While you can Google the common ideas that a lot of organisations have as their CSM behaviors and culture, we have set about trying to be truly unique and boundary-pushing when it came to these, and time will tell whether these have the desired effect. Saying this, one behavior that all customer success organisations include and should have, however they choose to word it is "customer-centricity". Earlier I positioned this as putting the customer at the the very heart of everything you do - this is something we at Autodesk encourage our CSMs to do with every activity they are involved in, ensuring they question why they are doing something. Does this benefit the customer? How does it benefit the customer? What is the value to the customer? Asking these types of questions show that you are ingraining that desired culture of customer success within your CSM team.
So when do you know you have made it? When do you know that customer success really is at the heart of everything you do. For me there are two clear indications:
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters