I have been here before.
Sitting around the garden dining table, surrounded by my wonderful family consisting of my children, both sets of parents, both sets of grandparents and more. A few drinks may have been consumed (Pimms for me, it is a glorious English summer day after all!) and that question is asked again. The one that I have been asked several times before. After the initial questions around how my new job is going, it is quickly followed by the one. “So, tell me Matt, what actually is Customer Success?”.
Rather than the standard responses I have tried in the past (it’s like customer service but proactive not reactive….it’s like sales but rather than making promises, I keep them….etc.), I thought I would try and get this answered once and for all. There I set about trying to talk to them about the ever-expanding global subscription economy, whilst making it as local and as relevant for them as I can.
After all, they all pay for their broadband as a service. Some of them have Spotify. Some have Netflix or Amazon Prime. My wife has Birchbox (it’s a monthly make-up subscription service before you ask). I have my shirts washed and ironed (well, I did until Laundrapp stopped servicing my area) as a fortnightly service. The subscription economy is booming and not just in the B2B space where I have spent the last ten years of my career, but in the B2C space too as you can see with the wide range of subscription services available.
However, “something” as a Service is not a new phenomenon and growing up I remember clearly The Readers Digest (anyone under 40 or outside the UK please Google it!) magazine being dropped off monthly to my nan and my daily pint of milk on the doorstep arriving before I set off to school.
Irrelevant of whether we are talking about the B2C market or the B2B market they share one key challenge – barriers to adoption.
Those barriers are not specific to the consumer or to the business market:
And as I tell my family, now sitting and watching me with baited breath (I may be building this up too much now!) – this is what customer success is – the removal of barriers to adoption of a subscription-based service with the goal of delivering on your desired outcomes.
The range of subscription services available to the consumer continues to grow with most things you can purchase now being offered in a convenient, cost-effective, alternative to the up-front, permanent purchase offered today. Car manufacturers are very aware of the need to provide alternative methods to the traditional car ownership model with the likes of Porsche, BMW and Jaguar launching subscription models. The millennials of the world are not demanding cars and the ability to finance one, but rather the need to be mobile, in a cost-effective, convenient way. A Netflix style offering will be available and consumed by one in ten of us in the next decade say industry experts.
As the B2B subscription industry also grows with increased momentum, businesses are slowly understanding the need and criticality of long term, sustainable relationships between themselves and their customers. Businesses today cannot risk not understanding their customers and how they use your products. Therefore the role of the Customer Success Manager not just exists but is now business critical for all subscription services (and arguably non-subscription services too).
Just checking LinkedIn tonight sees a wealth of advertisements for Customer Success Managers all focusing on the need to understand customers better whilst driving the adoption of subscription-based services.
I have just finished reading “Subscribed”, the book written by the CEO of Zuora (a SaaS finance platform), Tien Tzuo. He clearly believes the subscription industry is here to stay boldly claiming the product economy will fully be overtaken by the subscription economy in the next 50 years.
I look forward to seeing his prediction come true.
Appendix – After a recent debate with a member of my Customer Success network we came to the conclusion that maybe the subscription economy in this current format is not here to stay, well; at least not for 50 years. Maybe we are now transitioning to the “outcome economy” where we are not paying for a subscription to “something”, but rather based on the outcome of that subscription. I feel another blog post coming on……
Article originally published internally at SAP
Matt Myszkowski - experienced Customer Success leader & founder of CustomerSuccessMatters