“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and have them stay” – Henry Ford, Founder, Ford Motor Company
“Successful people invest in their education, development and their personal motivation – knowing that these are the tools to success” – Grant Cardone, Entrepreneur/Trainer/Speaker
“Only the people who take learning, growth and skills development will be tomorrows leaders” – Alli Worthington, Business Coach
There is a lot written around the desired profile of a Customer Success Manager when hiring but whatever that looks like that static profile will not be enough for your business moving forward. Neither should it be enough for you as that Customer Success Manager if you wish to continually progress your career.
In a recent survey it was reported that 85% of workers indicated that employer-provided training increased their own workplace loyalty significantly. That same survey showed that workers who trained just one hour per week saved nearly two hours per week through productivity gains. Clearly there is significant RoI on training, yet when you look at statistics and depending on what survey data you look at, between 50% and 33% of workers interviewed did not receive employer-provided training in the previous 12-month period. So, if the return is clear, why do employees not get that training and who is to blame, if anyone?
I was told a few years ago by a mentor of mine that there are only two people that genuinely care about your career; one is your mother and the second one is you. So, if that is the case, the responsibility of your development and learning falls firmly on your shoulders. But is it that simple? Frequently, it’s a matter of time and how companies make time for their employees that prevent this from happening. Therefore, your employer has a responsibility to enable you to pursue your continuous development and learning. How can they go about doing this?
The make-time-for-training debate is one that hits both the employee and employer. As a Customer Success Manager, with an already packed agenda and workload, with customers and internal stakeholders all wanting a piece of you and your time it is easy for training to slip down the list of priorities to the point of extinction. As an employer, with a number of projects that arguably can be seen as a greater priority it is easy to understand how this doesn’t make it onto the roadmap.
So, what can you do to ensure that training is higher up the list of priorities, both as that employer and as that employee?
Training and development must be seen as part of your company culture
A commitment to providing training and the time to complete that training sends a very strong message to the workforce that the company is fully committed to the continued development and success of their employees, together with their general well-being.
That is easier said than done though. So, what can you do as the CEO of that company? It can start with a very clear vison and commitment written into the company’s value or mission statement. Ensure this is lived and breathed from the top down; demonstrate these behaviours across the leadership functions and ask your managers to own this into each of their own teams.
As an employee, as a Customer Success Manager you have your own commitment you need to make around how you will continue your pursuit of development. While training is and will always be a significant part of your development plans do not limit it to just that. Open your mind and activities to more; social media activity, blog writing, job-swapping, networking, event attendance, webinar viewing and more, are all hugely impactful in your development.
Reward & recognition
As alluded to previously, as a Customer Success Manager the demands on time is continuous with customers alone, never mind all that comes with that internally. As a leader, either of an entire company, a department or a Customer Success Team it is important you recognise the commitment and sacrifices made. That recognition can come in many formats whether it is a companywide communication through newsletters, town halls or email or something much more personal through a 1-2-1 coffee. However you do this it is important you recognise the dedication to their ongoing development and progression.
Dedicated training & development time
This is arguably the hardest element to implement and even more challenging to maintain on an ongoing basis. As a leader ensure a dedicated time per week for development or training is created for your team; block book this time, insist that phones and emails are switched off, create a suitable environment for learning. Show your commitment to your team and their career, ensure you are continually reiterating to them the importance of their personal development.
More often than not, these positive intentions are made with the greatest will in the world but very rarely kept to. Something comes up, there is an urgent customer situation, someone can only see or speak to you at that exact time scheduled for your development. This is where you as a Customer Success Manager must take control of your own development, holding yourself accountable. Ask yourself honestly, will giving up that 30 minutes dedicated to your career have such an impact on that situation? Very rarely will it but it does potentially impact your levels of concentration during that time. If that is the case, then you need to make that decision yourself – what is best for you and your commitment to your development. Look at your diary, look at where you can make sacrifices, are there meetings that have little to no value than can be removed, or are there meetings that with greater focus can be reduced from an hour to 30 minutes.
Remember, only two people care about your career – your mother and you, so give yourself what you deserve.
For my own development I commit to a number of actions:
How do you ensure your continued development and career progression? What activities or actions do you commit to? What do you do for your team members to ensure their development?
It would be great to hear what is working and not working for others.
There are a lot of articles that have been written with many experts believing that a Customer Success hire should be a single-digit hire for start-ups, i.e. employee number one to nine, but here in the UK I don’t believe we are at that stage yet, or at least not consistently. What we are seeing though is the growing appreciation for a Customer Success team but not yet as a priority over a sales or marketing function in start-ups. Why? I guess there is still a belief it is more important to win new business rather than keeping (and growing) what you already have. More worryingly though, as I speak to owners, founders, and CEOs is that they don’t always know why they are creating a Customer Success team, almost like they are just following the most recent industry trend. Keeping up with Joneses if you will (unsure if this translates! See: here for explanation). I will get back to this point later but let’s first look at when you should hire a Customer Success leader.
Before I start though….
Disclaimer: I am an experienced Customer Success leader looking for my next opportunity.
In my experience, if you are a SaaS start-up or scale-up and have made the decision you want (and more importantly need) a Customer Success team you will eventually come to the conclusion where you will need to hire your first Customer Success leader. This can happen one of three ways: firstly, you may choose to hire an experienced Customer Success leader as your first customer success hire and ask that person to spend some time “getting their hands dirty” until ready to expand the team. Secondly, you choose to hire a Customer Success Manager with the aim of that person growing into a leadership role in time as your business and the CSM team grows, investing time and effort into their development. Third and finally, you hire a number of Customer Success Managers before you decide to hire an experienced Customer Success leader to lead that team – and usually this number is between 3-6 CSMs but can also vary hugely – with the CSM team in the meantime reporting elsewhere, sales or operations usually.
I am sure each of these three options have their merits but for me I will take the words of American author, speaker, leadership expert and pastor John C Maxwell: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” and to that point I would always suggest your first customer success hire is one who “knows the way”, and for me that is a Customer Success professional with at least two years’ experience in a Customer Success role and ideally one with some form of Customer Success leadership experience. However, before you start your hiring process, ask yourself what you want that Customer Success leader to be responsible for. As I am sure you are now understanding, there are many different types and interpretations of what a Customer Success Manager is and what they are accountable for, and therefore this is mutually reflected in a Customer Success leader.
If you are a start-up or scale-up then I guess you want this person to potentially have built or grown, and scaled up a Customer Success organisation. What other companies have they worked at before? Have they worked at large SaaS companies or only start-ups, or do they have experience of both? What type of industries have they come from? What is the sales & customer success engagement model at those companies? How is success measured both for the team that person leads and for them individually? How have they performed against those measurements? What can that person demonstrate or evidence they have done, built, enhanced or learnt? Critically, you would also want to understand the culture of the companies this person has worked at. For small organisations like start-ups it is imperative that new hires “fit in”, they won’t “rock the boat”.
One component that may be restrictive or prohibitive in all of this: your budget. Currently in the UK whilst the role of a CSM is now established the role of a CSM leader is still in its infancy, mainly due to the number of CSMs reporting to leaders based in the US. The fallout to this is twofold; one is there is still confusion around what the Customer Success leader is accountable for (outside of the direct team management) and secondly, the salary for these roles are below market rate in comparison to the US or other leadership positions in the same organisation. Whilst experienced Sales Directors in the SaaS space can easily command north of 6 figure basic salaries the equivalent Customer Success Director is starting at 75% of this, with many roles a lot less than this. Jason Lemkin wrote an excellent article a few years back now around the need to hire a Customer Success leader and the justification is that any initial sale of a reasonable size is worth more than 6x the initial ACV over its lifetime. And you know who is responsible for that happening: your Customer Success Management team.
As Jason says “So you are hiring someone now not just to manage your $750K in ARR today, but more than that, to make sure that $750K grows to $4.5 million (6x) over the next 36 months”.
So when you make that Customer Success leadership hire, remember that you are not just hiring someone to manage the customer portfolio of £750K today but someone you are giving responsibility to in ensuring that you maximise that CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value) and this in my eyes, has to be a Customer Success leader.
However, this is where I play devil’s advocate and refer to my early point regarding “Keeping up with Joneses”. What problem is your Customer Success team looking to solve? What problem is your Customer Success leading being hired looking to solve? If, for example, you expect to grow your team to 6 CSMs and beyond in the 12-24 months, and you need someone who can grow that team from experience with the right people and the right processes, to avoid some of the common pitfalls, then it would be the right thing to do.
But if you are planning on having a small team and have no plans for aggressive growth, and/or your CSM team will be “low touch” then you may choose to hold off for as long as possible with no direct Customer Success leader.
For me though, if you can afford it I would always look to bring on the most senior Customer Success person you can. They will learn the product and the customer-base by being “hands-on”, and they will fully understand the day-to-day job and the relevant needs for the required processes, tools, organisational structure and dynamics. They must be aware though that this is a hands-on job and they will have to get their hands dirty for this to work.
Finally, the hiring of your Customer Success leader assumes great responsibility. It will fall to this person to drive a Customer Success culture through your company and this is one of the most challenging elements they will take on.
Customer Success Teamwork Makes The Dreams Work
The Liverpool football (soccer) team of the 80s. The Chicago Bulls basketball team of the 90s. The New England Patriots American football team of the 2000s. Plus many more teams can lay claim to being a great team, but what are the ingredients that make up a great team. Many teams will have a superstar or two in their ranks, but is it that superstar that makes them that great team or is it the sum of the total parts? What about that missing role from your team? Often good teams identify a missing part or player that transitions them from the “good” to the “great”. So, what does that change bring? Often that additional player brings a balance to the team that ceased to exist before, it allows your original players to play to their strengths whilst not distracted by other responsibilities, it ensures clarity on accountability and it maximises the opportunity to be successful.
So, does this transfer to business and specifically to the Customer Success organisation? Yes, in a word. My previous VP of Global Services at Autodesk, Roberto Sigona often spoke about the Customer Success Manager being the quarterback of post-sales interactions so let's take that metaphor further. So, Tom Brady may be that quarterback pulling all the strings, calling all the plays and directing the strategy but he can’t be successful without his running back, his wide receiver, his full back or his tackle, or a number of other players. So, as a Customer Success Manager can you be successful without your colleagues, be it in marketing, support, sales, operations or professional services? If you can or are currently being successful I would argue that it is only for the short term and for long-term, sustainable success you need to come together as one team with colleagues that have skills that you may not have.
However, this is when it gets more complex and arguably more controversial. When building that great team, or that great Customer Success organisation do you just rely on the resources available or do you go out and build the team you want with the exact skills you require with the right personality to fit your team culture and dynamics? I guess there is a desired state and a realistic one, but let's take it to the desired state. When does your Customer Success organisation go from being a team of CSMs to one that includes specialist functions with the aim of providing specific, niche skills and critically who are these additional “team-players” who will take your good team to a great team?
1. Customer Success Operations –
It has been long and widely accepted that a successful sales organisation performs to its optimal level with a Sales Operations function supporting it. Most CEOs therefore don’t question or challenge the CRO, or VP of Sales to the need to hire one. However, this same logic should be applied to a Customer Success organisation but very rarely gets the same level of acceptance.
So, what does or could this role bring? A Customer Success Operations Manager takes ownership for the key CS-related data and outputs of data to the wider business, owns the key customer success processes and therefore maintenance of them, reports team performance aligned to KPIs/MBOs, and if relevant maintains and owns the Customer Success platform.
And the benefit of all of this is a more efficient, a more focussed and ultimately a more successful team of Customer Success Managers.
2. Customer Success Marketing –
The main focus of customer success based marketing is wholly centred around advocacy. Customer Success Marketing lives in post-sales with a reporting line identical to Customer Success Management; i.e. Through to the Chief Customer Officer. Advocacy demand is increasing and therefore needs to be managed through the Customer Success Marketing function. The demand increasingly comes from sales and marketing (pre-sales) and the supply will come from the Customer Success Managers but how do you ensure the supply meets the demand?
Reading a recent article from Gainsight, they have created a target for their CSMs of a set number of CSQAs (Customer Success Qualified Advocacy) per quarter which focuses the CSM team on a constant flow and pipeline of advocacy. This I think is a great idea and without having a target and ultimately maybe even a reward for hitting that target then arguably the focus is not there, and the pipeline is bare.
Now it is easy to associate advocacy outputs just supporting “Land” opportunities in the form of a case study demonstrating value and RoI in a specific or particular manner. However, advocacy covers a range of outputs not just supporting new business drives but also, retention and expansion. Therefore, advocacy is self-helping for the CSM team ensuring event speaking, webinar involvement and guest blog posts drive mutual expansion, deeper penetration and peer-competitiveness.
It has long been proven that humans respond better to examples, to story-telling and to real-life scenarios of a use of a product, solution or service and hence why advocacy is so critical in your customer success organisation.
3. Customer Success Onboarding –
Ask Customer Success leaders and professionals the world over and I am sure most of them will admit to the onboarding phase being the most critical in setting customers up for success. Saying this, when does it become an option to look at a specific onboarding role or function within your customer success organisation? For me you have two key drivers for this; firstly, are you onboarding vast numbers of customers per week/month and this is causing a resource and time drain on your existing CSM team. Secondly, you have a complex product or service that requires vast training, support, consulting before your customers start to see value in their investment. If the answer to either (or both) of these is yes then I would suggest a dedicated onboarding function is one to look at.
The measurement of success for a specialist onboarding function has to be Time To First Value (TTFV) and you want to be reducing that number of days pre-introduction of the function. The quicker a new customer sees real, tangible value and RoI the more confident they are in making the right purchasing decision, validating and verifying all the work they did selecting your company.
These are three of the roles that you may want to consider when building out your customer success organisation; remembering that it is not just about your Customer Success Managers who have responsibility for delivering value and RoI to your customers. They need the support of the wider business and specifically individuals with certain skills that they may not have. As your customer success organisation continues to grow and expand I am sure there are other roles you may want to consider. Looking around over recent weeks there are several customer success related roles that go some way to supporting your Customer Success Managers and adding value in their own right: Customer Success Analysists, Customer Success Architects & Technical Customer Success are just some that are being recruited for today.
"Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people" - Steve Jobs
Social Media – A Customer Success Manager’s Best Tool
As our buyers became more savvy, more informed, and more powerful with the growth of SaaS and the flexibility to shift suppliers almost instantly our sales professional realised the need to mature their way of generating leads and winning more business. Gone was the days of sitting on the phone cold-calling prospect after prospect after prospect, gone was the days of an average of 3 calls to reach an executive to set a meeting with it nearer 10 now (if you were lucky). The need to utilise social media to find, engage and understand our buyers was created.
The same logic applies to Customer Success Managers: our stakeholders and contacts are more savvy, more informed and more powerful with the growth of SaaS and the flexibility to shift suppliers almost instantly. Sound familiar? So, as a Customer Success professional what are we doing about it? Everyone’s life is busier now, time is more valuable than ever. I used to joke about the value of the “tea & biscuit” meetings – those meetings with your contacts where there was no agenda, no desired outcome but just the opportunity to catch up over a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive. Like the cold-calling, these are becoming a thing of the past so how else can we keep at the forefront of our customer’s mind?
One of the most critical and arguably easiest, yet still unfathomably under-utilised methods is social media. Over the last 5 years I have worked with several Customer Success professionals at all levels from executive to mid-level to junior and I am surprised at the resistance, the unwillingness and more worryingly the naivety of the growing importance of an active social media presence. I am not saying you need to start liking, retweeting, pinning, posting, insta-gramming every element of your working life but having an opinion, having the willingness to share knowledge, having the ability to interact with your customers, new and old is and can be very powerful and very fruitful.
So where do you start? My advice is to limit your initial foray into social media to one or two networks – my networks of choice are LinkedIn and Twitter. But before you jump in, try and understand what you really want to achieve, who is your desired audience, where do they “play” when it comes to social media? The more artistic industries may choose Pinterest over Twitter, or Instagram over LinkedIn but if it’s a decision-maker at your leading corporate customer the chances are it will be LinkedIn supplemented by some Twitter-action. There are several articles, blogs and posts explaining the demographic of each social media network so take some time to understand that before you build that first profile.
Once you have your social media network selected it comes to the time to start building your profile. This is where it really becomes important to think about the message you want to convey and the type of people you want to attract to follow you. Most social media networks give you the option of adding a photo – I will never understand the unwillingness to add a photo. Select a photo, one that represents you well, one that represents your company and industry well, and one that is a fair and accurate representation of you today – a photo from 20 years ago when you had hair and 8 inches less around your waist is not! Apart from the photo you want a succinct introduction to you and your role, your company & potentially a disclaimer that your opinions are not that of your employer, partner or anyone else who may not agree with your post or comment!
Right, you have a social media network, you have your social media profile and now it is the time to start thinking about who you want to follow, whether that is people, companies, trade associations or competitors. Following the right people and organisations gives you a great insight into company news, opinions and comments from thought-leaders, trade and industry trends and behaviours. Start liking their posts, retweeting and reposting them, but ideally start to comment on them, challenge them and get involved – don’t just be a voyeur! There is a steady flow of articles that will get recycled but your value comes from your personal comment, observation and opinion. As I read just today, arguably you are not doing something well if at least one person doesn’t hate or disagree with you.
Engaging with your customers on social media is a great method of advocacy and involves little investment in time from your customer’s perspective. Often the barrier to success stories and case studies will be time but if you can use Twitter or LinkedIn to get your customer commenting, praising, and selling your solution or service you get a succinct, honest and permanent appraisal for all to see.
Supporting all of this is research by the IDC who observed that:
So, if those numbers don’t get you thinking about social media and the need to have a presence then nothing will.
While the art of social selling is proven to allow the best sales people to be more successful, to allow them to be more knowledgeable about their prospects and to understand their target market better, however the art and proven value of using social media in the customer success industry isn’t there yet. And it won’t be until we can accept that there is a real need for every customer success professional to have some form of active social media presence.
Without one, well isn’t that just socially unacceptable?
Quote Me Success!
My name is Matt, and I have a problem. I am addicted to Customer Success.
Over the last tens years or so I have read several books about Customer Success, I have read 100s of articles about Customer Success and the various best practices, and I have read 1000s of tweets about Customer Success and various thought-leaders opinions. Some I like, some I don't like, some I agree with, some I disagree with, some are relevant and applicable while others are not. All of this though has created me, has formed my ability to be a Customer Success professional, a practitioner and a leader.
Starting my new role at Rant & Rave as Head of Customer Success I was keen to share my knowledge with my newly-formed customer success team; some of that through detailed coaching and mentoring, while also through the sharing of best practices and quotes I have picked up along my own journey of knowledge building. Over the early part of this year while doing this I realised how many great quotes there are out there so I thought I would share my top 10 Customer Success quotes.
10 - "The seeds of churn are planted early" Lincoln Murphy at Sixteen Ventures
9 - “The biggest barrier to customer success is CEOs not making it an important part of the culture. It is just as important as new business" Nick Mehta at Gainsight
8 - “The growth of your company relies, more than anything else, on delivering lasting value to your customers. Acquiring new customers is essential, but if many of them leave, your business is a leaky bucket that will never grow" Oren Raboy at Totango
7 - "If we do not have employee success we will not have customer success" Catherine Blackmore at Oracle Marketing Cloud
6 - "No one ever bought your product just to log into it" Nick Mehta at Gainsight
5 - "Customer Success is not about happy customers - it's about successful customers"
4 - “Until you know what it takes to achieve success from your customers’ perspective you will just waste valuable time doing things that will have little long-term impact" Jason Whitehead at Tri Tuns
3 - "A strategy focused on customer happiness is not the key to long term renewal" Greg Daines at Client Velocity
2 - "Initial purchase decisions are based on hope. Renewal decisions are based on experience" Jason Whitehead at Tri Tuns
1 - “Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company" Lincoln Murphy at Sixteen Ventures
To be very honest, determining the 10 through to 2 was very hard and the order they should appear but the number 1 was so far out on its own in terms of frequency of quotes and re-quotes, the impact on the industry, myself and many peers, and in one very simple sentence it defines perfectly what the role of customer success managers the world over should be aiming for.
These are my top 10, and I am sure I have missed many more I would like and should have included. It would be great to hear yours so please let me hear them.
Customer Success Conversations are a series of podcasts hosted by the founder of CustomerSuccessManager.com, Adam Joseph. On each podcast he is joined by Customer Success executives from all levels who give us their views on what it takes to be successful, how to overcome challenge and the trends that will shape Customer Success in the future.
Like what you hear? Want to interact with others? Share your views with others on the pods by using #csmconversations
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.
Let Me Tell You A Story About.....Customer Success
As I start the next stage of my career in customer success I was recently introduced to my new company and my new team. Their monthly town hall meeting was in full effect with it dedicated to the topic of customer success – not just within the department but organisationally wide. One of the slots from the sales team was around what they are doing to drive an increase in customer reference stories and this lead me to think about this further and in greater detail.
So why are customer reference stories so critical for sales, who is responsible for getting these and where as Customer Success professionals can we help?
Nothing screams credibility more than real life examples of customer issues and challenges overcome, improvements in efficiency and productivity and ideally all with tangible evidence in the form of time or money (arguably the same thing). The effectiveness of your customer reference stories are critical because your potential customers need to be placed in the shoes of your existing customers; they need to see what your solution, service or software will do for them. There is a comfort for all customers knowing that firstly they are not unique with the issues and challenges they are experiencing and secondly, there is a solution available to them in resolving these issues and challenges.
Every industry and every company is now suffering in producing customer reference stories. The increased protection of your customers intellectual property, their products and services that may make them unique, their value proposition, their workflows all make it increasingly challenging to produce stories available to the public; either written or visual. These are of course very valuable but don’t limit your thinking that only the ones that make it public are the ones that have impact on your sales. I have a strong belief that any reference or success story that gets written even just for internal use carries a value. If you can educate your sales team on the customer issue, what actions were delivered and what the impact was for the customer then this can easily be repeated to future customers just dropping the specific customer name, and replacing it with “a leading company in your industry”.
For me there is a deliberate, conscious effort that needs to be made to the culture within your customer success team and your wider company to deliver and share success stories. This ensures that all your staff within your company understand the importance of this and the part they all can pay. So how can you do this?
The final component is the most critical – use the stories created! Now this may seem logical but nothing will demotivate your staff more than not using the stories that exist. However, to ensure they are used they must be accessible and easily available in a consistent location. It never surprises me to hear the verbal recollection of a success story followed by the comment that someone never knew that existed.
What I would add, is that you should celebrate the success of both creating a reference or success story and also where you can tie the use of one of these stories to a customer win. All of this encourages your staff to continue doing what they were doing and it adds to the culture you are trying to create.
Good Customer Success Isn't Enough....The Time To Wow Is Here
So, why are we in this? Why are we in this exciting, fantastically inspiring, rapidly moving and evolving industry known as customer success? As Customer Success professionals we are driven by the need to delight our customers; driven by the need to demonstrate value; driven in making our customers successful either directly, or by utilising our products or services.
However, as the industry matures and the bar of quality is raised being "just" good isn't sufficient anymore, it is time to wow your customer. Below are my top 5 ways to wow your customers. I am sure there are more, I am sure you have your own personal favourites but these are mine.
Be Authoritative & Credible - Nothing will build your credibility with your customers more so than writing or speaking publicly and therefore seen as an authoritative, leading figure. If customer success is what you want your customer to recognize you for then use this opportunity to market and position yourself. Talk definitively about the key components: customer journey mapping, segmentation, business outcomes, demonstrating value & RoI realisation, business reviews, etc. Not only does this market you and your company but it also highlights your values, your beliefs and also your opinions. You may choose to do this specifically about the industry or products you work with.
Respond To Survey Responses - Nothing infuriates a customer more than than asking them to invest their valuable time in providing insights into their experience using your product or service and then doing nothing with that information. As a manager I make a conscious effort to contact every survey respondent irrelevant of the feedback being good, bad or indifferent. More often than not my call or email is greeted with pleasant surprise from them that I have made the time to personally acknowledge their feedback and detail at a high level how we will react.
Customer Advocacy - Helping customers get the maximum from your products or services is the main focus for you as a Customer Success Manager. One of the greatest strengths you as a CSM should have is being the strongest advocate possible representing your customers needs internally to your organisation especially to your product managers and product teams. However, it doesn't take much to be an advocate for your customers range of products and services too. The prominent position social media now plays in Customer Success will allow you to constantly be aware of how your customer's business is performing, new products they are releasing, business they are winning and some of their greatest success stories. Don't be shy in sharing this with your contacts through your social media platforms.
Activity Attribution - Customer Success isn't just about volume of activities; activities analyzing how much software your customers use, activities of webinars and newsletters, activities involving executive meetings. Customer Success is about attributing any and all of these to a value, a value that is tangible and a value that your customer acknowledges. Whenever you look to do something for your customer, or with your customer ask yourself why are you doing this? What value are you bringing to them? Remember, them as much as you want and need to prove an RoI. Have this conversation with your customer and you may be pleasantly surprised how open they are to the conversation and working with you to prove that value.
Close That Loop - Like survey responses that go unacknowledged or ignored, requests of product enhancements or fixes that get logged and never to be heard of again are one of the major frustrations of your end users. Again they have taken the time to provide feedback, and yes this might be for their benefit but it is also for your benefit, for your product or service. Based on this you should treat that feedback with the respect it deserves and what it deserves is you closing the loop. I am not saying you have to agree and approve any or every enhancement or fix, but what you should do is close the loop. If you are making that change, set expectations of time and detail - the old mantra of "under-promise and over-deliver" works well here. It is also OK to not make that change - but go back to your customer and be transparent why it has been declined. It may not be what they want to hear, they may still be frustrated but ultimately they will respect you and appreciate you more for that honesty and for closing the loop.
As I said, these are just 5 ways that I believe you can wow your customer rather than just being "good". Customer Success is progressing, the bar is getting higher in terms of what we need to deliver so all of us need to up our game. I would love to hear more in terms of what other things you all believe we can do to wow our customers.
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