Wherever you turn these days you’ll keep running into customer success and the wide variety of interpretations...
What I am finding is that some companies are really missing the point with what Customer Success means and how it can deliver so much more than just financial gain. One thing I came across was a blog by Totango confirming ‘Almost everyone agreed CSMs should not carry a quota’. Customer success is very simple; it’s being 100% behind delivering success for your customer, in whatever their interaction is with you and your business, and assisting them to deliver on their objectives.
Think of it this way, a traditional Account Manager is usually tasked with the following basics;
- Revenue Growth Target rewarded with commission, which in most cases increases annually.
- Customer Retention – Annual support subscriptions and expanding their businesses presence within their customer base.
Most companies will also have other objectives that will be built in, the basics usually remain the same.
Now Account Managers still want their customers to be successful so they can ‘up-sell’, that much is obvious but this fails to some degree, as they are not directly rewarded for the customer success element and may not have the right skill set or understanding for true Customer Success. In most cases it seems that the key focus for the company and therefore the Account Manager is the increased revenue as they are rewarded based upon that.
The customer’s success is then lost on the price of a project, and the Account Manager and Customer aren’t truly working together to achieve the same thing
Bearing all of that in mind, I want to draw your attention to a scenario that we all see and suffer far too often;
A currently happy customer decides, through the recommendation of their Account Manager, to buy an additional solution/product. The Account Manager processes the sale and then hands the customer and project over to the project delivery team and moves onto the next sale. In this scenario, for whatever reason, the solution is misdelivered and the customer is left feeling out of pocket, let down, deflated and usually very frustrated. They will usually come under internal scrutiny for using their budget. As the Account Manager’s focus is mainly revenue based, they aren’t aligned with that customer anymore, so the customer will be passed onto another team to handle the issues - maybe a complaints department or another Account Manager. Either way that relationship is now difficult to rebuild with the customers trust and confidence very low if not completely lost.
The oversight isn’t just with the Account Manager, it goes further than that. The project delivery teams will have limited time and resources to deliver any solution, and again they will have a financially focused element to the delivery, which only adds to the issue.
The only team here who are almost aligned with the customer will be the complaints team. In most cases they will be driven by customer retention, but still they will have limited resources to fix the issues that the customer has already experienced. When the customer reaches this department they are frustrated, angry, fed up, usually have no remaining budget and are in the direct firing line from their bosses. The Customer Complaints team are already fighting a losing battle….
Also another point widely missed is that a customer’s experience directly determines their desire to work with you again, so any further revenue growth with them is likely gone. They may decide to wait out any support agreements or decide they have to remain with you for the short term but in most cases, you’ve lost their trust and confidence and therefore any future business with them.
A different approach?
I want to offer another perspective, one that is being widely adopted and is becoming very well respected and proven. This approach delivers wider, longer term success to all parties, your business and most importantly your customers!
If Customer Success is a primary objective of your organisation and you are aligned to the same objectives as the customer it becomes a high value experience for the customer and the employee.
The customer feels heard, understood and supported, the employee feels the same but also empowered. Both parties have a great sense of achievement at the point of delivery and having worked together closely, ultimately have a better relationship, a partnership. The initial sale still happens but even that is approached differently, in a more consultative manner, with your representative advising the customer of the costs and being unafraid of walking away from a deal if it is not the right fit for both parties.
A Customer Success Manager should remain close to the project (success focused!), working with the delivery teams and remaining involved so that if any problems are encountered the customer experience is still positive because their Success is the focus. The project delivery teams are also aligned and so things will progress and the outcome will benefit everyone. The customer will have had a very positive experience, the Customer Success Manager has a great ongoing relationship with the customer, the customer is retained and will usually be very open to working with them again.
Broadly the outcome is brilliant, not only do you have increased revenue through the initial sale and customer retention obtained, but the customer is now much more likely to work with you again and provide referrals/references/case studies, which also directly increases the brand awareness, market presence and confidence for your business.
If Customer Success is the focus rather than a sale target then a Customer Success Manager will focus more on the Customer’s objectives. This has a knock on effect, making your business not only a desirable one to work with from the Customers Perspective but also a more desirable one to work for. With departments aligned and working together toward the same goal, it will only make the employee experience a more positive one and may see your employee retention increase!
Customer Success is vital and should be adopted by every business. If you’re considering it FinancialForce published a blog detailing 9 key steps on how you can make a start with implementing customer success into your business. Openview offers a great report on how to implement a Customer Success Management strategy. Gainsight have developed their business to focus entirely around Customer and Employee success and have a lot of information available for those starting out and those wanting to improve on what they already do.
Whatever your current plan or approach, if you don’t value your customer’s success and align your business to their needs, then someone else will, and their customers will contribute to and support that business’s success over yours….
Originally Published 29/08/2017