I’ve talked before about what I believe the differences are between traditional Account Management and Customer Success within an organisation. I thought it might be worthwhile to share an example of where I feel Customer Success differs.
Everyone in business will experience the process of supporting a large customer through a more complicated than usual implementation process. People in the software sector especially will know that you will always uncover a relatively minor obstacle or two when taking on a new customer, as you are still in the infancy of that budding relationship. You don’t know the assumptions being made by others, although you try to uncover them, or have sight of what kind of customer they are going to be going forward. Your interaction at the point that you receive a customer is usually limited.
Every customer has their own unique set up and so the onboarding and implementation process will always be adapted as needed but will more often than not have to be delivered to tight deadlines for the customer to achieve their objectives. In my experience everything usually starts off really well. Everyone is aligned, the goal is clear, although there will most likely be the odd ’niggle’ which I’m sure we all anticipate - these are usually tackled and resolved promptly. Before you know it, all the meetings are done and you’re there in the final stages of the project - just a few steps before you go live.
What happens when the above scenario isn’t the case and the project slips due to a completely unknown and unanticipated obstacle? What if that obstacle results in the deadlines being pushed back by weeks or months resulting in the customer missing their target? What if it was an aspect of the project that was not down to you or your team to resolve? What if everyone is aligned and wants to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but a long delay is the best possible outcome? What if the impact of the delay for your customer is not only reputational but also financial.
It’s not your organisations fault so why should you care? You don’t need deal with it other than your part, right?
This impact could mean that your customer is going to have a lot of work to do internally and could need to report this to Board level, whilst also justifying the cost of your system. This isn’t successful.
I am of the mind-set that if we truly work towards the success of our customers, we must also understand and maintain that mind-set when things don’t go to plan. We have to understand things from their perspective, and act in a way that brings them back on track for success.
The result from my viewpoint would be to shoulder the burden and I would want to help to mitigate the reputational and financial impact if I could. I truly believe, and my experience confirms, that this will result in an even deeper and meaningful engagement and a real confidence in your ability to understand and work together.
I feel lucky to have a CEO that I would be able to approach in a difficult situation such as this. He ‘gets’ Customer Success and I feel certain that he would value our relationship with the customer and would to support my efforts to combat the impact. He believes that if we ensure the customer’s success we will find our own.
I believe that my customers know, when the going gets tough, we’re right there with them, and we will do whatever it takes to get them back onto their path to success. I’m not that saying this would work for everyone in every circumstance, I’m saying that if you truly align yourself to the success of your customers and live it with them, it will result in a better outcome for everyone – you, your team and your organisation.
Originally Published 13/03/2018