Social Media – A Customer Success Manager’s Best Tool

Modern Keyboard With Colored Social Network Buttons.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:

  • 91% of B2B buyers are now active and involved in social media
  • 84% of senior executives use social media to support purchase decisions
  • 75% of B2B buyers are significantly influenced by social media

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?

 

 

 

 

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CustomerSuccessManager.com #CSMconversations Podcast

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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 

 

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 – Where It All Began….. (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.

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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.

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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

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?

  • As an account team ensure in your regular account meetings you ask the question; what value or success have you delivered this week/month? This should be the basis of a potential success story for every member of the team; sales, technical or CSM.
  • Likewise, in your regular CSM team meetings ensure you carve out a dedicated time for asking the question around what success stories each CSM is working on. Use this time to understand the story, validate it, understand the progress and the deadline. Hold people accountable for delivering these.
  • Bring consistency to how you publish these with a set template demonstrating the key components: customer issue/challenge, actions, results with tangible metrics and ideally completed with a customer quote. Work with your marketing team to bring brand consistency and aesthetically pleasing collateral.

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. Sound familiar?

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:

  1. “Success” is defined by your customer; them and only them can do this
  2. “First Value” is only realised when it is acknowledged and accepted by your customer

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.

  • How will you measure the success of …… (software, solution, service)?
  • What are you ultimately attempting to achieve with …..(software, solution, service)?
  • How do you currently measure the success of …… (software, solution, service)?
  • How are you measured by your manager?
  • What is your desired outcome?

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.

  • How much time has been saved
  • How much money has been saved/made
  • How much more knowledgeable are you/they
  • How much more satisfied are you/they (NPS, C-Sat)

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”.

 

Branded: Customer Success

What is a brand? We talk about brands on a daily basis reflecting and relating to the products we choose to buy and the services we choose to utilise. With visual and audio advertising maturing and developing pulling on your heart-strings and your desires constantly, we are forever succumbing to the promises of an improved experience. Products and services therefore are easy to associate a brand with – but what about people? What about you? What does your personal brand say about you? Do you even have one? What do you want people to associate with you – what qualities do you want to demonstrate?

So what is a brand when it comes to people? For me, a former Director of Recruitment I worked with previously summed it perfectly: “your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. You are a brand and your name with your colleagues, and with your customers will evoke an emotion and what that emotion is depends on your behaviors. In the world of customer success where so much value is attached to the relationships between individuals your brand goes a long way to being successful.

Your personal brand is your commitment to your customer and to your colleagues. It is a statement that reflects your beliefs, your values and your opinions. Your personal brand needs to be relevant to what industry or business you are seeking to penetrate, or the persona you are trying to build of yourself. What could be the ultimate aim?

  • Ensure you are noticed by the right people, at the right time for the right reason
  • Build your credibility around an industry, a subject or business
  • Have a social media profile that evidences and enhances your credibility

So if you have an aim, you should be ready to consciously create your plan and build your brand. But, where do you start?

  • Discover & Understand – Don’t be shy to ask your peers and colleagues how they perceive you. Analyse yourself honestly – how do you behave in groups, how do you interact on social media, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses?
  • Who do you look up to? – When you look at your network whos qualities do you want to replicate? Look at those skills and qualities, list them and build a plan to develop them through training, mentoring, etc.
  • Social Media – What does your social media profile say about you? Are you even active on social media? As a Customer Success professional the bare minimum is a LinkedIn profile that is well structured, relevant and up to date. However, in today’s working environment a voyeuristic approach to social media isn’t enough. You need to be contributing and participating in conversations and debates, offering opinions and sharing best practices. Creating a blog is a great way to get your views and opinions heard, and communicating your beliefs.
  •  Networking – Get out of the office, get out of the comfort of meeting and talking to the same people and widen your network. There are a number of local, national and international networking opportunities with industry and professional events on a weekly basis.

Customer Success, selling, and general business is all about people and relationships so ensure people come to you knowing what you are about; knowing what your brand is.  What are you waiting for…..go and get branded!

 

The mistakes of a failing CSM

Ask any Customer Success Manager if they are good at their job and I am sure you will be given a look of discontent, followed by a response of something along the lines of “of course I am, my customers love me!”. While the behaviors and deliverables of a “good” CSM are obvious and often written about across the many blogs and white papers available, the misconceptions and mistakes made by “bad” CSMs are not so readily available.

Last week I had a discussion with one of my team around what makes a bad CSM, and while you can answer this in many ways we spoke about some of the common mistakes that CSMs make and so based on that, I will give you my four fatal mistakes you as a CSM cannot afford to make.

“Silence is golden” or “No news is good news” – One of the most worrying mistakes a CSM can make is the presumption that if their customers are not talking to them it is due to them having nothing to complain about. Yes, it may be nice to have a customer that causes you little pain and little work but realistically what do you know about them? What are they doing? Are they happy with your product or service, or are they out there looking at your competitors? When it comes to justifying the renewal at the end of the contract term not only do you have insufficient information to base your value realization on but you are open to the customer making the accusation they never hear from you. No news may be good news, but don’t leave that to chance – ensure you know why there is that silence and you can only do that by talking. And talking about “talking”…..

Email has its place – But in this ever increasing world of email communication and ever decreasing world of real conversation lets restrict the use of email and only use when appropriate. The “check in” email is really devaluing of the role you play with your customer and more critically, is probably annoying your customer. Email does have its place in customer success management, but its use has to be intelligent, and targeted. With all the data available to you as the CSM you can connect with your customer based on any number of strategic, high value topics: analysis of  their usage trends, on the tracking to your agreed shared goals, on product developments, or on relevant activities you are delivering, but why not pick up the phone and do this in person. That phone call sets the expectation of the value – the fact you have taken the time to pick up the phone places a value of importance on it and what you have to say.

Who needs a QBR? – This one is very close to my heart as my team of Customer Success Managers know too well;  quite simply how do you ensure you are tracking progress to your agreed shared goals whilst continuously demonstrating value and an RoI if you don’t have QBRs. While I accept there may be accounts who do not warrant “quarterly” business reviews that does not or should not mean that you do nothing. Likewise, if your customer is resistant to accepting the a QBR there is usually two things you need to look at. One, do you have the right person or people attending and two, are you showing relevant and valued, insightful content. Arguably if you align the right content with the right attendees you will have a very productive QBR but under no circumstances should a form of business review on a regular cadence not take place. As I have seen over recent years, if you do not frequently ensure you are delivering and communicating value back to your customer over the duration of your contract you are majorly at risk of that customer not renewing. Scrambling to get this together three months before a renewal is often too late – your customer by then has already decided that your competitor is better than you.

I “own” the customer – Using this phrase not only will cause angst amongst your colleagues but your conduct often then follows suit with unhealthy, controlling behaviors and traits shown. As a CSM you are only as good as the team around you, and you cannot afford to damage that with your overwhelming desire to be in control. No one owns the customer, end of. You have a responsibility to the customer, to your company and to your colleagues to do the right thing by them not you and in that order; customer first.

Now I am sure there are other mistakes or misconceptions out there that you will claim are even bigger and have an even larger impact on being able to be successful as a Customer Success Manager so let’s hear them. What for you is the biggest mistake a CSM can make and what is the impact either on you, your customer or your company?

 

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?

  1. Customer Success is an organisational philosophy – ensure you have a set of pillars or values that underpin this. My thought is this should be around five values that drive the culture you want from your CSMs, that positively impact your customers need for value and that sells the value to your internal stakeholders.
  2. Customer Success behaviors are driven by compensation – this doesn’t just mean your CSMs where the behavior is driven by the structure of their compensation plans but the entire company from top to bottom. KPIs around retention, C-Sat and  time-to-first-value for all stakeholders at all levels ensure the consistent customer success behavior you desire.
  3. Customer Success actually starts with sales – the ability to be successful in delivering value to your customers depends on the type of deals and customers that your sales organisation bring in. There are two methods to instill this. One, which contains a degree of risk is to give the Customer Success organisation the power of veto on all new customer deals ensuring the customers that are acquired understand the value proposition and can see how they will get value from your solution or service, and are fully engaged and if they don’t then the Customer Success Management organisation has the power to veto the deal until they do. The second method is is to ask your sales executive to honestly assess the chances of your customer being successful. Use that information to tailor your overall approach, your on-boarding and delivery phases to that specific customer’s situation.
  4. Shout about Customer Success! Just like every new customer win from sales, there is a need to celebrate the successes of your Customer Success organisation. Whether this is high c-sat scores, achieved time-to-first-value, renewal, an up-sell or a successful adoption play it is an important element of your culture – celebrate your successes! A note of caution though, if you choose to celebrate certain achievements make sure the communication, the cadence and acknowledgement is consistent – the risk of this being done badly can negatively impact employee engagement.

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:

  1. A C-level executive directly responsible for customer success sitting on the board at the same level as sales, marketing, finance, product management – a Chief Customer Officer/Chief Customer Success Office
  2. In the words of Chrisy Woll, VP of Customer Success at campuslogic “The board, to the CEO to every executive has to truly buy-in to the importance of Customer Success”