Customer Success – A Role Or Company Culture?
Lately, the term “Customer Success” is getting very popular and prominent in IT industry. In Product companies, especially SaaS, it has become one of the vital roles in organization. Similarly, in Service companies as well this term is gaining lots of traction. As many of us may confuse this role with existing Project Management or Account management, it would be interesting to identify what responsibilities this role actually has.
So, lets first understand what is “Customer Success”.
What is Customer Success?
If you google, you will find many definitions of Customer Success. Many times, customer success is measured in terms of Revenue generated by the Customer Success Manager/Leader or in terms of Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) which is used to predict the net profit from a customer.
Some may also relate Customer Success to retaining the existing customers, meeting them regularly to check their satisfaction level and mitigating the risks, if any, or handling those customers which are on the verge of leaving you and making them happy again!
In my opinion Customer Success is very simple, i.e. Making your Customer Successful.
What is the core of Customer Success?
So, to make the customer successful, it is essential to know what does Success mean or what defines success for him/her. We must understand the minimum expectations from us by the customer to make him/her successful. This can be termed as the desired outcome for the customer. And it can be a combination of multiple things from understanding customer problems to innovativeness, delivery time and communication.
Communication is one of the important factors to provide appropriate experience to the customer. And for the communication to be precisely effective, it is important to understand your customer. Customers are also human beings and are not entities. And we must understand, every customer is unique and you can’t treat all customers in a very same way. To simplify this, we can classify them in following segments-
- High Attention: This type of customers demands rigorous interactions from your side. Typically, they love to be aware of each and everything happening at any given point.
- Low Attention: This type of customers may leave you on your own completely and would prefer to get in touch with you only after a major/meaningful milestone is achieved.
- Neutral: This type of customers follows a defined schedule of involvement except during escalations. For example, weekly meetings, Sprint exits etc.
Who is Customer Success Leader?
By now we understood that customer success is all about making your customers successful. Largely we assume Customer Success as customer happiness and for that most of the time, we try to over-deliver. But many times, while doing this we may tend to lose our focus from priority deliverables and end up in either compromise in quality or missing the timelines. This may work seldom but would not work in long term. Quality of work and having a strong relationship with your customer works in long-term. And for every successful relationship core is TRUST. So, do not get into over-deliver or under-deliver, guru mantra is “Just Deliver” whatever is the desired outcome. Be a Problem solver or Solution provider for your customer that will eventually make you a trusted associate for the Customer. Whether you are a developer, team leader, project manager, account manager or a salesperson, if you are a trusted advisor in your role to the customer, you are a “Customer Success Leader”.
It is important to note and understand that this whole process is evolving. It’s not like you gain customer trust once and enjoy it for rest of your life. With every new problem, we should redefine the desired outcome and identify the right customer segment for that problem as per the criticality. Same individual (Customer) can act as high attention, low attention or neutral customer at different times depending upon the desired outcome. For example, for a critical production issue which can result in a loss of revenue, a customer can act as high attention and for a futuristic PoC with less priority, the same customer can act as low attention.
Another point from service industry perspective is that, if a customer is with us for a reasonable time, and he is still a high attention customer implies customer’s lack of trust on us and a clear indication for CSL to take some action. Similarly, after certain deliverables customer moving in low attention segment implies customer’s high trust on us.
To conclude, in my opinion, Customer Success is a culture. Either a company has that or does not have that. Defining a role for Customer Success Management will not make a company customer-centric. So, I reiterate, identify what is desired outcome and focus on delivering that. At times, you should stretch or walk an extra mile to support your customer in odd situations. You should be a go-to person for the customer. Be a Problem Solver for your customer, not a complainer. And always carry an approach of “Making a difference”. If you are following all these, you must enjoy your customer’s trust implies you are a Customer Success Leader.