I remember when I was first approached about a role in Customer Success. I was working in new business sales and was nearing the point where I felt like something was missing when I had to transition the customer over to the account team.
A former colleague called me and informed me that there was a role he thought I would be a good fit for in Customer Success Management. At that point, I hadn’t even heard of the customer success function, as it was relatively new in the UK. The job was described to me as a role where you work with the client to deliver what was outlined during the sales cycle. It sounded like a dream job! Fast forward many years, lots of learnings and some real successes (excuse the pun), I now have a true understanding of what Customer Success is— at least from my perspective. So what is it exactly?
Focused on Outcomes, Not Upsell
I am a strong believer that while Customer Success (CS) should be focused on retention (whether this is through KPIs or compensation depends on your organization), Customer Success should not be compensated on upsells. Why? Well, in short, It takes the Customer Success reps’ focus away from doing their job to the best of their ability. CS is still a relatively new function, but it’s impact has been so great, that most tech companies now have a CS team.
If you focus your CSMs on upsells and give them a quota, no matter how consultative they might be, their focus will be on hitting their number. If your CSMs are focused on value relation and retention, then not only will you have happier customers that stay longer, they will also be referenceable and willing to grow their business with yours. CSMs are trusted advocates, and of course they will identify opportunities for upsell at some point, but since they are closest to the customer they should not have commercial responsibility for upselling that customer; I believe that is the job of a sales representative.
Proactive in Nature
In a previous blog post, I noted that the difference between Customer Service and Customer Success is that one is purely reactive (customer service) and while the other has some reactivity, it is approached with a proactive mindset. So, what do I mean by being proactive? It means not waiting for the customer to come to you with questions, but actively digging in with the customer to understand their business, how they work, how they operate, what their goals & priorities are and ultimately...what success means to them.
A Tailored Approach to Adoption & Understanding the Business
Adoption is a critical component of the Customer Success strategy, but I often see reps taking a one-size-fits-all approach to it. When I break it down, I see adoption having two major areas: End User Adoption (think usage and user sentiment) and Understanding the Business (think positive business outcomes and business requirements).
I’m going to dig into the concept of understanding the business a little deeper. I see many reps barely scratching the surface of this area. I expect my customer success management team to know things like:
- what the business does how & where they operate
- who the main stakeholders are
- who we know & don’t know
- how they are using our technology
- what other technologies are business critical to them
- what happens if they don’t have our technology.
Additionally, I want them to know what the impact of our product is on their organisation, who cares about the success of our technology, who influences decisions, and much more. Knowing more about the customer success process is critical to helping customers turn vague goals into achievable outcomes while building an action plan and measuring progress along the way. To me, these are key indicators that a customer success representative truly understands their clients’ business inside and out — which allows them to do their job in the most effective way possible.
Working in Customer Success Management means we are trusted advisors, partners, and act as the bridge between the customer and our company. Ultimately, our job is to advocate for our clients and help them achieve maximum value for their business.