Although the role of customer success is not new, it has rapidly become mainstream as companies now recognize its contribution to business growth. According to Jason Lemkin, “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is”. This has catapulted customer success from the status of churn-buster to a double-agent-growth harvester, for both customers and suppliers.
To use a plant metaphor, there are 5 key elements that play a role in sustained growth: light, love and care, water, temperature and nutrients. Based on these, here are some essential “seeds” that best-in-class customer success teams have sown to ensure sustainable mutual growth.
Light: Develop Joint Accountability
Whereas “customer success management” is a functional role, “customer success” is a company-wide strategy that creates value for both the customer and the supplier. Within their collaborative relationship, suppliers create holistic journeys that engage customers throughout their lifecycle to achieve shared success.
As in all relationships, it takes two to tango:
- Acknowledge that success and failure are inextricably linked
- Define mutual success goals for customers and suppliers
- Create joint-accountability agreements to maximize shared success
Love and care: Focus on Business Outcomes
Helping customers achieve business outcomes with your product is less about the technology and more about the people that use it. The key is to build the capacity of customers to adopt technology in a way that creates value for them – for example, via increased productivity, increased revenues, etc. Until that happens, there will always be customers that fail.
Success is achieved via:
- Providing enablement programs that move people out of their comfort zones
- Focusing on the human side of software: adoption, change management and value
- Providing expertise in the domain in which the product is used
- Empowering customers to drive their own success
Water: Soak up Customer Intelligence
Customer intelligence is essential to empowering customers to grow. Companies are collecting customer data insights from multiple sources – like marketing, sales, product, customer success, support and technical content – and combining it with AI to proactively predict which customers have risks and opportunities. These insights are “hydrating” products, services and content to continually nurture customers for sustained growth.
When used intelligently, data is to customer success what water is to flowers!
Temperature: Gauge the Customer Experience
Related to data is the ongoing quest to take the temperature of the customer experience. Whereas customer success focuses on business outcomes, customer experience focuses on customer sentiment. And according to Forrester, 72% of companies say improving CX is a top priority.
B2B companies are making efforts to replicate the “wow” customer experiences of the B2C world by humanizing one-to-many automation in places like customer portals and communities, and by adding personal touches along the customer journey based on data insights. Further, enabling customers with the right level of knowledge at the right time is becoming recognized as key to providing a better customer experience.
Nutrients: Adjust for Customer Success
Customer success must constantly be nurtured. Agility is key in finding the balance between CS/CX nutrients and changing customer needs. This requires all functions of the company to actively listen to their customers and create iterations to test and adjust the delivery of products and services, based on evolving insights.
It is like caring for plants that will eventually grow and flourish independently within a healthy ecosystem. At that point, you will have sown the seeds of customer success and allowed them to grow into a thriving forest of mutualistic abundance. As with many parts of nature, success is mutual!