The Customer Success Mindset
The Customer Success mindset means always thinking about your customer’s point of view and how you can solve their real business problems in a timely manner. This is not a one-time thing, in fact, it’s a long-term journey where you’ll have to be continually adding value and adapting as your customer’s needs and expectations change.
Every company out there will likely describe itself as “customer-centric,” but the Customer Success mindset is something that can actually be felt throughout every department. Being customer centric might mean that you put your customers first, and listening to their feedback, but having the Customer Success mindset means that you are constantly putting yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Customer Success Throughout the Organization
You can’t just appoint a Chief Customer Officer or VP of Customer Success and think you’ve solved the issue. The entire senior leadership team must demonstrate their dedication to delivering customer value and creating long-term customer relationships.
This mind-set doesn’t just happen. It really does start at the top. The CEO needs to set the example by spending time engaging with customers and learning what business needs they’re trying to solve. The executive team should also be driving this Customer Success mindset throughout the organization. A Chief Customer Officer is a natural fit to be a powerful instrument to drive this mindset throughout the organization.
Appcelerator CEO Jeff Haynie is wildly passionate about Customer Success. The important thing is that he’s not just talk; he’s put his money where his mouth is. He’s constantly interacting with clients to know what problems they’re trying to solve. He’s also invested in the proper resources and tools to make sure the Customer Success team can put the Customer Success mindset into action.
Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo is another great example of having the Customer Success mindset start at the top. As his company grew to hundreds of people in multiple locations, he wanted to make certain Zuora’s customer-centric mission was felt throughout the entire organization.
At a corporate offsite, his team put themselves in their customers’ shoes and thought about what key business objectives they’d want from Zuora. He reorganized the company around these 9 Keys to Success to make sure that every department in Zuora is built around how it can service these objectives for its customers.
It’s tough for Sales to get out of the event mindset, and they should be happy when they close deals and sign contracts. But it’s important for Sales to truly understand that signing is just a step along the journey with the customer. The days of winning accounts with expensive dinners and golf trips are over … okay, almost over. Customers ultimately are going to choose based on relationships and products that really add value quickly, and continue to add value over a lifetime.
Sales Leadership must incorporate the Customer Success mindset into its pre-sales processes and ideally have proper gates set up during the selling motion. Sales can also introduce the Customer Success process or team early in order to set expectations with the client.
Introducing Customer Success into a customer engagement during the presales process may rub some Sales people the wrong way at first, but they’ll see the light. In a previous life, I did an analysis of the new customers we acquired and over half of them came from referrals or references from existing customers. This wouldn’t be happening if existing customers weren’t getting real value from the product. Successful customers lead to new business, which leads to a happy Sales team.
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The product is very, very important to Customer Success. You can have the best processes in place and the sharpest Customer Success Managers around, but it’s not going to matter much if you have a dog of a product. If your product isn’t adding value and solving real business needs, you need to rethink what you’re doing.
You must build products with individual users in mind. It may sound elementary but having an intuitive user interface and a well thought-out user experience is vital. Of course, some B2B software requires complexity and favors function over form, but most modern business software can always be improved with the Customer Success mindset.
The Product team also must work closely with the Customer Success team to accurately represent the upcoming roadmap. The Customer Success team can serve as a valuable feedback tool for Product because they’re in touch with end users. This also stresses the importance of clearly communicating the customer’s needs back to the Product team.
I’ve made it very clear that the Customer Success department is NOT Customer Support but having a robust customer support infrastructure is an imperative. If your customer support organization isn’t running like a Swiss watch, your Customer Success team is too busy on break-fix activities instead of being able to add value.
Support needs to understand the role they play in serving the customer, not just looking at these issues as disconnected widgets to solve. Support can be given more context of the customer by being given insight into customer satisfaction information, as well as insight into the customer health score.
Marketing is more than just generating leads and filling the top of that funnel, as it can play a key role in delivering customer happiness for life. In businesses with recurring revenue, marketing needs to understand that they have to focus on marketing to existing customers just as much as acquiring new ones.
One way to retain customers is by effectively communicating what your company’s values are. This can be done through content marketing, social media channels, and through content that adds value to the customer’s experience (Whitepapers, eBooks, webinars and user guides).
Can You Really Change Mindsets?
I’ve lived through executive mandates of “Customer Success” that were implemented by senior leaders who just didn’t get it. They were staring at churn issues, facing pressure from the board and thought this was a simple solution. They never really changed their mindsets and embraced the customer-centric view.
Thoroughly embracing the Customer Success mindset throughout the organization will lead to tangible improvements in retention, reduce churn, and increase adoption. Having this mindset will also present more upsells and cross-sells, which all leads to increased revenue.
That’s why successful SaaS businesses know that the Customer Success mindset isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a business imperative.