I started my early career as a UX (User Experience) Professional. If you aren’t familiar with UX, according to the International standard on ergonomics of human-system interaction, ISO 9241–210, is defined as:
A person’s perceptions and responses resulting from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system, or service.
In practice, it answers questions such as how easy a product, system or service is to use for the customer, how aesthetically pleasing it is to look at, what will make people switch to a competitor, or what will keep customers using your product, service or website. A UX research professional tests real and potential users of a product or website through either qualitative or quantitative research methods. The data is then analyzed and presented to the stakeholders, product teams and designers to make improvements to that product or website. The main goal here is to keep people using your product/website or to convert to using your product/website from competitors’.
Wikipedia defines Customer Success as:
“The business method ensuring customers achieve success, their desired outcomes while using your product or service.”
In practice, it is a relationship focused discipline that has a retention and revenue focus. While you do not test real users you do work with real users to ensure they are able to successfully use your product and gain a ROI. The main goal is to get them to renewal and a potential upgrade if needed. You not only want to retain the ARR but increase the ARR. You also want to ensure they don’t hop to a competitor.
While working in a UX company, who had just launched a product, there was a need for a post sales role that involved managing product customers. At the time, I had no idea what this role was called or even what it entailed. However, what the founders and I did know is that I loved working with customers, had built a relationship with many of our customers and was an advocate for them. It made sense for me to fill this role. There was not a lot, at the time, on the internet or even published, on this role. After many months of searching, I found a very small conference taking place in SF for VPs and above that described my role. At that time, I found out the role was called Customer Success.
At that conference of less than 50 leaders, all in the same situation as me, I learned a little more about the role that I was taking on. It was described as making sure the customers were happy, you were their voice and you ensured they renewed and even upgraded when there was an opportunity. There was no such thing as a Customer Success plan, Customer Outcomes and all the other coin phrases you hear today. However, what I did know is that it seemed very familiar and had a lot of crossover into what I had been trying to accomplish in UX. It seemed there was a clear place that both these roles intersected.
What makes these two roles aligned? They both are highly focused on and reliant on keeping the customer happy, coming back and even attracting new customers from improving the overall customer experience. In both roles the customer is the key focal point. They are in the power seat and can make or break your brand and/or lead you to profitability or potential loss. You can see the overlapping roles in the following:
In UX you are looking at the overall experience of that customer. One part of UX is creating a journey map. A journey map is looking at the end-to-end experience of a customer and making improvements along that journey. You can see where customers are frustrated and where customers are happy. Journey mapping has been crossing over into Customer Success over the last several years. In Customer Success when we look at that journey we begin to understand where you might lose a customer along that journey, at what point can you upsell, retain, how their journey can help them obtain their business outcomes and so on.
Another major part of UX is seeing areas of frustration or happiness with a customer when using your product. They accomplish this by conducting qualitative and quantitative research using a variety of techniques. This at times includes surveys and collecting NPS. Frequently it involves observing participants either in person or remotely. They are asked to either talk out loud, providing their thoughts during the process (qualitative approach) or asking them to rate their experience or answer open-ended questions (quantitative approach). In Customer Success we use a more guerilla approach to customer feedback. Sure we have QBRs to collect feedback and may send out surveys but we are collecting feedback every time we talk to the customer. Every time you get on the phone for your regular calls or are conversing on emails you are collecting information on frustrations or happiness with your product. You log that information and either put in a ticket or have regular meetings with the stakeholder and product teams. Are you starting to see the intersection?
Surprisingly many CS professionals are not even talking to their UX teams. Sometimes they aren’t even aware they exist in a larger company. At one company I worked at I completely aligned the teams. CS was offering out UX testing for customers to provide their feedback directly to the source and UX was inviting CS to those research studies as an observer. I cannot even emphasize enough how much value we gained from this, how much easier it made in getting improvements for the customers to be made and how happy this made our customers. We literally had a list of customers wanting to get on this program to be part of a research project.
While there are many other areas that CS can and does align in a company, there is a clear intersection between these two roles. These two teams can work together to create a well-rounded success program for their customers. In fact, because everyone in a company should ensure customer success this only closes that gap even more. As we move into a customer first mentality I am sure we can detect many other roles that can align with CS. What other roles do you think in a company intersects with CS? How can you work with these others to create a more cohesive customer success initiative in your company?