Building an Industry-agreed Definition of Customer Success

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  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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    Oooohhhhh  @Ja'Rod Morris I like it!!  Any way you can add a small bit about CX?

  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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    I agree with  @Anita Toth My view of Customer Success is value + experience. We can help a customer maximize value but how successful are we if our customer experiences friction in doing so? And eliminating friction requires cradle to grave journey mapping, process/product improvement/creation, etc. Its bigger than a department, which is what I think we are basing our def on. 

  • James Conant
    James Conant Member Posts: 37 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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     @Steve Bernstein wrote above "...CS must be the company-wide silo-buster in order to provide great experiences that drive ADVOCACY... "

    VERY IMPORTANT!! Yes!!!

  • Mikael Blaisdell
    Mikael Blaisdell Member Posts: 8 Navigator
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    edited December 2020
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    Many years ago, at Salesforce's DreamForce conference, Jim Eberlin, then CEO of JBara Sytems/later Gainsight, asked me for a definition of Customer Success.  "That's easy," I replied. "We make more money better/faster for our customers and our companies, and we can prove it."



    I've refined that snap answer somewhat over the years since.  Customer Success is a long-term, scientifically designed and professionally directed business strategy for  maximizing customer and company sustainable proven profitability.



    CS professionals do many things in the course of their work.  But the above definition is what they are about, and everything that they do should be directly connected to the goal of sustainable proven profitability in both directions.



    Now, do people talk like that definition in daily life?  No, of course not.  But attempting to make it more accessible to people runs the risk of distortion.  As a profession, I don't think we can afford confusion - that leads to failed or obliterated CS teams.



    --mikael

  • Anita Toth
    Anita Toth Member Posts: 246 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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    Love that snap answer  @Mikael Blaisdell. ?

    We've talked about having 2 definitions -- one more formal and one to get the discussion rolling (aka elevator pitch). I agree that we need both to keep things clear. 

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 0 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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    Fantastic discussion shaping up here  @David Ellin

    For our CSM team specifically (as opposed to a broader practices of CS), we have been focused on the following core definition:

    Customer Success Managers at Higher Logic help our customers maximize the value they get out of the products and services they've purchased. 

    Along the way there are many day to day responsibilities related to both customer and our company. But in terms of a defining objective for our team, this is it. 

    Fortunately with our products we can measure this clearly through usage and adoption data (are communities meeting minimum thresholds of activity, are marketing platforms being used, are the more robust capabilities of our products being used?). 

  • David Ellin
    David Ellin Member Posts: 170 Expert
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    edited December 2020
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    Thanks for all the great ideas and discussion. There have been a lot of terrific terms presented with thoughts of what should and should not be included.

    If we go by "Likes", comments by Anna, James, Anita, and Ja'Rod lead the pack. Focusing on terms that should or should not be included in a final definition may be the best way to start bringing about closure. Below are the key terms floated in the comments.

    Perhaps everyone can vote for the ones they think are "must-haves" and "good to have" and we can wordsmith something with those terms. They're listed in alphabetical order. @Steve Bernstein @Anita Toth @Jay Nathan @Rav Dhaliwal @Jeff Breunsbach @Ja'Rod Morris @James Conant @Anna Alley @Mikael Blaisdell @Nicholas Ciambrello

    Advocacy
    [Reduced] Churn
    Desired Outcomes
    [Best] Experience
    [Systematic] Feedback Loops
    [Helping the customer and company achieve] Goals
    Post-sales
    Profitability [Customer and Company?]
    [Drive] Retention
    [Expand] Revenue [Growth] / Combined terms: Profitable Revenue Growth
    Scientifically engineered
    Strategic (Pro-active)
    Value

    Hope everyone has a safe, happy, and healthy New Year!

    David
  • Steve Mcdougal
    Steve Mcdougal Member Posts: 4 Seeker
    edited January 2021
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    Hello David

    Happy New Year,   well done on attempting to define what CS is.   Overall you need a definition thats easy to communicate and one that translates easily into another persons understanding.   Customer Success is a company wide methodology and a set of departments that are focused on making sure that customer accomplishes on going value from their investment.  This ongoing value provides the basis for the company to grow and invest in optimising the product, user and customer experience.

    Thanks

    Steve 


  • Nicholas Ciambrello
    Nicholas Ciambrello Member Posts: 27 Expert
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    edited January 2021
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    Desired Outcomes 1, Profitable Revenue Growth 2
  • Jason Thurman
    Jason Thurman Member Posts: 2 Navigator
    edited January 2021
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    I want to echo and agree with virtually every post in this discussion. A big thanks to David for starting it.

    For me, the challenge isn't defining customer success. I haven't seen a definition yet in this thread that I disagree with. But I think the HOW of how to practice it is wildly variable and really poorly understood.

    I think of customer success as being like chemistry: It has always existed, but our collective understanding of it has grown tremendously. I often recite the fact that the phrase "customer success" returned zero LinkedIn search results prior to around 2010 (all dates approximate). But when I bought a bicycle in 2005, the shop gave me a free tune-up in the next year and a pack of coupons for future service.

    They were practicing customer success! Looking not just to make an initial sale, but to retain my business. And with a simple strategy that provided the opportunity to pay dividends on multiple fronts: they boost revenue through future service by incentivizing me to return with coupons, which is way cheaper than advertising and trying to find net new customers. But they also sought to establish a cycle that would keep me satisfied with my purchase and experience for years to come. If my bike stays well serviced, and I keep riding, then the dividends compound for them as I buy more gear and sing their praises to more and more riders.

    The bike shop doesn't have a customer success division, or CSMs. But like almost all businesses, they have strategies established to retain and expand revenue from existing customers. 

    In that light, customer success is more than just a department, or a role. It's a wholesale organizational strategy, and it doesn't end with the customer success team. Defining it conceptually is relatively easy, but building a strategy and structuring the teams that support it is highly complex. And that part really does look different in almost every organization. And the complexity compounds when an organization doesn't understand the definition of customer success.

    The bottom line for me is that almost all business operations should revolve around two central goals: expand your customer base (sales), and expand the value of the customer base (customer success). Marketing and Sales are two different divisions in most orgs, but both focus heavily on goal 1 and must work in tight alignment. Marketing is part of the sales process, even if they're structured as two separate functions. In fact, almost every part of the organization supports Sales in some way, in almost every organization. Product development isn't "sales," exactly, but it absolutely accounts for sales as a crucial priority driving decisions throughout the dev process.

    Unfortunately, the realization of the importance of goal 2 is not nearly as well understood. For me, the challenge isn't so much to define customer success, but rather, to align the organization around holistic set of processes and strategies that deliver outcomes to the existing customer base that in turn create more satisfaction and revenue. That alignment is inherently complex and multi-functional, and yet I see so many organizations that just say "well, we'll hire a CSM or two" and stop the strategy there.
  • David Ellin
    David Ellin Member Posts: 170 Expert
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    edited January 2021
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    @Jay Nathan posted some additional thoughts on this on LinkedIn recently. I love the simplicity of what he wrote. I'll start by including his thoughts verbatim and then try to put it into a written definition. What are your thoughts on this approach???

    Jay's thoughts:
    Well, here are my thoughts...

    We need a definition that our parents and grandparents would understand.

    Not jargon.

    Customer success is a *result*

    It's what happens when a buyer of a product gets the most value out of it.


    The evidence?

    The customer renews their contract.
    Buys more from us.
    Tells their friends about us.


    How do we ensure those results?

    Make customers feel welcome after they buy.

    Train them.

    Talk to them regularly (both the people who use the product and those who stroke the check for it).

    Get their feedback.

    Improve the product.

    Then, tell them you did it.

    Support them well.

    Train them some more.

    Talk to them some more.

    This really isn't rocket science.

    We just have more fancy words to describe what we are doing.

    We have more specialized teams to make it happen.

    But we shouldn't let all that get in the way of the basics.

    Composed in a definition [my stab at it]:
    Customer Success is the result of what happens when customers gain the most value from the products they purchase as evidenced by customers renewing their contract and buying more from vendors. Customer Success teams are responsible for training customers, talking with them, getting feedback, driving product improvement, and communicating action. Rinse and repeat.