May’s Office Hours for CS Leadership focused on the importance of connecting the goals of Customer Success to the commercial goals of your company.
Whilst "happy customers drive the right commercial outcomes" is correct, you need to be focused on drawing the correlation (or causation) between the two, Connecting the Customer Story to the Money Story gives Customer Success a focus within an organization and gives it the platform and credibility to drive a customer-centric culture. Without doing this, you risk being seen as a cost center and not the revenue center that you need and aspire to be. Or you risk being seen as another arm of sales or support. A lack of organizational knowledge about your value or reason for being isn't a good place to be!
Customer Success teams need to be able to spend the time connecting with their customers to determine what their needs are, how your product will help meet those needs (current and future), and how you can help them achieve their commercial goals. An "at-risk industry" in a company is often a sign that these things aren't happening and issues aren't identified prior to renewal - a recipe for churn!
Two questions were asked to help attendees think about this need:
- What is the single most important thing that you need to be successful as a CSM and why?
- Imagine you’re the CEO of a growth company. Why would you spend any money on building a Customer Success team and how will you determine if it is a successful investment (in the context of other investments you could have made)?
After spending about 25 minutes in small groups connecting and discussing these questions, here are some of the top insights that were shared:
- A successful CSM must be:
- Empathetic (this was by far the most shared descriptor!) – ability to really understand the needs of the customers
- Curious – always look for the Why behind the What
- Critical Thinkers – apply data and see links and trends
- Technically Apt– this helps build credibility through knowledge
- High in EQ skills such as flexibility (and previously mentioned empathy)
- Collaborative – solid teammates both with customers and internal teams. The latter is critical as you work to build value and relationships for each department
- Organized – there is a lot of information to track, organization makes sure it is well utilized
- Mentored – leveraging relationships to continue to grow and develop
- Able to connect the data dots
- Willing to use customer stories to share case studies and applications that meet a similar need
- Led by good leaders who:
- Make sure CSMs are effectively working in a cross-functional manner
- Give clear and common goals to allow CSMs to do what they do best
- Avoid being too involved (requiring approval for every decision, etc.) as this erodes empowerment and movement
- Strong storytellers – weave the product into the operations of the client
- Able to increase the level – share the inherent benefit of the Customer Success both internally and externally
- Able to preserver
- Consistent – especially in developing processes that allow the team to scale
· Be sure to set clear expectations of Customer Success because leaders must have a true understanding of what the team brings
· Make sure to clearly differentiate your Customer Success function from other departments
· Own a unique number (ideally tied to a financial metric) to help demonstrate value and role, this can create an anchor for you
· On the operations level, having the time, data, tools/tech available and fully understood to help create a deep understanding of your customers regardless of whether you are low or high touch
· Look at using leading indicators rather than lagging for your compensation metrics
· When talking to leadership to describe Customer Success, ask them to imagine a room full of various teams (marketing, communication, product development – who is there for the customer and engaging with them directly in a proactive manner?
· Remember, it is far cheaper to grow and retain customers through a maturation model than it is to bring on new customers – allow Customer Success to focus on this
· Be able to answer the question “How does CS impact each department, and what are the benefits to others?”
· Goal setting that allows you to ladder up into the company goals
· Advocates – build customer relationships to help funnel into the marketing pipeline
· Customer Success has now been around long enough to be able to find examples of teams running well – connect and learn!
· Be sure you are defining the customer in the early stages – this helps with segmentation and developing a maturity model
The main take away is that if you operate your team under the assumption that everyone understand how you differ from other teams, you will likely face issues. You may be asked to step into tasks better suited for other teams, diluting the CS work you do. You may be hard pressed to find the funding to hire more team members to make sure you are meeting the needs of every client.
Being able to tie your goals to commercial outcomes, with clearly understood areas of focus numbers, and clear definitions of scope will help you develop a team that hits the battlefield of retention fully equipped to win the churn battle!
Richard Jeffreys is a CX leader with significant experience gained from a variety of executive roles in FinTech, Investment and Corporate Banking, living and working in the US, Europe and Asia.
Richard's career has been centred on customers and he has delivered value across the range of CX functions. Richard recently founded an advisory company, CX All, to bring these experiences to help companies answer the question “How does Customer Experience directly drive shareholder value?”
Richard can be contacted at email@example.com or +44 7921 529653