Why customer success is NOT the new “customer service”

A well intentioned colleague recently referred to customer success as “the new customer service” in an attempt to show that customer delivery has moved on.  The sentiment is right, but the message is wrong – customer success is SO MUCH more than a better version of customer service.  It’s not just a team, it’s a methodology, an approach to how you manage your customer experience.  To better explain, I’d thought that we could take a whistle-stop tour of a high level customer journey stages, and see the role that customer success plays.  I like to mix it up by giving the stages a relationship theme!

Finding You: In the marketing phase, nothing is more powerful than when you can talk about happy current customers, sharing their words.  In fact, the best form of “Finding You” is when existing customer do that work for you.  Customer success helps you find those happy customers, and connect them with potential new customers – customer success nurture your advocacy programme and your new leads.  In turn, this feeds your marketing department with good feedback, and your product team with new ideas

First Date: When selling to a company, one of the best deal-closers is to wheel out someone from customer success.  The client is hooked on WHAT you do, but when you passionate take them through HOW you do it (with proof), your customer success function can give any final sales push much from credibility.  The customer success performance data stacks up, and you show the client your commitment to delivery that they understand and trust.

Falling in Love: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – complacency with new fledging customers is the fastest way to loose them.  Customer success is a prescriptive way to on-board a new customer, manage their early life experiences with your company, and drive feedback across the business as to why some customers do and some don’t progress.  It serves both as the customer friend (help me progress on your journey) and the company friend (here’s what you need to fix to make it easier for customers.)  This simply didn’t happen consistently before customer success existed, and it marks a genuine enhancement to any customer experience.

Married Life: The fact that we manage our customer through data, and that we acknowledge that emotional connection can be linked to data shows us a more cost effective, targeted and in effect, more personalised approach to the ongoing servicing and relationship with a customer.  You’re not sat waiting to deal with a customer when they become unhappy – you are proactively watching and anticipating the needs, nurturing the customer along your journey.  Moreover, as we measure and record customer activity more accurately, we are feeding the Voice of the Customer with more fuel to amend, enhance, add or remove aspects of the experience.

Growing the Family: Customer success has invariably swallowed up functions that used to be siloed and standalone, like internal sales and retentions, because despite the variance in skills, being able to use the historical linked and validated data to modify the approach on retaining and cross-selling, and doing it in a customer-centric way has proved that customer success, rather than sales are much better placed to deliver these functions.

As the masters of driving habit formation, customer success practitioners should not limit themselves to retention champions, ambassadors of proactive change or voice of the customer experts.  We are also responsible for a cultural change to drive a better customer experience, as we generate profit for those we serve.  Let me know if you would like us to drill down further into the role of customer success in each stage of the customer journey, but in the meantime, take a moment to refresh how you pitch customer success – it’s so much more than the new customer service!

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