CX1/5: Turning Customer Service into Customer Success

During this month, I’ve adopted a theme to my blogs focusing on various ideas, concepts and posts that I have shared in the past to help those of you considering customer experience transformation to take that leap of faith.  In the first of five posts, I’ll focus on developing a customer success team from your existing customer service function.

Many of my regular readers will be familiar with the concept of customer success, customer journey mapping and customer experience management.  But every day, new people are learning about this change to the way we deliver service to customers.  In order to help spread the word, and help more businesses take ownership of their customers, we sometimes need to take a step back and explain customer success to those unfamiliar with it.  I was recently faced with this challenge when I ran a session to help colleagues get to grips with customer success. I needed to make it clear and simple, succinct, and usable with clients as well as customers, so I decided to introduce customer success in 5 simple steps:

What is the success model?

In the past, businesses created teams to handle issues and queries for their existing customers.  Whether the team was called helpdesk, support or customer service, their purpose was to fix things as quickly as possible to avoid customer churn and business cost.  These functions have always been seen as a business cost, and thus focused on call avoidance tactics (too many options to select when calling  and restricted channels for contacting the team, limited hours of operation.)  These teams were measured on speed (time to answer calls), volumes (how many issues handled per “agent”) and occasionally efficiency (time to resolve customer issues.)  The measures focused on business cost rather than positive customer outcomes.

With the dawn of SaaS (software as a service) solutions, we saw the emergence of a new trend: Customer Success. Where customer service functions focused on a reactive approach to customers (wait for an issue to arise, then respond accordingly), customer success took a new view; to proactively manage the customer relationship.  For some, it’s a combination of account management & customer service; others suggest that customer success is a new name for sales.  In reality, customer success is a shift in the way businesses approach their customers.

Customer success teams are measured on customer engagement (adoption / penetration / product utilisation), customer retention and customer satisfaction (NPS, CES, etc.)  The team member bonus structure is based on individual management of their portfolio of accounts (nurture, utilisation, satisfaction) and team revenue goals (retention, growth opportunities to sales.)

Why is it good for our business?

One of the cornerstones of success for the customer success model is how it blurs the lines between pre- & post-sales, service, product & marketing. By creating cross-functional responsibility, silos are broken, functional leads work more closely, the customer journey is better defined & measured, and customer feedback is more widely disseminated and acted on.

For most businesses, customer success is born to address churn issues, stopping the outward flow of customers who’ve had a poor product or service experience.  As the function matures (and as the product offering matures), the focus switches to retention (more proactive), working earlier and earlier in the customer journey to manage customers, guiding them through to successful retention.  In the most mature customer success functions, with an established product experience, the focus shifts to cross-sell and up-sell, using the insight on customer behaviours to accurately predict which customers will be most receptive to growth opportunities, and nurturing the remaining customer base to reach a similar point.

Businesses need to move business focus (success) from solely revenue generation to churn avoidance to retention & growth.  From a product perspective, this means moving from deployment to on-boarding into adoption and advocacy.  In turn, this leads to cross-sell and up-sell by the success function.

Why is it good for the client?

Who is the expert when it comes to our products?  Us or the customer?  By demonstrating that we own the knowledge, encouraging customers to trust us to show them how to help their customers achieve value with the product.  Regular use, building a connection with the product so that, for example with Amazon, when someone thinks about making a purchase, they automatically think This is the nirvana state where the customer has formed a habit.

The more the customers use the product, the more data we gather.  The more data we gather, the more useful the insight we can share with the client.  This in turn helps the client to better understand their customer base, and allows us to directly input into the delivery and evolution of their plans and activities.  It also allows us to flag concerns and offer support & consultancy based on our trusted advisor status, thus increasing revenue and deepening our client relationship.

As the client learns to trust us more, we become a partner, rather than a supplier, gain greater insight into their business and needs and can be more relevant and targeted in our efforts.  It’s a virtuous circle, all the time adding value to the employee and the client.

Why is it good for the customer?

Helping customers break old (bad) habits  and form a good habit that help them become engaged, knowledgeable and empowered is tough.  If your favourite coffee shop was giving away a free coffee every Wednesday, you’d easily form a habit of stopping off at the coffee shop on the way to work.  Once the habit is formed, we know that you’ll probably become more loyal, buy more stuff and recommend to your friends.

Being able to understand the benefit to the customer of your product, and how a well managed customer journey, a great product, effective marketing nudges and most of all an expert team of customer success gurus to help your customers stay on the customer journey is different for each business, but VERY important!   Being able to explain you own model, before engaging clients and customers is key.  That said, the success model is a much more successful approach to helping people form a new habit on a difficult topic.

5-point re-cap

Product Usage = Data

Date = Insight

Insight = Behaviours & Habits

Habits = (Customer) Value

Value = Retention + Growth

Hopefully, this gives you some thoughts on how you can get more colleagues on-board with customer success, and wrapping up with the 5-point re-cap gives the chance to document the whole model on a PostIt!  Sprinkling examples throughout the session, and asking your attendees to come up with their own examples will help them make this their own. Worth a try? Why not?!


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