By Sabina Pons, Operating Partner at Growth Molecules™ and a 2022 Top 100 CS Strategist.
Company-wide change is very complex.
Whether you have an existing and evolving Customer Success (CS) team or are building an organization for the first time, it’s likely that you have experienced the realities of change management: It is hard, uncomfortable, and full of resistance. But it is necessary to achieve your intended business outcomes.
Successful change efforts not only identify resistance from the start but also enable others within their organizations to drive change themselves. In order for people to adopt change, they first must understand the why behind the change.
Here are 4 steps to guide your transformational change.
1. Avoid Resistance by Providing Clarity
Start by doing your research to understand what change resistance you may face and have a level-setting conversation with the project’s participants to foster the clarity of the mission. While you have been planning and thinking through your improvement roadmap, your team may not yet have the same level of understanding. In fact, your team may even lack awareness of the problem that needs to be solved. Set the foundation for the business case upfront, providing clarity on what will come next and why. This understanding is built through purposeful, clear, and consistent communication.
2. Follow the KISS Principle
In order to create sustainable change, continually return to the why for the transformation: What is the problem that we’re trying to solve? How are we going to solve the problem? What is our North Star for the mission? A method to remain focused on the mission is to Keep It Super Simple.
Ensure that corporate-level objectives and key results (OKRs) are defined, so everything else should map to them. These important strategies must be S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, & Timely) that drive your company forward. All along the way, ask yourself, “Does this support one of our OKRs?” If the answer isn’t a powerful “yes” then it doesn’t warrant time invested. Avoid over-complicating the mission by deviating from your North Star of the mission.
3 . Utilize Consulting Experts
Outside consulting firms can be extremely helpful in bringing objectivity to change management initiatives. When there is a need to align pre-and post-sales teams to drive top-line annual recurring revenue (ARR) flow, coaching firms can help define cross-functional team playbooks. The outcomes should include a clear customer journey map, defined roles, and responsibilities, all driving us toward the company objective of gaining and retaining customers.
The marginal cost of third-party consultants is worth the investment to protect what may be impacting the customer experience and long-term annual recurring revenue. Data suggests that leveraging technology management consultants is a business staple that is here to stay: industry revenue was expected to grow 8.6% in 2021, despite the post-2020 economic recovery.
4. Remain Customer-Centric
Lastly, and most significantly, change management in customer success must be all about the customer. The function of customer success exists in pursuit of customer retention and keeping sight of that during transformational change is paramount. By keeping the customer at the center of all phases of the change management process, you will be equipped with the right pillars to execute with clarity and simplicity.
The best way to put this mentality into practice is to create an aligned company culture that champions the customer’s intended business outcome(s). Within the last five years, most B2B SaaS companies have established some flavor of a customer success manager (CSM) role where “customer success” is a department and/or practice area. This upward trend of attention has coined the term “growth engine” within the customer success SaaS community. However, customer success is more than a box to be checked on a functional organizational chart to impress potential investors and is more than a tool to help with prospective customer sales pitches. Customer success is a philosophy and should be woven throughout any transformational change program to yield true business impact.
Go Further with More Resources
Business transformations are hard and require significant amounts of change, time, patience, energy, and incredible degrees of persistence and resilience. With technology accelerating at an uncanny pace, and customer sophistication evolving rapidly, change is evergreen. With intentional and thoughtful planning, transformational change can be a pleasant and productive experience for all.
However, simply having the Customer Success Manager function doesn’t equate to stellar customer-centricity. Rather, it’s the combination of (1) having the business mission mapped out and clearly communicated in a way that is (2) simple and easily understood, whereby (3) outside expertise is commissioned to augment internal knowledge and foster objectivity, and (4) customer-centricity is the company-wide theme song. When these pillars of transformational change management are realized and actioned against, you are on a great path to achieving the intended business outcomes.
Additional recommended tools and resources to ignite your change management initiatives:
- “Build Up Your Team to Build Out CX” to learn strategies to keep the customer at the center of your efforts. By keeping your team top of mind, the customer will be nurtured as well.
- Harvard Business Review’s “The Hard Side of Change Management.” This piece sounds daunting, however, it provides four key factors that can predict a project’s success. And the formula has statistically held up for nearly 20 years.
- Gainsight’s “Creating Alignment Throughout Your Organization To Support Early Stage Customer Success” provides an outline for you to understand the who, what and how when managing CS alignment across your organization.