State of the Union: Customer Success in Europe Image

State of the Union: Customer Success in Europe

Have you ever been the forward scout for your team? There have been many famous ones written about in history. Joshua and Caleb scouting out the Promised Land for example. Lewis and Clark were forward scouts, too, for all of America, but there were probably also forward scouts within their traveling team helping them to know what was coming before they went too far in the wrong direction. I often dreamed about being the advance scout for a baseball team preparing for the World Series. I’d secretly be watching every game our likely opponent plays trying to find the little things that would make a difference between winning and losing. Maybe their closer tipped his curveball when he pitched from the stretch. Maybe 82% of the team’s steal attempts took place when the count was 2-1. Maybe the third base coach did a double-take to the dugout when the suicide squeeze was called. Whatever the edge was, I’d find it and it would help us win Game 7 and Bob Costas would be interviewing me while we were both getting soaked by champagne.

Alas, many of our childhood dreams drift off into fantasy. My baseball career ended when I was 13 and no team has ever called me to be their advance scout, at least not yet. But I have gotten the chance to be the forward scout for my Gainsight team as we prepare to explore Customer Success in Europe. When we host Pulse Europe on October 29 in London, I will have already been on this side of the ocean for 25 days. I’ve been scouting the territory by talking to prospects, customers, or anyone interested in the subject as well as speaking to groups and listening closely to their questions and comments. In all cases, I’ve been keenly interested in what the phrase “customer success” means to them, what level of interest there is for the topic here, and where companies and individuals are on the maturity curve. Of course there’s no one answer to these questions. Each company and person is in a different place in their journey but it’s important for us to get a general temperature as we think about expanding our business beyond North America’s borders.

Far be it for me to presume any level of expertise based on three short weeks and a few dozen conversations. However, here are a few things I think I’ve learned during this short time:

  1. There’s a level of awareness of Customer Success as something important but accompanied by a lot of questions about what it means, who should do it, why to do it, and how to do it.
  2. The phrase “customer experience” is widely used and means roughly what we mean when we say “customer success”.
  3. The primary scoring play in rugby is called a “try” and playing that game without a helmet is absurd.
  4. The higher the percentage of a company’s business that is recurring, the more acutely aware they are of the need for Customer Success by whatever name.
  5. There’s an intense interest in what is happening in Silicon Valley.
  6. You can hit the ball in ANY direction and score points in cricket and every wicket is wildly celebrated.
  7. NPS is widely used as a measure of customer health, in many cases as the sole measure.
  8. Customer expectations vary by country so one-size-fits-all Customer Success models will not consistently succeed.
  9. Football (real football) is definitely king and life and death for many fans (kind of like American football).
  10. The greatest thirst for now is for guidance and best practices, not for technology.

As a broad generalization, I’d say that Europe is about where Silicon Valley was four years ago regarding Customer Success. The worldwide subscription tsunami is driving some urgency but there’s a very high-level need for on-the-ground guidance and best practices. Some of those needs are being met by US-based companies with operations in Europe but that is haphazard at best and often is simply the company’s US process being executed in basically the same way overseas.

It’s a very exciting time to participate in Europe’s coming embrace of the Customer Success movement. I recall Marc Andreesen once claiming that software is eating the world, not just the United States. There’s no longer any doubt that this is true which means more and more SaaS and recurring revenue businesses will be created in Europe to join the thousands that already exist, many of which are surprisingly large and mature. This will ensure the awakening around the importance of customers, as the power shifts to them from the vendors, that has led to the Customer Success movement in the US. Many of the fundamentals will be the same and are already being executed on by the more forward-thinking companies such as:

  • Consolidation of customer-health data
  • Taking advantage of the customer intelligence available
  • Organizing around the concept of retention
  • Optimizing the efforts of customer-facing teams

But there are some nuances that will force a different way of thinking and some new processes. In particular, touch models will need to take into account cultural differences from country to country and European privacy and email regulations will make that particular touch channel much more challenging. And, of course, it goes without saying that Europe consists of multiple languages and, in some countries, they expect you to speak theirs.

My forward-scouting of Europe has revealed some very good news – the natives are extremely smart and friendly and willing to embrace new ideas and learn from our trail-blazing mistakes, as long as their culture is accepted and respected in the process. They want to know what we know that might be helpful to them but they also want to know that we’re listening to them and acknowledge that Europe is not America. I get the sense that they wouldn’t mind seeing the arrogant Americans step in it – those who believe their way is the only way – all the while being willing to help them out of it if the request is accompanied by a dose of humility.

A few more thoughts for those venturing into Europe:

  1. High tea is a full meal, not just tea
  2. You can always squeeze one more person onto the train
  3. Always mind the gap
  4. Search for: “awesome”, replace with: “brilliant”

Europe is far more than just Dublin and London.