I have been in Customer Success for many years. During that time I have seen many changes and my role has morphed in many directions. One thing is common with all the variations of the Customer Success position: the slow approach of your CEO with his/her eyes focused on yours. This walk is usually followed by a variation of the words “I have a friend at one of our customers that is having challenges.” It sounds like fingers on a chalkboard and sends a shrill up my spine. I call this walk the March of the Friend.
A while ago I saw my CEO doing the March of the Friend; I contemplated doing a George Costanza and hide under my desk, but instead I listened. My CEO heard from a CEO friend that had a challenge with our product. Of course, I knew of the challenge, in fact the notes about the challenge were buried in our CRM. The issue was being addressed and we had the entire team working on a solution. The customer’s CEO was using our product because we were driving adoption. I would contend that if your customer’s CEO is speaking with your CEO about your product; it is a good thing. It means that your customer has the highest level of adoption.
I believe that CEO’s enjoy the March of the Friend. They know it sends people into a panic, like mice fleeing when a cat walks into a room. It drives action, it creates panic and it motivates a response. This action creates movement that often drives your product or services for the better. Although the process is painful; it is effective. It will be interesting to see if the evolution of Customer Success platforms and customer facing information will enhance or eliminate the March of the Friend.
This evolution is bringing customer information to the forefront. The progress is also providing access to the CSM’s strategy and actions. Having access to CSM strategy and action enables CEO’s to identify issues and understand how they are being addressed.
My hope is that the advancement of Scorecards, strategies and metrics will drive adoption and provide information to the CEO before the March of the Friend occurs. The real question is will the ever watching eye and ear of a CEO take time to read the details or will the information drive the March of the Friend?
What I have learned through these experiences is that my role as a Customer Success Manager is to drive adoption. Customers who adopt will renew and increase in value. If I do my job properly, I will eventually gain recognition by my customers’ CEO’s. This adoption will lead the March of the Friend. I have accepted that this is the circle of life for a CSM.