It’s incredibly easy to say you put customers’ success at the heart of your business. Including ‘Customer Success’ in job titles can feel like action, as can adding buzz terms like "Customer-First" to your mission statement.
However, without incorporating Customer Success Thinking in each part of the business—and across each prospect/customer touchpoint from pre-sale to renewal—your journey is only just beginning.
If you’re the type of reader that would find an analogy at at this point helpful, think "feeling more healthy just because you put on gym shorts and sneakers…"
I joined Zignal Labs, a punchy and innovative San-Francisco based Media Intelligence startup, in September of 2017. I was lucky enough to inherit a passionate team of CSMs with a great attitude, excellent service ratings from clients, and broad technical knowledge. As is natural at this growth stage, the CSM role encompassed wearing a variety of hats, from trainer to implementation consultant to advisor to technical support. As such, the team had been predominantly reactive, with activity driven by client requests.
We’ve come on quite a journey since then on our path to best-in-class Customer Success practice, and we’ve set ourselves up for success by methodically and strategically aligning the business around our customers' successes and goals. I like to think of this as Customer Success Thinking. Of course, Gainsight provides the technical glue to execute on this thinking, but even in the run-up to implementation, we moved lots of levers from measurement to role definition.
When I mentioned to Allison Pickens, CCO at Gainsight, that I’d visualized this journey to help illustrate the bigger picture, she kindly invited me to share that here. And what better way to visualize a journey than a transit map:
The transit lines represent business functions/areas, as shown in the legend, with stations representing milestones and decision points. Gainsight and our customer programs effort is represented in dark blue. I have to give credit to a (wonderful) former colleague, Amy Collins, for the London Underground tube map idea!
I’ve focussed a lot of my time developing and enabling new roles, functions, and methodology within the CS group, which allow us to scale, specialize, and proactively drive successful client outcomes. However, I’ve also invested time working with Sales, Operations, Solutions, Product, Marketing, and Engineering teams, not just to establish buy-in and accountability, but to harness the Senior Management Executives' expertise to co-develop working practices that tangibly support our customer-first mission at every touchpoint—essentially connecting the dots with Customer Success Thinking.
Having led another Global Customer Success redesign and relaunch in recent years, here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
- I can’t overstate the importance of understanding and addressing cultural, data, or operational silos/roadblocks early if you are really dedicated to incorporating Customer Success Thinking into the heart of your business.
- Whilst change management is arguably the least sexy term out there, it matters here and should be front of mind. Apart from removing any friction or missteps internally in adopting Customer Success Thinking, it’s also vital to ensuring the customer experience is seamless whilst rolling out what may be significant changes.
Whatever maturity level your business and however significant a shift is required, I’d challenge fellow leaders to do more than talk about Customer Success being at the heart of your business.
Wear those gym shorts and sneakers—and go work out!