Part 2 of the three-part series “The True Value of Customer Success Management”
Nothing screams credibility like proven customer success. Decision-makers can spend hours listening and interacting with knowledgeable experts who clearly articulate inspirational examples of real-life examples and use cases expanded over time to build up their customers’ capabilities. And just the notion that a vendor, supplier, or software provider can retain customer favor through a steady string of successes may become a good reason to sign on the dotted line.
This approach may be a useful sales tool, but it is also a gross mischaracterization of the fundamental philosophy underlying customer success management. It’s not a way to grow a reference list, protect revenue, nor amass marketing fodder to be shared with businesses all over the world. In fact, its true value has nothing to do with furthering the marketing and sales agenda.
So, what is customer success management? It’s a function of accountability for delivering success that is financially sound, scalable, outcomes-focused, and growth-driven throughout the life of the customer.
Tipping the subscription economy towards the outcome economy
A while back ago, the introduction of software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings is said to have ignited an economy driven by subscriptions. Goodbye one-time, large purchases. Hello affordable, incremental, monthly payments. But if we know anything about our highly digitally enabled world, it’s the reality that nothing stays the same for very long anymore.
As digital technology is increasingly supported by the cloud, the promise of SaaS is opening up an entirely new economy. Known as the outcome economy, the physical world is moving online, creating a landscape where the value of everything is quantified and accessible. One prime example is Slack’s business model, which closely ties pricing and refunds to the volume of transactions and achievement of desired business outcomes.
How is economic shift related to customer success management? If you think about, customer success management is all about delivering measurable outcomes consistently throughout the life of the customer.
Finding the higher purpose of every interaction with customer success management
The application of customer success management has evolved over the last decade, primarily fueled by growing SaaS adoption. For businesses moving from an on-premises model to one that is cloud-based, the constant cycle of monthly, bi-monthly, or even quarterly updates can be just as overwhelming as it is exciting.
From my experience, many businesses are rightfully concerned whether certain upgrades and add-ons to their SaaS landscape will deliver significant outcomes that further the boardroom’s agenda, asking:
- Which business issue will the new capability resolve for us?
- How much disruption will the business experience from the new release upgrade?
- Is this problem relevant to my business?
- How will the upgrade change how we work?
- Will the user interface further simplify or complicate our employee and customer experiences?
- Why is this new experience better than the one we already have?
To answer these questions and more, customer success managers really need to know their assigned customer better than anyone else. But this is not accomplished through pointed discussion and Google searches, as I learned from an engagement with a postal company that wanted to empower its employees with mobile access to HR capabilities with the cloud.
Since the initiative was tactical and operational in nature, our customer relied on the help of a customer success manager to explore the “why” behind deploying a mobile HR solution. After engaging our customer in a series of discussions, surveys, and workshops, the customer service manager uncovered viable reasons that support the implementation from a different perspective.
Key findings included:
- Regional managers are field-based and had Internet access only every two weeks
- High turnover of contingent staff often left regional offices short-staffed and less productive
- Regional managers required real-time access to the HR system to process contingent staff hiring, decision-making, and administrative processes
The customer success manager then positioned the mobile HR solution with a quantifiable business case that showed how it could reduce the time to hire contingent staff from 12 weeks to eight weeks within the first year. Once the solution was deployed and adopted across the workforce, the customer success manager monitored process performance and equated the monetary value of efficiency savings. Such data allowed our customer to justify the technology investment to its senior stakeholders in an incredibly concrete way.
Bringing discipline and proactive action to digital innovation
Given the scale and the pace of technology innovation, customer success management cannot be used as a channel for selling technology, managing accounts, and creating marketing content. Instead, it should become a discipline of accountability and proactive action to allow businesses to refresh their cloud landscape in a way that best meets their need and on their terms.
Customer success managers can become a business’ best partner when it comes to intelligently assessing, for example, specific work behaviors, collaboration preferences, data usage, and digital maturity. This information empowers businesses to proactively advocate for the capabilities, tools, and interfaces that can elevate the ability to gain the most value possible from a cloud investment.
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