What is Customer Success...? - Glide Consulting
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What is Customer Success…?

After surveying over 700 Customer Success professionals, we’ve gotten a surprising amount of responses that sound like this:

”Nobody at our company understands what the Customer Success team does all day.”

The responses contained phrases like ”nobody gets it, so we get ignored until we lose a big customer” and “I constantly feel the need to justify my role to upper management.” Another unfortunate by-product of a misunderstood CS org is the clash between Sales and Customer Success.

Too many companies fail to define the job a CS team is supposed to do by using ambiguous language. Their job posts contain generic phrases like ”work with our team to deliver ongoing value for customers” and ”drive customer retention”.

So how does “drive customer retention” turn into “be a glorified tech support associate” once HR onboards you? Companies define CS roles by the kinds of tasks they’re supposed to accomplish, rather than the jobs the company hired the CS organization for.

If everybody at your company thinks you’re a task robot designed to respond to support tickets quickly, communicate feature requests to the product team, and pump out boilerplate documentation on new features, it’s because nobody took the time to define the job the company hired you to do.

The first step to getting everybody on the same page about Customer Success is to define the job your team got hired to do.

Before we can dig deeper into this, we need to accept a fundamental premise:

Tasks are not jobs, and jobs are not tasks.

This distinction may seem trivial, but there’s an entire marketing framework designed around it. Here are the cliff notes:

  1. People don’t buy things; they hire things to do a job.
  2. Jobs are problems that need to be solved.
  3. Problems can be solved by applying work.
  4. Work can be broken down into tasks.

Why is this important for getting everybody on the same page about Customer Success? Well, doing tasks is just one small part of your role. The more important part of your role has to do with the job that needs to be done. Let’s put some structure around that job right now:

  1. A recurring revenue model fails if you’re unable to retain customers.
  2. To retain customers, you must (at the very least) solve urgent, pervasive problems for customers over time.
  3. To continue solving urgent, pervasive problems for your customers, you must understand what motivates them to continue to hire your product/service to solve their problem.
  4. To understand what motivates a customer to continue to hire your product/service, you must be able to clearly define what meaningful progress looks like for them over time.
  5. To clearly define what meaningful progress looks like for the customer over time, you need to use your skills and strengths to empathize with the functional, emotional, and social factors that drive their motivations.
  6. If you empathize with the factors that drive the customers’ motivations, you can help them create a strategy to achieve meaningful progress over time.
  7. If you help your customers achieve meaningful progress over time, you can mitigate the risk of churn, and increase the probability of expansion.

Do you see how clearly a job-based definition for a CS team emerges from this thought exercise?

customer success manifesto

Customer Success is a machine designed to:

  1. empathize with the factors that drive your customers’ motivations
  2. use that empathy to help customers achieve meaningful progress over time

If you don’t have the time, skills, or strengths to do those things yourself, you hire a Customer Success team to do the job for you.

If your Customer Success organization doesn’t exist to empathize with the factors that drive your customers’ motivations, you hired it for the wrong reasons.” Click here to share this quote on LinkedIn

Now that we’ve clearly defined the job a CS team does, let’s find a way to articulate how you do that job, shall we?

The second step to getting everybody on the same page about Customer Success is to define how you do your job.

As we mentioned earlier, jobs are made up of problems that need to be solved. We clearly defined the jobs the CS machine is designed to do in the section above. Now, we can figure out what work we’ll apply to doing the job.

The work of Customer Success can be distilled into the following processes:

  1. Onboarding
  2. Education
  3. Support
  4. Leadership

Notice how I didn’t include “Upsells” or “Renewals” in that list. Why? Upsells are a sales process, not a Customer Success process. Renewals aren’t a CS process, they’re an outcome that results from the execution of efficient CS processes.

Now that we have all that out of the way, we want to help you help other people understand the work you do.

Without further ado, I present to you:

The Customer Success Manifesto

We are Customer Success professionals.

Our team is here to help customers use our product to achieve meaningful progress over time.

We’re the best at helping customers achieve meaningful progress because we empathize with the factors that drive their deepest, personal motivations.

***

We use our empathy and strategic mindset to help customers get their first, meaningful use-case implemented using our product.

You see this process as “User Onboarding”.

***

We use our natural strengths as educators to teach our customers how to make meaningful progress on their own, see new opportunities for growth, and implement best practices.

You see this process as “Documentation & Customer Education”.

***

We are exceptional communicators, and since we understand our customers’ deepest motivations, we know how to respond to them when something blocks their path towards meaningful progress.

You see this process as “Customer Support”.

***

Since our strategic minds can see both the big machine, and all the little cogs that make the machine work, we’re excellent resources to help improve Sales, Marketing, and Product.

You see this process as “Interdepartmental Leadership”.

***

The business outcomes that result from well-executed user onboarding, exceptionally produced educational materials, timely customer support, and strong interdepartmental leadership are:

1. Renewals
2. Expansion

***

We are Customer Success professionals. We are not anti-churn robots, firefighters, tech support with a gimmicky name, or a passing fad.

We’re Built to Serve. 

Want more Customer Success Manager insights? Keep reading…

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