Lincoln Murphy Customer Success AMA Transcript and Video – May 5, 2017

On Friday May 5, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below and while there seems to be an audio/video sync issue, the audio is crisp and listening to this will be time well-spent.

If you don’t want to watch or listen, I got the entire AMA transcribed (and cleaned it up a bit for readability, added links, etc.) and posted that below. I answered 20 questions in excruciating detail.

I’m planning on doing another Customer Success AMA on May 19, 2017, on Facebook.


The audio and video are a bit out of sync, so just listen, don’t watch. Or… just watch and don’t listen (but that’d be weird).

Table of Contents

Here’s the list of questions I covered in this AMA:

  1. Setup Fees
  2. Sales & Customer Success Alignment
  3. Favorite Customer Success Management Software
  4. Drawing the Line between Customer Success and…
  5. Customer Success in early stage Startups
  6. Upgrading Grandfathered Customers
  7. Customer Success Coverage Models
  8. Customer Success and Account Management?
  9. The Right Number of Customer Segments
  10. Resources for Customer Scorecard
  11. Monitoring Customer Happiness
  12. Customer Success Manager Resume Best Practices
  13. The B2B2C Customer Success Value Chain
  14. Improving Customer Adoption
  15. Customer Success in Two-sided Markets
  16. Customer Success Org Structure
  17. Number One Customer Success Mistake
  18. Starting a Customer Success career
  19. Closing the Feedback Loop
  20. Discovering your Customer’s Desired Outcome

1. Setup Fees

The first question is from Tim, “What is your thought on setup fees? We charge a few hundred bucks to customers of a certain size, but realistically, we care far more about the recurring plan revenue than any upfront fees.”

Tim, thank you for your question. It’s interesting. Setup fees, there’s certainly some psychology to getting people to make a commitment early on, but a lot of times, it doesn’t do what we think it does. I’ve seen it a lot where customers will pay something and we think, “That’s going to lock them in.” Very often, we have an actual cost associated with setting up customers, and that’s cool. We have a cost so we need to cover it. Sometimes we think it’s going to be the thing that locks customers in. I think that’s where we need to get real. That doesn’t lock customers in. As long as we’re doing it as a way to cover our costs or because it’s what our customers expect, or even as a way to simply increase revenue… As long as it’s within the confines of an appropriate experience for the customer, I think we’re fine.

It’s not going to cause people to stay. It’s not going to cause anybody to be successful. When you care more about your recurring revenue, what you should be focused on is making sure that your customers are successful. If what goes into the setup that you’re charging a fee for is going to set up your customers for success later on, then cool. If charging a fee is going to keep people from being successful, then that’s a problem. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It just is. The main thing is are you actually setting your customers up for success? If that’s the case, then I’m all for it. Next question, please.

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2. Sales & Customer Success Alignment

The next question is from Bob, “I was curious about your thoughts on the alignment of our customer success and enterprise pre-sales teams. My question is if it makes sense to have CSM, CS architects and pre-sales all reporting under one leader. We sell a big ticket, 500k, ACV

enterprise data management solution to large enterprises.”

The question is really about sales and customer success alignment. Whatever that needs to look like. Whatever that looks like in your situation … Bob has a specific situation, but we all have sales and we all have customer success hopefully. We all have those things and we want to make sure that they are aligned.

Alignment from a strategic standpoint, alignment from understanding what the desired outcome is for the customer or making sure that sales is not selling something that we can’t deliver, that sales knows what a bad fit customer is and doesn’t acquire them, that sales is handing off to customer success. I don’t really like the term handoff, but it’s so ingrained I can’t even get away from it. We want to make sure that our customers … Whatever we get during the sales process, whatever we discover is really passed to whoever is going to take over once they become a customer so that we’re not having to ask them the same questions over and over. All of that is table stakes. We have to have that.

What that ends up actually looking like is going to be very unique from company to company and probably even across your different customer segments. That’s really important to think about. In terms of a specific situation like we have a high contract value product. Maybe it’s more of a complex sale. We have more people involved on both sides, on the customer’s side as well as ours. How do we ensure that there’s that alignment? The main thing is we need to understand … Again, going back to appropriate experience, understanding that the appropriate experience for the customers, the way they buy … The way they buy is part of their appropriate experience. Appropriate experience is something that goes across the entire customer lifecycle, goes across all of the different interactions.

It may be completely appropriate for a sales person to involve a customer success manager, a customer success architect, whatever customer service practitioner you want to … However you want to refer to them or whoever it is. It may make total sense to include them in the sale process when a prospect is 50% of the way towards closing. On the other hand, it may make no sense. That would be completely unprecedented and it would completely inappropriate. In that case, you may want to have your customer success practitioners vet the pipeline, look at the customers behind the scenes, make sure that they fit our success criteria, make sure that they’re a good fit in other ways, make sure that we know everything that needs to happen, make sure we understand what’s going on with the customer. Where we don’t know if the customer is going to be able to be successful, we can give the sales person the right questions to ask the prospect in there.

Whether or not the customer service manager or customer success architect or whoever is actually involved with the customer in the pre-sales, again that depends on the appropriate experience for the customer. Note that I didn’t say that it necessarily has anything to do with … Although we’re talking about Bob’s example of the high ticket item, actually it doesn’t have anything to do with how much a customer is going to pay us. It has everything to do with how much a customer needs those people to be involved in the pre-sales process. That’s the main thing. You have to look at your situation, look at the customer, figure out whether or not we should actually involve a person with the customer, whether the CSP, the customer success practitioner, should be just behind the scenes.

I can’t give you a definitive answer, but hopefully that gets you thinking about this the right way. That alignment has to be there between sales and customer success. It’s really the triangle of customer success, marketing and sales. We should all be aligned. Way too often, we’re not, and I just don’t understand that. There’s no reason for that. If we’re here to make our customer successful and we’re all working for the same company, we all have the same goals, we should all be aligned. That alignment should be there. Tactically how you make that happen is going to very much depend upon your situation and certainly depend upon your customers. I hope that helps a little bit. Next question.

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3. Favorite Customer Success Management Software

Mark asked for your favorite Customer Success Management software.

There are about, I think, 16 purpose-built customer success management tools available now. This particular product category is rapidly evolving. I don’t give blanket statements on this … I don’t shill for anybody, which is why you don’t ever see me at any of the Customer Success events sponsored by customer success management product companies.

I don’t care about the tools until I understand the strategy; until I know what we’re trying to actually solve for.

If we don’t understand our customers, our customer segments, the logical segments, the intelligent segments, based on their appropriate experience, then we can’t know what type of coverage we’re going to have to give those customers. We can’t know what ratio of humans to technology we’re going to need. I can’t tell you blanket, “You’re doing customer success. Go use this product.” I can’t do that because every single customer success management tool or solution or however the vendor wants to look at it, they all do different things in different ways. You have to get clear on what it is you’re actually trying to solve for. By the way, this is no different than any other part of the business.

If I said, “Just go use this one CRM,” but I don’t really understand what it is you’re trying to do, that’s going to be a problem or it will be a problem. You might start trying to shape your strategy to whatever the tool is that you chose. That’s never going to be a good thing. We want to know what you’re actually trying to solve for.

I can’t give you that answer. I can tell you get demos from every product company out there. Go look at all the different customer success management solutions. Look at the purpose-built ones. Look at standalone, more horizontal workflow tools. Look at some of the marketing automation. Some of the sales outreach tools can also be used. You have to figure out what you’re trying to solve for though. That’s the first thing. Do that and then we can figure out what tools you actually need. I hope that’s clear. It may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but that’s the truth. Next question.

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4. Drawing the Line between Customer Success and…

Nick has asked, “How does customer success overlap with support in regards to onboarding? How do you draw the line? Also, how do you effectively draw the line between sales and customer success?

When I’m drawing a line, I like to use a ruler. Customer success is this overarching thing. Customer success management is the operationalization of customer success. Customer success management needs to be proactive. It’s not support. Support is a different thing. Support should be thought of as a part of customer success in some ways. We need to know whether or not our customers are being taken care of. We need to know whether or not they’re actually … When they have questions and when they reach out, when they open tickets that they’re being taken care of.

How do we know if a customer is successful? One of the things is that they’re doing the things that are necessary to be successful. Probably that has a lot to do with using our product if we’re in the technology world. If they’re having issues with the use of the product, that is probably an indication that they’re not doing the things necessary to be successful. If they’re having problems, but they’re resolving those quickly, if they’re opening a lot of support tickets, but they’re resolving those quickly, that’s cool. That means they’re actually trying stuff. They’re pushing the envelope. They’re maybe trying things that the product can’t do or whatever. That’s okay. They’re pushing it. As long as those things are being resolved quickly, we’re good. If those things are not being resolved quickly or at all favorably for the customer, then we know that they’re not actually doing what’s necessary to be successful. They’re very important, customer success and customer support or the service or however we want to look at that. They’re two different things.

The line is very simple. If you have a break-fix type of situation, “I can’t use the product, we’re having a technical issue,” then I contact support. If I have a, “How do I do this kind of question?” … Maybe there’s a success gap there I can … I’m not having any problem with the functional use of the product. I’m having a problem with actually achieving my desired outcome. The actual required outcome of my use of the product, the goal that I have and not being able to achieve that, that’s going to be a problem. That’s a customer success thing.

The idea is in customer success that we get ahead of that. We don’t let our customers get to a point where they’re asking, “How do I do this?” We’ve orchestrated a process to help them get along the success milestones and make the progress that they need to make. If they’re doing that and we’re proactively guiding them, they run into something, a technical issue. Then they reach out to support.

Right now, if you have a customer success organization or if you are the customer success organization and you are doing support as well, you need to stop right now and split that up. Even if it’s still you doing support, we need to get people thinking, get our customers thinking about the fact that support is different than success. They’re both very important, but I’m going to do my customer success stuff and I’m going to move you proactively. When you have a support issue that you need to … You need to open a ticket or something, you go here. You go to this website. You send an email here, whatever it is.

Again, behind the scenes, I may still be the person answering those, but we start separating those functionally within the company and then that starts setting everybody up for later on when we need to scale. If all you’re doing … If you call yourself a customer success person, but all you’re doing is answering support tickets and that’s how your customers think of you, then you’re never going to be able to get ahead of the customer to be able to get to that proactive stage. Separate that right now, dedicate some time to answering support issues. Dedicate some time to being that proactive customer success person. That’s going to be your best bet. In larger companies, this is usually already done, but what isn’t done is this orchestration of it, letting customers know from the very start, “This is who you go to when you have an issue. This is who you go to when you have this other kind of issue.”

Separating this during onboarding is actually even easier when you have a customer success person that should run point or take over with the customer as soon as they become a customer. As soon as sales closes the deal, we have a customer success practitioner that should own the relationship with the customer. Then from there, they can bring in the various subject matter experts. One of those subject matter experts may be an onboarding person, but the onboarding person is really dedicated to that.

The customer success person is there to set up the relationship, to kick off the relationship with the customer, to let them know, “This is who you’re going to be working with or someone like me for the next few years. Within the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be talking to this person over in our onboarding department. They will take care of you. I, as your customer success practitioner, I will monitor whether or not they’re doing what they need to do for you. If they aren’t, I will intervene on your behalf.

Of course, if for whatever reason you ever run into an issue, you can always reach out to me and I’ll make sure that you’re good. Then once they’re done with onboarding, then they come back to the customer success manager or practitioner. Whether that is a one-to-one really high-touch relationship or whether that’s a full customer success resource doesn’t really matter. Don’t get caught up in the details on that. Let’s think about how to actually look at this the right way first. Then we can dig in.

Drawing the line is relatively simple when you understand that they’re two different things. They’re both very important. We have to have support, but we also have to have customer success. They are two different things. Hopefully, that’s either clearer or a lot more confusing, but either way … Next question.

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5. Customer Success in early stage Startups

Susana asks, “What are the main points a small startup has to care about to build a strong customer success culture?”

I think you have to care about your customer. Start there. Understand what your customer … What is their desired outcome? Startups are an amazing thing. They’re also incredibly, incredibly frustrating because the sky is the limit. The possibilities are endless. Anybody could be our customer. We don’t have to worry about that stuff right now. Probably all of that is not true. We have certain customers that we built the product for. We have certain customers that can get value today. We have to get deliberate. We have to get specific. We need to understand who you’re actually trying to sell to or who your customers are. You have to understand the different segments within those customers. That’s based on the appropriate experience of those customers, what they need. Then we need to understand just overall their desired outcome, what is the business outcome that you need and what is that appropriate experience? Then we need to start to solve for that.

None of that, by the way, takes technology. None of that takes any special skills. All of that takes a dedication to making sure that we’re here to solve for the customer success. Startups are all about what we don’t know. A lot of times we don’t know what we don’t know. A good sanity check is always, “Is this in the best interests of the customer?” Very often, we know some things. I just wrote a post on SixteenVentures.com a couple of weeks ago that got a lot of plays. It’s the $1.2 million Churn and Burn To Learn Mistake or something like that. It’s really all about the high cost of bad fit customers. It specifically talks about a startup that knew full well that just three customers that they signed were a bad fit. They knew this because there wasn’t a technology fit there. Yet, they still signed them.

I don’t want to spoil the whole thing, but basically, they lost $1.2 million in revenue, a couple of million dollars in company valuation and honestly could have gone out of business because investors started to lose trust. Go read that article. It’s very eye opening. The thing is in startups up, we like to just ignore facts and almost be anti-customer in some ways because we’re just trying to do things. I think that that’s a really big mistake. You could actually cause your business to fail. You could certainly cause a lot of friction to growth. No reason to churn over in customers right now. All of this goes back to having a just really dedicated focus on making sure that your customers are successful, which means really understanding what that means. What is the desired outcome of our customers? And solving for that. Hopefully that helps. Next question please.

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6. Upgrading Grandfathered Customers

Tony sent in via email, “What is the best way to upgrade actual customers to our new pricing plans. We’ve been grandfathering them for a long time, but now it’s too costly to maintain those initial price points.”

In this post, I talk about how to handle it there.

The reality is … One thing I just want to focus on is you can’t punish the customers that you signed. You signed that contract. It’s a joke with me. You signed those customers with the wrong pricing. You signed those customers with low margins in an unprofitable way. You signed those customers. They trusted you. If you want to punish them because you made a mistake, just know that there may be negative ramifications. I just want to be really clear on that because very often, “We did what we had to do, man. Then we’ve got these customers. Now they’re a drain on our resources.”

That’s your fault. If you churn and burn those guys because you made a mistake, you could really run into some problems. There’s been a lot of … Luckily not a ton, but there have been some pretty high-profile cases over the years of backlash from companies that basically did that exact same thing. They grandfathered their customers and then they got tired of supporting them. Just be really careful there.

That said, in that article that I wrote … Again, I can’t remember exactly where I put it … I basically detail exactly how you want to do this. There’s several things. One, we have to go back to the customer, to their desired outcome. What are they looking for? There’s a really, really good chance that a customer that’s been with us for several years has actually evolved and would be open to maybe some of your new features, some of your new services, some of your new training, but maybe we actually stopped communicating with them, which is something that happens. We grandfathered them. We don’t want them to … We just want them to go away, but maybe we could go back to them understanding logically where they’re at in their trajectory as a company or as a department or whatever they are.

We could go back to them and say, “Hey, you’ve been a great customer. What we want to do is move you onto this new plan. It includes all this really great stuff. We’ll help you get there.” You give them a discount, a significant discount maybe on this higher up plan, but you move them to that new plan. They’re maybe paying more, but they’re getting a lot more and they’re on your new pricing structure. They say, “For being a great customer for all these years, we’ll give you this big plan, this really great thing for 50% discount for the next six months, for the next year or whatever. After that it will be full price.”

Start making offers like that that will actually entice them. This means you’re going to have to take a step back, get out of this mode of punishing your customers. I’m not saying Tony, that you want to punish your customers. I’m saying, in general, this is something that I hear a lot. Think about your customers. What can we do? What would those grandfathered customers, what would help them, what would make them want to actually move?

If I said simply, “You’re not paying us enough, you’ve got to pay us more,” that’s ridiculous. Nobody is going to do that. Nobody wants to do that. Would you do that? No. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about them for a little bit. Try to figure out something that we can use to entice them. Set the goal, “I want zero grandfathered customers by the end of the year and start building campaigns like that and running that until you get to that goal.” Just know that it’s all about … We have to make it all about the customer. We can’t punish those customers that brought us to the dance. They were here early. We made a mistake. They didn’t. That’s just something you’ve got to get out of your mind. Think about what we can do to entice them. Next question.

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7. Customer Success Coverage Models

Katie asks, “Should customer success members be responsible for both small and enterprise level accounts or is it recommended to have a dedicated member for only enterprise level accounts?” Currently, her team has a mix.

Instead of just straight-up answering that question, what I want you to do is go back and look at the desired outcome of your customers, specifically looking at the appropriate experience. Right there, I can almost guarantee you that a small customer and a big enterprise customer are going to have a different appropriate experience. The experience that would be appropriate for each of those types of customers is most likely different.

Right there, that means that if you try to put the same coverage on those customers, you’re going to end up with something that is inappropriate for either both of those customers or one of them. One of them is going to have an inappropriate experience. What I say is really get to know your customer. Understand what their appropriate experience is and define your coverage levels from there. That will probably end up having … It almost always does. You’ll probably end up having dedicated resources for your higher end customers and dedicated resources for your lower end customers not based on just what they pay but really based on what their appropriate experience is. I hope that makes sense. Next question.

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8. Customer Success and Account Management

Benjamin piggybacked on Katie’s question. “What are ways that you divide work and responsibilities between account managers and customer success managers in organizations that have both? Also, what are ways to effectively map complex customer journeys?”

Benjamin asking a couple of questions in one question there. We’ll separate those out. The first question was how do we separate account management from customer success. Account management, let’s be really clear. At least so you know where I’m coming from, when I hear account management, what my definition or what I think of it is really renewals and expansion, literally handing those account level functions of upsells, of closing more business with a customer, adding things to the customer account or handling the renewal.

Those functions have to happen whether it’s the customer success practitioner doing it or whether it’s a dedicated account manager doing it. Doesn’t matter. Those things have to happen. That said, at some point, you will probably end up with either needing those functions to be done more frequently. More frequent expansion or more frequent renewals or you will run into situations where those things as you maybe move upmarket, move into just different industries, those things become more complex.

I always say if all it takes to renew or to add something to an account is to push a button, the customer success practitioner should do that. Who cares? As it becomes more complex, you might need to have a dedicated resource do that. Really the only time when this matters is when those things are happening so often that it would take away from a customer success practitioner’s job of making the customer successful to handle those things or the complexity is just too much for a customer success practitioner to handle.

You shouldn’t ever separate account management and customer success because you think a customer success practitioner handling renewals and upsells would hurt the trust with the customer. That is a garbage reason to separate them. I think the reality is if renewals and upsells in your company would hurt trust with your customer, that’s a bigger issue. You’re doing something wrong. You’re doing something customer negative. You’re being nefarious in your actions. Don’t do that.

If I am a customer success practitioner and I’m not comfortable with selling, I’m not comfortable with negotiating, whatever … By the way, if there’s really a lot of hardcore negotiating, you may need to have a dedicated resource that’s just really good at that, but again, it shouldn’t be about trust. Trust should be there across the board. If we’re doing things that could hurt trust, it doesn’t quite matter whether it’s the customer success practitioner that’s hurting trust with the customer or the account manager that’s hurting trust with the customer, our company is hurting trust with the customer and that’s a bad thing.

What we want to make sure of is that we’re all doing things that are customer positive. It’s just maybe we need an account manager to handle those things. What I want to be really clear about … This will help any of you that have customer success practitioners that don’t want to sell, don’t want to handle any of that, the renewal or whatever or if you, yourself, are a customer success practitioner and don’t want to do these things. Think about it this way. I used to say renewal and expansion came from a successful customer. That’s not wrong because the reality is a customer that is not successful is not going to buy more. They’re not going to renew, at least not for very long. They might do that while they’re looking for another solution.

It’s not wrong to say that expansion and renewal come from a successful customer, but when I said that originally, what I started seeing, unfortunately, some companies do is to say, “Well, okay, if that’s the case, then all I have to do is find a successful customer and I can try to shove product and services on them when they don’t need it.” No, that’s not it at all. I evolved my thinking there. I evolved how I talk about it. My thinking was always in line with what I’m about to say, but I wasn’t articulating it appropriately.

Think of it this way. In order to for our customers to be successful, to achieve their desired outcome, they have to renew, they have to consume more of our services, buy more of our add-ons. They have to at some level, at some point, expand their relationship with us. Our customers are always evolving and growing. That’s what we want. I don’t ever want a customer to be the exact same today as they are in a year. That doesn’t make any sense. My customers should be growing and evolving. Our relationship with the customer should be growing and evolving as well. That is customer success.

In order for our customer to be successful, they may have to consume more of our product. They may have to take other services. That’s just part of their growth. That may or may not happen in that arbitrary time box that we call a contract. We have a 30-day renewal on a subscription. We have a one-year contract. That’s just the financial contract that we put in place. Are all of our customers going to achieve their desired outcome within that arbitrary time box? Probably not. That means in order to achieve their desired outcome, our customers will have to go past a renewal. They will have to go through some expansion. That’s just the way it is. That’s awesome.

If you are here to make your customer successful, you have to be comfortable with having the conversation about expansion, having the conversation about upsell. With upsell, it’s actually relatively easy to make that something that just happens. It’s all about orchestrating. It’s all about managing expectations. It’s all about having that relationship and really teeing things up. Ultimately, these things whether you separate them out into various functions within the company, it’s all within that relationship that we have with the customer. It’s all about making them successful. I hope that gives you a little bit more context. Next question.

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9. The Right Number of Customer Segments

This is from Brandon: “How many segments should there be for a B2B SaaS company that has an ARPU of $60? How many is too many? What is the proper balance in your opinion?”

The question is how many segments should there be for a product that’s $60 a month? Seven. I don’t know. There’s no blanket answer. I don’t know of any way to benchmark this from one company to another. You would have to look at a company that’s selling exactly the same product to exactly the same customers. All I can say is you have to know your customers. You have to understand the appropriate experience of your customers. You may find that for you, yes, you could get super granular. You could go down to seven different segments, but really if we’re not trying to find an excuse not to do this and we actually want this to work, we may find that there are just two logical segments.

We can really point out that, “Look, this customer in this particular vertical has a very specific, appropriate experience that we can call out. We can make that right for them. Everybody else fits into this other bucket and their appropriate experience is going to be this. We just have to bridge some success gaps for this industry, talk about some use cases, maybe have a little bit more … One to many, but more of the human interaction. Over here can be all tech touch, whatever.

Don’t overthink it and don’t go too granular, but there isn’t a right or wrong answer there. You have to really understand your customers and also what it is you’re trying to do. I would say the worst thing you could do though is say, “Because we’re a $60 a month product, this is what we’re going to do.” The reality is you may be selling to customers that have an appropriate experience that is something you cannot give them in an economically feasible way for you if they’re only paying you $60 a month. Then you have to be realistic about the fact that … You could ask them to pay you more. That’s certainly something.

Most companies will go the direction unfortunately of taking a customer that pays us $60 a month and saying, “Hey, this is what they deserve. They’re only paying us 60 bucks a month. I can’t give them any more. In fact, we’re giving them too much as it is, customer negative things. What tends to happen there is those customers come in. They may even achieve their required outcome, but they churn out because the appropriate experience is not there.

You can have customers that don’t pay you very much and you can give them a lesser experience than what’s appropriate, but that’s probably going to be cause for a lot of churn. What you should do is say, “Those are bad fit customers because I cannot give them the experience that they need, the experience that is appropriate for them in an economically feasible way. I’m going to not do business for those customers.” There are ways to get really clear, really deliberate on this.

A lot of times, those are decisions that people don’t want to make. It requires you to be intellectually honest about what you’re trying to do, but I would say, “Don’t get too granular.” Let’s open our eyes to what our customers’ actual appropriate experience is and look for logical groupings of that experience and there is your segmentation. Next question.

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10. Resources for Customer Scorecard

From Art, “What resources can you recommend to derive a customer’s scorecard?”

I have no idea. I think what you’re looking for is customer health score or whatever. I have my take on a customer health score – what I call Success Vector – and there and all the different inputs. Next question.

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11. Monitoring Customer Happiness

Douglas asks, “What’s the best tool to monitoring individual customer happiness in an onboarding team?”

It’s time to talk about happiness versus success. If you try to solve for the happiness of your customers, you’re probably going to be in for a long, disappointing ride. Happiness is not something … Maybe there’s a language issue there. Maybe we’re just talking about that. I think when people say, “We want happy customers, I think they actually mean it.” Sometimes that can cause you to go down the wrong path of solving for things that are either outside of your control or outside the scope of what we need to be solving for.

That said, what we need to be focused on is the success of our customers, which means we need to figure out, first of all, talking about onboarding, what does that even mean? This is the thing that I run into all the time, which is, when is a customer onboard? What is that point? When I see companies who will say, “Our customers are onboard after 30 days. Onboarding is 30 days,” and then day 30, they move them out of onboarding. Whatever that means. They check a box. They’re not onboard. They just made it through 30 days. They didn’t actually do anything. That’s a problem. What we want to make sure of is that we know what onboarded means.

The way that I look at it is one of two ways. Either they’ve achieved some actual value for the first time. We call it maybe first value delivered, whatever, or … This is really true for a lot of more complex products. There’s some products that you might take months and months and months before you can actually get real value out of it because there’s not just setup time, but there’s actual time of using it before it becomes truly valuable. In that case, onboarding may be when a customer for the first time sees the value potential in our relationship. Maybe that’s after going through some setup and onboarding and getting some dashboards and things like that up and running. There’s setup and implementation and getting those dashboards and everything set up, but they’re not actually usable yet. They’re not getting true value from it yet, but they will and they see it for the first time outside of your promises and sales and marketing. They see the value potential. It’s either when they get first value or when they see for the first time the value potential. That’s what we would call onboarding.

What has to happen to get us there? Work back from that. If they’re doing those things. If those things are happening … If we have a dedicated onboarding person or a dedicated onboarding team, that may look more like a project management situation. Are they doing the things that are necessary in order to get value? If they aren’t, they’re not successful. The onboarding isn’t working. Your customer success person or practitioner or pooled resource, or whatever owns the relationship with the customer, needs to be able to have visibility into those steps that the onboarding team is taking with the customer so that they can see whether or not things are working.

If things are not working … Working means are we moving through these milestones in the onboarding process? If they’re not the customer success practitioner could intervene with the onboarding. They could intervene with the customer, whatever. We don’t have to overthink that process. There’s workflow tools, project management tools, whatever. There’s different ways to manage that. The main thing is we need to understand that that’s what we’re trying to solve for. Do you also look for satisfaction, happiness, or whatever, in the onboarding process? You can, but most of the time as long as we’re moving them through the steps that are going to be necessary, we don’t have to go look at other things. We know that they’re on the right track to being successful. That’s I think the most important way to look at it.

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12. Customer Success Manager Resume Best Practices

Jimmy is asking, “How should customer success professionals package their experience on a resume? What are companies looking for when they hire CS professionals?”

Jimmy, how do you package things up on your resume? I don’t know. I don’t know how to get a job in some wide blast your resume out way. Never done that. What I’ve done is figure out who is hiring, what they’re looking for and if I’m doing a resume craft it to meet what they’ve said. Before that, I would cold email or reach out in some other way to the hiring manager or to the CEO and get delegated down to the hiring manager. Be deliberate in the way that you go about getting a job. I’m not going to be your career counselor here. I’m really good at getting jobs, not so good at keeping them. That’s why I make a much better consultant. That’s what I would do. If you just wanted to put a bunch of keywords on your resume and blast it out, I’m not the guy to talk to about that. I have no idea how to make that work. Next question. But I wish you the best of luck, Jimmy, in your future endeavors.

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13. The B2B2C Customer Success Value Chain

Nicholas sent in an email. Has a question on B2B2C. “What are some ideas on improving our client’s relationship with their clients to drive customer success?”

What’s up, Nicholas? How do we help our customer’s customer be successful? Now we’re getting somewhere. Our customers have a desired outcome. We know that. I’ve talked about that for the last 45 minutes. Here’s the secret. Their customers also have a desired outcome. We can take two paths when we’re selling to somebody who is going to be selling to somebody. We can ignore the fact that there is an end customer. We can focus only on trying to get our distributor, our partner, our whatever it is that we’re working with or just our customer who has customers. We can just focus on their needs and hope, hope, hope beyond hope that they do what is necessary to make their customer successful because if that doesn’t happen then our customer is going to churn or instead of just relying on hope and faith, we can actually try to understand what would be necessary to ensure that their customer is successful and give them the tools, give them the training, give them the resources, give them the help in order to make sure that their customers are successful.

I’ve gotta be honest. The number of companies out there that have a partner-success program or are looking at things this way are few and far between, but those that have done this, those that have actually figured out how to ensure those that are representing them out in the market, their resellers, their partners, or just those that are using their product with their customers … The ones that are thriving are the ones that have figured out how to make this work. That all starts with understanding that across this value chain everybody has a Desired Outcome, everybody has a required business outcome. Everybody has an appropriate experience.

Our customer … If I’m an accounting product and I sell either to or through accountants in businesses or individuals, if I can help that accountant do more of their core business, have a better relationship with their customers … And I can set all that up and I can orchestrate that and I can give the accountant … I can be the trusted resource, I can be the place that they turn to for compliance understanding. I can make sure that they have the tools necessary to reach out before tax day. If we can set that up, then I’m ensuring that my accountant partner is going to be successful because I’m ensuring that they will ensure their customers are going to be successful.

It really comes down to understanding the desired outcome of everybody across the value chain and operationalizing that to the extent possible. Again, if we can’t do that, if it doesn’t make sense, then we’re not giving people an appropriate experience. That’s going to be a problem. It’s something to think about there. Really I look at in the middle of that value chain somebody sitting between us and the end user. Let’s help them do more of their core business and really set them up for success. That usually means giving them the tools necessary to make sure that their end customers are getting as much value as possible. Don’t just leave them hanging. Next question.

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14. Improving Customer Adoption

From Rosalind, “How do you manage expectations of customers while simultaneously knowing where you need to allocate more resources to improve adoption?”

First of all, what is adoption? That’s a good question. That’s a question that … If you’re asking a question about adoption and you don’t really know, you haven’t defined that, that’s something you need to work on. I know it sounds crazy. How could somebody ask a question about something they haven’t fully defined, but that’s, unfortunately, a reality. We need to get really clear on what adoption means. Is it a certain number? Is it a breath and depth of … Is it a breath of use? Is it 100% of the licenses that they bought? Is it a depth of feature use? They bought all these features or bought all these add-ons and that’s it. Is it some mix of the two? Probably is.

From there, what I would say is we have to set those goals with the customer. I might have internally a goal. Maybe it’s based on past historical data, where I can say, “Customers that churned out had an adoption rate of less than 50%. They only used 50% of the licenses or seats or whatever that they bought,” but at some point … It may not matter what I think or what I’m looking at internally. It really will come down to what the expectations are with the customer.

First of all, we need to define what adoption is breath and depth. By the way, if there is expansion opportunity within a customer, we should probably never get to 100% adoption, we should always be having upsell conversations at 80%, something like that. That should be a very comfortable conversation that we have orchestrated early in the process, letting them know, “We don’t ever want you to get to 100% adoption because when you hit that threshold, we may run into other issues with procurement or with legal or whatever. It’s going to take time to add more licenses, so we want to start this process early so that you never miss out on expanding.

Remember, customers actually want to expand their relationship with you as well. They may not say it like that. They probably won’t say it like that, but they want to because it means that they’re growing, that they’re expanding. They’re being successful. We need to figure out what adoption is and then to your point, we need to manage expectations along those lines. What that means is whether … Don’t get stuck on the modality here like, “Is this a high touch or a tech touch kind of situation?” What we need to think about is how do we manage those expectations with our customers? That usually comes down to negotiating a realistic adoption goal for them. If you bought 100 licenses, is it realistic to have a goal of 100% adoption, 100% of those licenses being used in a month, in six months, in a year? I don’t know. This is 100% dependent upon, at the very least, the different customer segments.

It may end up being something that’s dependent upon the actual customer, the bigger customers we might be able to actually spend some time with them and negotiate that. Whatever we end up doing there, it’s up to us to be realistic and to manage those expectations. One of the things that I see a lot … A lot is relative. There are certain things that are cited a lot more when it comes to reasons for churn, but there are times where it’s, “Well, we actually never got … We never used what we bought.” You’ll see that frequently. That’s a problem. That means that we didn’t manage expectations around adoption. It also means that we didn’t proactively manage that. Think about this. If we set a goal … If you bought 100 licenses and we set a goal to have 100 licenses being used by the end of the year and it was a calendar year and we’re coming up on June … We’re coming up on the middle of the year and you have only activated 10 licenses, you might want to check in on that and see what’s going on. That could be a red flag. We had a goal together that you would have 100% adoption, which again, you probably shouldn’t have that goal.

You’re not there, so I would say we want to have an initial adoption goal, “In the first 30/60/90 days, this is what our goal is.” Then from there, we can start to have, “Maybe this happens in your quarterly business reviews or whatever,” but from there we want to have other goals. Set those goals and then figure out what it’s going to take for them to get there. If you set those goals with them and you give them the tools and the understanding and you really manage those expectations, they can figure out internally what it’s going to take to adopt your product. This is the thing that we don’t really think about. What has to happen outside of our product in order for a customer to be successful certainly, but even to start to adopt the product?

There may be a lot of change management. There may be a lot of other things that have to happen that if we don’t take that into consideration, then we’re not going to be able to help them or again manage those expectations. They may be thinking they want to have 100% adoption, but if we’d simply asked, “What could possibly stand in the way of you being successful with this adoption rollout, not achieving your adoption goals?” They start listing off all these things, it’s like, “Okay, so having 100% adoption goal in the first 30 days is probably unrealistic.” We didn’t ask that so they had that goal and then guess what? We didn’t meet that goal. They didn’t have a great … Their experience was inappropriate and they’re going to churn out. That’s the thing. Managing expectations is huge and being really clear on what adoption is is very important. Next question.

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15. Customer Success in Two-sided Markets

From Ahmed, “How should we work around the problem of products which need two customer types to succeed? A product is used by one party, but if the other party is not using the same product, then it is not a successful product. It’s a SaaS product by the way.”

From Ahmed, the question was in two-sided product, you have essentially a network effect that’s required. You only have one side using it. I’ve definitely worked in situations where … Whether it was a product that was sitting between one company and another or whether it was a product that was sitting between a manager and their team or whatever. There are lots of different situations. It’s up to you to figure out how to make that work. I know you’re asking me how to do that, so you’re already going in the right direction there, but a lot of times, we want to just leave it up to one party or the other to make it happen, to get the one that signed up for our product who … Maybe they already know they can trust us. They should be able to get the other people to use it.

That’s not going to work. We have to enable them to be able to do that. We have to give them the tools necessary. We have to … Remember this. When one person, in a B2B scenario certainly, signs up for your product and it’s time for them to bring in other people … Again, whether it’s intra- or inter-company collaboration, they are investing not just the money that they’re going to pay you for this product, but they’re investing something else, something potentially more important and valuable. That is their political and social capital inside the company and certainly within their greater network.

If you don’t get them to a point where they can really trust you, then that’s a nonstarterr. We have to really build their trust. We have to get them to, again, to know, like and trust us so that they will be comfortable bringing in other people from their network. In a free trial situation, I like to have them invite people to help them test. Literally put that in the micro copy there. That lowers the barrier. They’re no longer thinking, “I don’t want to invite somebody to this product because I don’t actually know that I can trust it yet.”

Instead, when you say invite … You could be very specific with the types of roles of the people that you’re inviting. “Invite these three people to help you test this.” That lowers the barrier. Understanding the political and social capital that people are investing in your product is really important. From there, we have to know the types of people that they are bringing into the product, the roles, the types of companies they work for.

It’s not a valid excuse to be like, “I don’t know who they would be inviting so I don’t know what kind of resources to give them. I don’t know what kind of language to use or what copy to use when I’m sending the messages to get them to come in. I don’t know what to do in terms of training.” That’s not valid. You have to go out and find out with your customers. Who are they trying to collaborate with? Give them the tools necessary to make that happen.

If you choose not to do that, then you choose to leave this whole thing up to hope and chance and that’s never going to get you where you need to go. We have to be prescriptive. We have to understand our customers. We have to understand who they’re trying to collaborate with.

I’m going to go back to the other question. I think it was Juan’s question. There was a lot of stuff going on there, but one of the things that he mentioned about resources in a startup. One of the things that drives me insane is startups, especially those that have chosen not to raise money. Using this, “We have a lack of resources,” as some sort of excuse, some sort of … I don’t know. Like, “It’s okay that we don’t do certain things.” No, that doesn’t work. That’s not cool. You chose not to raise money. You chose to start a company. You chose to start a commercial venture here. Those things don’t fly.

Tony Robbins once said, “It’s not your lack of resources that’s hurting you. It’s your lack of resourcefulness.” I love that. You may not like Tony Robbins. You may not want to hear that kind of stuff, but the reality is that that’s a fantastic quote and it’s so true. All the things that you do as a startup, there’s so many things that you do that are all about being resourceful. Yet, we get to customer success and we think, “Oh, I can’t do that because we don’t have any money.” It’s true.

Sometimes lack of funds can hurt us in certain ways, but get resourceful. Let’s get clear on what a customer, what their desired outcome is. Let’s get really clear on the kind of customer that we should be doing business with maybe the highest margin customers. Let’s go after them. A lot of times we do these things that are not deliberate and then we end up with a bunch of customers that are not ideal. Some of them are costing us a lot of money. We could have actually … It happened because we didn’t have resources. We couldn’t be deliberate. We couldn’t do some of these things. We ended up in a bad place because we used a lack of resources as an excuse, so get deliberate.

Most of the things that I’ve mentioned today have very little to do with technology, have very little to do with a need for massive infrastructure or a lot of people. A lot of this just has to do with getting deliberate, getting clear and defining processes. That’s one of the biggest problems is a lack of process, just doing everything in a ad hoc way. Even if you’ve got processes, normalizing an experience across all customers when in fact, if you really understood your customers, you would realize that you have maybe a large portion of customers that don’t need the high touch that you’re giving them. You assume they do maybe because they pay us a lot … At least a lot for us. We think, “I’ve got to give them a really high touch experience.”

Now you have a bunch of customers that you’re giving a high-touch experience to. They’re low margin and now you’re going into the cycle of apathy where you don’t like your customers anymore because they’re costing you too much money. The reality is you’re giving them an inappropriate experience and it’s actually an experience that’s costing you more money. If you really understood them, you may not have to give them that high touch experience. We cite a lack of resources as an excuse for not doing the things necessary. Then we end up in a situation where we actually have a lack of resources and it’s a cycle. Get deliberate.

The things I’m saying here, I’m not saying the stuff to hear myself talk. I’m saying it to help you and I’m saying it because it’s true. It’s not always the easiest thing to hear. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but this stuff works. If you do it right, it’s amazing. If you are a early stage startup, you have the ability to do it right from the beginning. Don’t get to a situation where you’re just doing everything in a not deliberate way and you get one or two years down the road and you’re just suffering from all of this … You’re giving customers an inappropriate experience and you’ve normalized across all of them and you’re having a hard time scaling. Just don’t do that. Start doing things right. It’s not your lack of resources. It’s your lack of resourcefulness that’s hurting you. Next question.

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16. Customer Success Org Structure

Bob from email asked, “In a large enterprise platform with a large ACV SaaS environment, do you see any pros or cons to having the CS team and the pre-sales team working under the same leadership?”

The question is, assuming we’re doing a lot of things right, we’re selling to the right customers, does it make sense just from a org structure standpoint to have customer success? Customer success and sales are all up to the same leadership. I would say this. I would much rather see customer success sit under a CRO, a chief revenue officer, along with sales than to see customer success under operations or something like that.

In a company organization, you basically have two ways of looking at customer success. You have it as … This is a little bit higher level than what Bob was asking, but we’ll get down to that. You have customer success that’s cost centered. It’s something that has to be done. It just is really there for churn mitigation. That’s it. That would be when you find it under operations or when you find it without leadership just reporting to the CEO, which unfortunately reporting to the CEO, but not really. They’re just out there, “Make our customers happy.”

If you have a CRO situation, where you have sales and customer success rolling out to that, that’s interesting because then you’re looking at customer success really as a profit center, as something that’s a part of growth. The problem with that is if you have a sales-focused organization … When I say it like that, I mean sales at all cost organization … You may run into situations where your sales organization will sign customers regardless because they’ve got to hit those short-term numbers. That may start to influence customer success or push down on the influence customer success could have.

The good thing … Generally, if they’re both under in a equal way a CRO, the cool thing is you have a VP of sales and VP of customer success. They’re both represented there. That’s fantastic. You could also have a chief customer officer for a situation that owns customer success, support, training. Every customer type of function rolls up to the CCO. They sit there along with sales leadership and other executive leadership. That’s also a really good thing.

Ultimately, it comes down to not so much org structure. It comes down to culture. What are we really trying to do. It doesn’t really matter where customer success sits. It doesn’t really matter where customer success reports to. It doesn’t really matter if you have a customer success person that actually sits in sales, is reporting to or is influenced by the customer success organization. Their only job though is on the pre-sales function, like a customer success centric sales engineer, somebody that is really there to ensure that the prospect is a good fit, to tee up what is going to happen post sale. If you had them sitting in the sales organization literally reporting to sales, but they are representing customer success, that’s cool.

I think more than anything, it’s, “Are we going to give customer success management a voice in the company, really be able to have that influence over everything else we’re doing in the organization, or is it just something that sits over here and makes customers happy?” Culture comes first and then structure in my opinion.

I don’t know if that really answers this. Again, some of these things are very specific to the different companies. I think a lot of you guys are searching for very specific answers. I would be very wary, very wary of any situation where somebody just puts a blanket statement out there as, “This is the right thing to do.” It’s so specific to your company and to your relationship with your customers. Just be careful out there. Blanket statements around those things are going to be difficult. I know that’s what we want. We want those answer. We want those specific answers. The only thing I can do is say, “What?” When I work with a company, that’s when I give them specific answers. In this situation, I can’t do that. I can give you ways of looking at it, ways of thinking about it, and we can go from there. Next question.

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17. Number One Customer Success Mistake

Richard has a question. “What’s the number one mistake large/old tech companies make when shifting to customer success?”

Richard says, “What is the number one mistake old tech companies have … ? Just existing tech companies have when moving to customer success. It’s not just something shared by old tech companies. It’s something every single company that is either moving to customer success or bringing customer success in. That is not focusing on the customer’s desired outcome. I sound like a broken record or a YouTube video on loop, but the reality is that’s it.

What I mean by that is if you focus only on churn … Say we have a churn problem and we need to get rid of that. Okay, cool. You can go try to fight the symptom that is churn, but understand that churn is just a symptom of an underlying disease. That disease is that our customers are not achieving their desired outcome. We want to focus on expansion. We don’t have a lot of churn. We want to make sure our customers are buying more, that they’re staying longer, that they’re expanding their relationship with us, that they’re advocating for us. All those things that we want are all predicated on our customers achieving their desired outcome. Without that, none of this matters.

The first thing you have to do … Believe me, I have this … I don’t want to say it’s an argument, but I have this discussion with my clients all the time. They’re like, “Okay, we have this thing we want to do.” I’m like, “Okay, cool, what is the customer’s desired outcome?” Maybe we have to even start a little bit earlier, “Who is your customer? What is your ideal customer?” It all starts with the customer. They say, “No, no, no. We want to bust churn.” I’m like, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works. You have to figure out what the customer’s desired outcome is and go from there.”

Everything we want to do in customer success comes from there. Everything we want to do in terms of how we operationalize, the coverage levels, everything you need to know, the software that we buy. All that is predicated on our customer’s desired outcome. We don’t know that … You can do stuff. Obviously, people are doing stuff, but I don’t understand what people are operationalizing around. I don’t understand what you’re doing in your customer success operations if you don’t understand the desired outcome of your customer. Obviously, you can do it, but I’m not sure what you’re doing. I think you probably don’t either. Next question.

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18. Starting a Customer Success career

Marcella is curious about starting or building a career in customer success. What kind of knowledge and ability is important to have? Where do you get started? She’s saying hey from Brazil.

Getting started in customer success, what I would suggest doing … Again, we have to look at all sorts of different things that are going on. You have to figure out what kind of company. Take a step back. I think too many people simply have a job. They’re miserable. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they weren’t deliberate. Just like when you have customers that you don’t like. Your customers are stupid and you hate them. It’s because you weren’t deliberate. You didn’t bring in good fit customers. You didn’t bring in the kind of customers that you really wanted to work with.

It’s true that sometimes companies change. You get a job and it’s great. Then the company evolves and it’s not so great. Sure. A lot of times it’s because we just needed to get a job. We weren’t deliberate about this. My suggestion would be before you do anything, figure out what it is you want to do. Figure out the kind of company you want to work with. Figure out the kind of customers you want to work with. Are you more of an analyst? Are you more of a people person? You really want to have that high touch relationship?

Maybe it’s a middle ground. You want to talk to customers. You want to be in front of them, but you’d be better of in more of a one:many kind of situation. You like Facebook Live or you want to do webinars or whatever. You want to work in a particular industry. You really think it would be awesome to work in a company that’s helping with education. AppProva right now is hiring a customer success manager.

Go look at what they’re hiring for. If it fits you, go work there. VQV, shout to my AppProva guys. Figure out the kind of company you want to work for. Figure out what it is you want to do and then go find those companies. You may find some companies. List some companies that you think match that criteria. Even if they’re not hiring, reach out. Even if they don’t have a customer success organization, reach out. If you want to be part of something early on and build something from the ground up, reach out. Read my book, my customer success book. Read my blog. A lot of my stuff has been translated into Portuguese, which is awesome. We had some amazing people translate my stuff so it’s easier to read. I know reading in English, even if you’re really good at it, if English isn’t your first language, it tends to take its toll. Some of the stuff that I’ve written has actually been translated. I’m working on a deal to get the … I’m talking to some people, maybe get the book translated in Portuguese. We’ll see how that plays out.

Learn as much as you can. Study human psychology. Figure out what you want to do, the kind of company you want to work for and then go reach out to them. If anybody is hiring, do what I said earlier. Make your resume match them, reach out to their hiring manager. Go to the meetups. Consume as much content as you can. Network all over the place and be very, very clear on what you want to do. The worst thing you can do is go up to somebody and say, “Hey, I’m looking to be a customer success manager.” I’m really pushing this agenda, which is there’s no such thing as a one size fits all customer success manager. It doesn’t work. It never worked.

Certainly now, when we’re getting into more sophisticated understandings of segmentation and appropriate experience and what are the kinds of customer success practitioners we should have … Whether it’s analyst, whether it’s a copywriter, whether it’s customer marketing or whether it’s more of a consultant or project manager. Whatever. All those different people could totally be customer success practitioners. You have to figure out where you fit and find a company that you fit in nicely. Go to the meet ups. Go to … This is what’s cool. Brazil customer success has really taken off and there are meet up, certainly in Florianopolis, Sao Paolo. I think they’re doing stuff in Belo Horizonte.

That’s only three cities, but there’s a good chance that you’re around there. I don’t have anything going on just yet in Rio de Janeiro, but hopefully soon. There are lots of opportunities out there. Go network, talk to people, figure out what you want to do and get deliberate. That applies, by the way, also in the US and anywhere else you’re joining from. This is just the kind of advice I would give. It’s the stuff that I would do to go get a job. Hopefully, that helps. Next question.

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19. Closing the Feedback Loop

From Scott, “What is your opinion on closing the feedback loop? An entire organization is in the loop on customer success. Should all touchpoints have a feedback mechanism?”

Scott asked about feedback loop inside of a company and really based around customer success and whether or not I think that should happen. Yeah, absolutely. Customer success specifically has so much amazing content, just knowledge, intelligence around our customers that we should be feeding back to the rest of the organization. What’s working with our customers? What are some use cases that our customers have found successful? What are the types of customers that are really finding a lot of success? Be feeding that back to sales.

Here’s the way that our customers talk about our product. Here’s the way that our customers are talking about what they do. Here are those use cases that are really working. Here are the characteristics of the customers that have grown really substantially over time, whatever. Same with marketing. By the way, lead with those positive things so that you gain their trust. If you in customer success can help sales, help a sales person close one extra deal because you gave them some intelligence about a customer, they will trust you. Now later on, you can come back and say, “Hey, by the way, here are the characteristics of a bad fit customer. Can you please not sign anymore of these?”

If you start with that, if you lead with that, then they’re never going to listen to you because basically you’re saying, “Hey, don’t do your job. Don’t earn your commission. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” We want to start with something positive. With sales and marketing, those are some really easy wins that we can have, but product feedback. If the things on the product development roadmap do not directly translate or directly tie to things that are going to make our customer successful, I don’t really know why we’re billing those things. That’s a whole other discussion, but customer success can really feed back to product.

Often times, product only hears when there’s a problem or if they do reach out. There are certain methodologies obviously they can use to get feedback, but customer success has a lot of additional context that can be used to feed back in the product and absolutely should be. That stuff should be operation wise. It should be happening at least on a weekly basis. Whatever the modality is, whether it’s an email, whether it’s a meeting, it doesn’t matter. Don’t get caught up in that. Let’s just make sure this stuff happens. That’s great.

We have that customer intelligence that gets fed back to the rest of the company, but then we have something else. That is customer success needs to feed back certainly to the executives, but I would say to at least all other leadership, the value that they’re bringing. Very often, we say that a VP of customer success or the chief customer officer, or whoever it is … If you don’t have a big title, but you’re doing customer success and you are the customer success department in the company, this falls on you. It’s up to you to evangelize this concept internally, which means sharing all of the great things that are happening.

I was sitting in a meeting in San Francisco a few months ago. We took a little break and there were two customer success leaders from two different business lines. One of them left, and then the other one was sitting there. She was looking at her computer. She kind of made a move and you could tell that something good had happened. I said, “Hey, what’s going on?” Because I was curious. She said, “Oh, well it looks like for the first time … These numbers for the first time we’ve brought in more revenue from existing customers than we did through new business scales, so in other words expansion revenue.” I said, “That’s amazing. That’s awesome. You should send that to the CEO.” She said, “I don’t want to bother him.”

I’m like … First of all, I had just spent time with the CEO, so I knew that particular CEO would definitely want to hear that, but second of all, even if I didn’t know that CEO, that’s what a CEO wants to hear. Even if they don’t know they want to hear it, they definitely want to hear it. They wouldn’t tell you, “Make sure you tell me when this happens.” They might not even be thinking about that, but if you have that milestone, you need to tell. I would probably send it to the whole company and then ask for forgiveness later, “But that’s amazing that this happened.”

It’s up to you to communicate this to the rest of the company. It’s up to you to evangelize this especially if customer success is new in your company and especially if you’re fighting an uphill battle like the culture was maybe more customer negative in the past and we’re making this big switch. It’s up to you to keep fighting the good fight to put those things out there. When you have those great milestones that happen in the company, you need to communicate that. It’s up to you. I hope that helps a little bit. We have time for one more question. Try to make it a simple question, a simple one-part, really easy question.

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20. Discovering your Customer’s Desired Outcome

I don’t know about really easy, but how about from Mariestela, “How do you go about knowing the desired outcome of your client?”

Amazing that it took this long for that question to come up. How do you know what the desired outcome is for the customer? It’s an 11-step process to understanding the customer’s desired outcome. Basically … It’s a great question.

First of all, remember desired outcome is made up of two pieces. One is required outcome. That’s the business goal. That’s what they have to achieve. The other is the appropriate especially. The first one is relatively easy to understand. It’s probably why we built the product. It’s something that is easy to grasp. It’s the appropriate experience part that most people have problems not once they start doing this process, but just even wrapping their brains around in terms of getting started. What it requires you to do is to really get to know the customer. When I say that, what I mean is there’s not going to be one question that you ask a customer and you will magically know what their appropriate experience is.

You’re going to have to talk to them. Ask them questions. Don’t ask them what is their appropriate experience, but start talking to them about what they would … Again, don’t use these words, but what they would expect in order to be successful. You’re going to have to take those questions and really make them your own for your situation, but it’s more than that also. It’s looking at adjacent products that are similar to yours in price, similar to yours in where they sell to inside of a company, but are not competitive necessarily.

You could look at competitive products as well, but what we want to do is get an idea of what our customers would expect from a vendor similar to us. That’s going to give us some baseline. We can also ask questions of our customers, “Are they happy?” We can use the term happy. “Are they happy with those customers or are they not?” That will start a conversation and we can start to figure out, “This company that is similar to ours has a low touch experience, and our prospect or our customer is saying that that’s not appropriate.” Okay, cool. We can start to ascertain some things from that. It’s observing.

Go spend some time with your customer or actually onsite. When was the last time you shadowed a customer? You actually saw them using your product or saw them doing their job. There’s a whole bunch of things that you can do. It’s a discovery process. It’s not a dictation process. In other words, you’re not telling your customers what their desired outcome is. It’s a discovery process. It takes some time.

Let me put it this way. It just takes some energy. You can do this relatively quickly. You probably also know a lot more about what your customer’s desired outcome is than you even think. Sit down, take a step back, think about it. I bet you’ll come up with some answers that you hadn’t even really considered. There’s a process, but hopefully that gives you some ideas.

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Join the next AMA

I’m planning on doing another Customer Success AMA on May 19, 2017 on Facebook.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

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