Lincoln Murphy Customer Success AMA Transcript and Video – May 19, 2017

On Friday May 19th, 2017, I did a Customer Success Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Facebook live. It was awesome. The video is embedded below, along with the questions that were asked and my answers.

Yep, if you don’t want to watch or listen, no problem! I got the entire AMA transcribed (and cleaned it up a bit for readability, added links, etc.) and posted that below. I answered 13 questions in great detail.

Follow me on Facebook so you can find out the next time I do one.


Table of Contents

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

  1. Should Sales or Customer Success handle Upsells?
  2. How do we help our salespeople with Customer Segmentation?
  3. How to incorporate High/Low/No Touch into Onboarding?
  4. How do I target my customers when they’re not online?
  5. What if our customers don’t like technology?
  6. What’s the best way to define roles?
  7. How to keep customers engaged post-training?
  8. Should we tell customers what to do?
  9. How to implement High/Low/No-touch Segmentation?
  10. Is it appropriate to ask a customer how often they would like to meet?
  11. How do you reset customer expectations if they haven’t been managed correctly?
  12. What users to focus on during Onboarding and Engagement?
  13. How are your Portuguese lessons are going?

Should Sales or Customer Success handle Upsells?

I was pulled into a conversation on Twitter the other day. You can follow me on Twitter. I often rant there about Customer Success stuff. You can follow me @lincolnmurphy.

Somebody posted a video and said, “This company has their salespeople handle upsells and Lincoln Murphy says that you shouldn’t have your salespeople handle upsells.” I went and watched the video and I’m like … I didn’t really want to comment on anything, but because they pulled me into it, I thought I would.

The video made me sad, actually, made me feel bad for not only the person that was in the video, but the customers of the company this person works for. Because this person had a very, very antiquated view of Customer Success. They said things like, “We don’t want our Customer Success people handling upsells, because they shouldn’t be hounding our customers for dollars. That’s sales job”. And I’m like, “No, that’s not anybody’s job.

Nobody should be hounding your customers for money”. That’s such a bad view. And the reason I say this is antiquated is, we get this idea of Customer Success having this trusted relationship with the customer and that if we ask the customer to buy more, taking upsell, that somehow that’s gonna hurt trustworthy customers. And, because of that, you know, let’s go ahead and let the sales organization do that.

I don’t understand that. Sales shouldn’t be doing things that hurt trust with customers. Asking the customer to buy more shouldn’t be something that hurts trust with customers because you have to understand that expansion – which includes upsells as well as renewal is part of the customer’s ever-evolving journey towards their Desired Outcome.

Our customers are always changing. They’re always growing. In order for our customers to achieve that Desired Outcome: their required outcome, the business outcome that they’re looking for, plus the way that is appropriate for them. In order to do that, they’re probably going to have to buy more from us right? They’re gonna have to add capacity. They’re gonna have to take add-ons. They’re gonna have to buy services. Just to sort of stay with them as they grow.

That’s Customer Success.

And if you have Customer Success Managers (CSM) that don’t want to sell, that’s a way to get them to buy into this concept. Because it’s true. If you want to make your customers successful, they’re gonna have to renew. They’re going to have to buy more. That’s part of the journey towards the Desired Outcome. You know, we think of a one year contract, we think of a month to month contract, really. A month to month subscription agreement.

We think of this as being somewhat meaningful to you know, between us and the customer. But the reality is, this is some arbitrary time box that we created. It’s just the financial relationship that says every year, you’re gonna pay us this much. And, you know, we’ll renew it and renegotiate the terms or whatever. Or every month we’re gonna charge your credit card this much.

That has absolutely nothing to do with success, right? So we need to stop thinking about success as being tied to this arbitrary time box. We need to think about success as being something that occurs really with the customer on their own cadence. Right? Customers achieve success on their own cadence on their own timeframe. And, that may or may not fit within this nice little contract or this nice little subscription that we have of you.

So, in order to get them to achieve their Desired Outcome, in order to achieve that required outcome that they have in the way they need to achieve it within their Appropriate Experience. They’re going to have to buy more over time. That’s just reality.

So, that’s what makes our customers successful. And if you’re thinking about it in some way of like, “Well, I don’t want to hound our customers for money,” because you’re thinking about trying, that upsells are really us shoving product and services onto our customers that really don’t need it. Well, you shouldn’t be doing that. That’s not what expansion should be in a Customer Success-driven company. Okay?

So I just kind of wanted to address that. Because they’re a lot of people out there that call themselves Customer Success leaders that have really old antiquated views of what Customer Success is. So, this discipline that they’re needing, they probably shouldn’t be until they can sort of change their understanding of Customer Success. And yeah, Customer Success being something that really, you know, is five or six years old in terms of maturity. But even that, if you’re looking at it as what you learn five or six or three years ago, things have evolved. Things are changing. Gotta stay current on this stuff. And that’s why I’m doing this today.

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How do we help our salespeople with Customer Segmentation?

So the question is how do we help our salespeople do segmentation? And the other is sort of how do we segment customers internally? And so we can take care of our most important customers. Okay.

I don’t understand why there’s this need to segment customers differently in sales, in marketing, and in Customer Success. It’s customer segmentation. It’s not departmental segmentation. This is not an inwardly-focused exercise. It usually is, unfortunately, but it should be that we’re looking at our customers in a way that makes sense to segment them. So, you know, if I’m going after (use a somewhat aggressive term) a particular segment of customers, why is that going to be different than once I get those customers I’m going to serve them?

You see, a customer has a required outcome. A thing that they need to achieve. Their business outcome right? And they have a way that they need to achieve that Appropriate Experience. That Appropriate Experience – AX as I call it – goes across the entire customer lifecycle. It doesn’t start when a customer becomes a customer. It starts when a prospect first interacts with us. It starts when the prospect first interacts with our marketing cycle. It starts when the prospect is first contacted by an SDR or an AE. Okay? It’s a life cycle thing. It starts early.

How many of you heard me say, “The seeds of churn are planted early?” Well, that happens when we interact with a prospect early on, in an inappropriate way. Right? It means that we’re not giving them an Appropriate Experience, even before they become a customer. So we can’t do that. We need to have those aligned.

I have, this is a struggle that I run into a lot. You know, how do I, how does sales and marketing and Customer Success, how do they get aligned on these things? Or how can I help my sales people, you know, figure out how to, how can I work with my sales people around their segmentation? It’s like, this is customer segmentation. And you shouldn’t be going in different directions.

I’m still waiting for a valid reason why sales and marketing and Customer Success should have different segments. Nobody’s been able to give me a valid reason. Most of the time the reason is that’s just the way we’ve been doing it. Right? Sales looks at customers a certain way. Marketing looks at customers a certain way. And we want Customer Success, we look at customers a certain way.

That is probably not a valid reason to keep doing things that way. Right? Just because we’ve been doing it that way, is a bad reason to keep doing something. So, I don’t think there’s any reason they should be different. So, I don’t think that we should have to work with sales to figure out, you know, I don’t know. Someway of, sort of, getting close to matching.

I will say this: there is the reality on the ground of, you know, sales often times drives our companies. There are these amazing magical beings that can do no wrong. And everybody else is sort of at their mercy. I don’t like that. I think that’s a terrible way to run a business. And that’s okay. We don’t have to get into that. But, when you go to sales and you go to marketing, but it’s certainly sales, and you want to try to convince them that your Customer Success-driven approach to customer segmentation is the right way to look at things, you need to go into those conversations, sort of, with everything that you want from them. And be ready to negotiate down to what is acceptable.

I say this because Customer Success people – and this is a rash generalization, so take it for what it’s worth – Customer Success people aren’t in the daily habit at least of negotiating. Sales people are. And, if you go into a conversation with sales, sales leadership, and you’re trying to get, trying to convince them of something. You have to understand that you’re now sort of in their territory. This is what they do.

So at least come in with “this is everything that we want; this is what we will accept.” And we can negotiate down to there. When I see Customer Success, managers certainly, and even Customer Success leaders doing, is going into those conversations with like here’s what we, basically starting where they need to be. And negotiating down from there.

So, I don’t, I think actually all of that is ridiculous. We don’t need to do that negotiation. We need to actually look at this the right way. But that’s one little tip. Is just, be prepared to negotiate. Whatever that means. And whatever that means in your world. And start from where you, you know, start really high with high demands and negotiate down to where you want to be. Instead of starting where you want to be and negotiating from there. So that’s kind of my approach to sales, handling sales and that kind of thing.

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How to incorporate High/Low/No Touch into Onboarding?

So the question is “How do we handle, or, how do we incorporate the high/low no touch model into onboarding? And make sure we’re onboarding our most important customer?”

This is another example of sort of an antiquated view of Customer Success. Customer Success is something that all customers get. The way that we interact with them, what we provide them, is part of their Appropriate Experience. If we have a customer segment. Let’s say we have several customer segments, they all share the same required outcome. They all have this business outcome that they’re trying to accomplish. And that’s why they started to do business with us.

But they all have different Appropriate Experiences. Then we’re going to need to provide them the Appropriate Experience. So, you know, some companies, some customer segments are gonna be more complex. They’re going to need more dedicated human resources to help them with their onboarding. To get them to go through implementation. To go through maybe some consulting other professional services. Whatever that is. Then there’s going to be some customers that don’t need that, don’t want that. Their Appropriate Experience is that they bought from you and they should just be left alone.

The thing is, we often, we’ll say high/low in no touch, but what we usually mean is high value, mid value and like low value. Or high revenue, middle revenue, and low revenue. When the reality is, the customers that need the high touch, maybe the low revenue customers, and the customers that would be just fine without you interfering in their lives. Maybe the customers that pay you a lot. But you don’t understand that so you’ve created an engagement model based on what they pay you. And it’s ultimately inappropriate for most of the customers.

So you really need to understand your different customer segments and understand what the Appropriate Experience is for them. And if there is a low revenue segment, that you would like to be no touch. But they require a high-touch.

You have a couple of options. One, you can say they don’t pay us very much. So they get the low touch option whether they like it or not. Which is a customer negative way to do business, and ultimately will come back to bite you. Or you can do the right thing and say, “The Appropriate Experience for this customer segment is high touch”. They don’t pay us very much. And I asked them if they would pay more and they said no. Which means I can’t give them the Appropriate Experience. Which means they’re a bad fit. So I’m not going to do business with that customer segment because I can’t make, I can’t give them the Appropriate Experience in an economically feasible way.

So instead of punishing them for not paying us very much, is what a lot of companies do, we would say, “They’re a bad fit. I’m gonna not do business with that type of customer”. Ultimately you have to give your customers an Appropriate Experience. And if you don’t, those seeds of churn, especially in the onboarding process, the seeds of churn are going to be planted very very early. And that may lead to, that may be why customers churn out after, you know. Or they don’t renew their one-year contract with you. Or they churn out after a couple of months. Because you’re giving them an Appropriate Experience up front.

So I would decouple what somebody pays us from what the experience we’re going to give them is, really look at that Appropriate Experience. And then go back and say, “Okay. This is the Appropriate Experience. This is what they pay us. Is that economically feasible for us?” If not, they’re a bad fit. Cool. All right, next question?

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How do I target my customers when they’re not online?

So this question – How do I target my customer other than cold call if they’re not online and/or prefer to know you in person, for example Farmers? – is not necessarily a Customer Success question. But certainly a Customer Success-driven Growth question. And I work with companies across the life cycle. I do a lot of, actually a fair amount of work in what I call Customer Success-driven sales. In fact we just had a podcast drop with Bowery Capital today, talking about Customer Success-driven sales. And I’ll post that to all my different social media outlets. So you can listen to that. It’s, I think it’ll be very enlightening.

So Customer Success-driven sales is, you know, again ensuring that we’re doing business with the, with customers that can be successful. That we’re reaching out to, that we’re interacting with and ultimately that we’re closing good fit customers… customers with success potential.

You can buy the best Customer Success software. You can go to the best Customer Success events. You can do all the best Customer Success tactics. But if you’re bringing in bad fit customers, none of that matters. If you’re bringing in customers that have no success potential, why invest in Customer Success? It doesn’t make sense. Obviously, there are lots of reasons why you should invest in Customer Success. So, you should also be making sure that you’re bringing in the right fit customers.

So what I would say, is, so going to answer the question specifically, how do you get in front of customers that aren’t online or in front of customers that … What was the other part of the question? That aren’t online or?

So how do you get in front of people that aren’t online? Chances are, people are online. You may just not be, you may need to get creative. I mean Facebook ads are a huge way to get in front of people. Like, I don’t remember how many, what massive percentage of the Earth’s population are on Facebook. So there’s a really good chance that you can actually get in front of them.

But if not, good old fashioned direct mail works guys. I know a lot of people, I don’t want to say a lot. Actually, I know a handful of people who are just crushing it by sending out real live mail. Right? I was looking to see if I had a piece of mail to show you, in case you don’t remember what a piece of postal mail looks like. It’s like a piece of paper, it’s an envelope, there’s stuff in it. Maybe it’s a bigger envelope with like a book in it.

That stuff is crushing it because, the reason I really wanted to say that I really don’t see a lot of people doing this. And I said a handful is because, not a lot of people are using direct mail. Which means there’s not a lot of noise. And yet I can get something of value directly to the person that I want to get it to. Whereas they’re getting 1000 emails a day from, you know, people reaching out cold. They’re not gonna get 1000 pieces of mail. They’re gonna get a couple.

And if I can make mine stand out, if it’s enough of a high value client, I’m gonna do it FED EX. Or I’m gonna do it DHL. I’m gonna send it, like, I’m gonna make sure that this really really stands out. And then I’m gonna track it. And I’m gonna call them right when I see that it was delivered. Or give them a little bit of time.

So that’s how I would, I mean, you can find that information. You can buy those lists or whatever. Easily. Right? And so, we want to figure out how to get in front of them. That’s what I would do. Is like, if they’re not online and I can’t figure out how to reach them on Facebook or LinkedIn or something like that. But I would always push back on that and be like you sure they’re not online?

Which goes to the other part of the question. Just because they’re online, or just because you can reach them via FedEx or whatever. That doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be able to close them online. Or that you’re gonna be able to use that FedEx to give them a link to go and buy.

That may be the thing that opens up the conversation with them, but they still might want to meet you. They may still want to buy from you in person. And this goes back to Appropriate Experience. Appropriate Experience is what? It’s across the entire customer lifecycle. And starts with sales and marketing. And it goes all the way through the three, five, seven, ten years or more that they could be our customer.

I had a, I did a workshop in Ireland last year sometime. And, I had a lot of people from Europe there. And we’re talking about the stuff and a guy came up to me and he said, “I have a problem doing business in Spain”. In Spain, and this was this guy’s experience, so again, rash generalization here, but he said in Spain, they like to take three-hour lunches. That’s how, you know, when you’re going through the buying process with a prospect, it’s all about relationship. They like to take a long lunch and just get to know you. And he said: “What I’m hearing is that’s just part of their Appropriate Experience, and I can’t really fight that.” And I said exactly. That’s a cultural thing. Like you’re probably not in a position to shape their culture yet. Maybe we’ll get there right? Maybe at some point you’ll be in a position. Do that. But right now, not gonna happen.

So, if you want to do business (what I told him). If you want to do business in Spain, in this particular segment at least, you’re probably gonna have to have those three-hour lunches. And if you cannot do a three-hour lunch, you don’t have the resources, you don’t have the time. You can’t go to Spain ’cause maybe they’re not based there. You can’t get sort of in person with the customer.

Then we would say, geographically, regionally, customers in Spain are a bad fit. Now if a customer in Spain comes to him, and says we want to buy from you. He could just straight up say that’s cool. I don’t come to Spain very often so we’re gonna have to do this over the phone. Or we’re gonna have to do this over the Web. He can manage those expectations because they’re coming to him.

But if it’s a situation where they’re spending time and resources and money, trying to get in front of Spanish customers, then they either need to conform to the social and cultural norms in Spain or they’re not gonna be successful. And so, the thing was we’re not gonna target Spain anymore. Because we can’t sell the way they want to buy.

It’s like, when you say, I really want to have a no touch, really like a no touch experience with our customers. I want to just have somebody be able to buy with a credit card. And I never have to talk to them. That’s what you want. That’s how you want to sell.

Your customers, however, want to buy a certain way. And it may not be that credit card. May not be a low touch or no touch situation. You can choose to try to force your method on them. Or you can choose to do business the way they want. That’s Appropriate Experience. So that’s an example of Appropriate Experience just going across the entire customer life cycle.

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What if our customers don’t like technology?

I see this sometimes for sure. People will say, you know this customer segment something of farmers may fit into this. Again, generalization. Our customers don’t like or this market they don’t like technology. You know, they’re not very tech forward.

I did some work in the oil and gas, or with the companies in the oil and gas industry. It was sort of the same thing. And you kind of go back to these mechanical older industries. And it’s really easy to say well they don’t like technology. But if you look at it, and I said this to these that were in the oil and gas business, when they told me that. I said how, I mean this doesn’t make any sense. Like you’re telling me they don’t like technology. Yet they use data to make all their decisions. They are some of the most technology forward people, in terms of the technology used to drill. Like they’ll take a drill bit that’s brand new, never been tested. They’ll put it in use. Just to try the, you know, eek out some more efficiencies in the process. And you’re telling me that they’re not into technology.

And then you start digging in you find out well what they’re not into is like IT stuff. Computer stuff. Right? They don’t like IT people. Right? Probably because somebody was a jerk to them at some point. So what you need to do is sort of change the way that you approach this. If you go to a non-tech customer and you try to sell them your software, your IT solution. Yeah, chances are they’re not going to want to hear from you. But if you go to them and talk about things in their language, using the way, things that resonate with them, well now we’re onto something. Right?

So again, Appropriate Experience. Understand your customers better than they understand themselves. And figure out what’s going on. What’s the conversation already taking place in their mind. And if you can enter that conversation that’s already taking place in their mind, things are gonna be a lot better.

So those are just a few things around Customer Success-driven sales that weren’t part of that question but I think are incredibly important.

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What’s the best way to define roles?

So the question is about the best way to define roles for sales, account managers and CSMs in relation to the client. Should there be a defined hand off for each.  So sales, account manager, CSM. I would really, instead of just saying CSM. And this is something I want you guys to start thinking about, is there is no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. And so I’ve … I still say CSM because I know a lot of people are expecting that. But I’ve tried and with my customer, my clients. And their Customer Success organizations. I do a better job of this than

So sales, account manager, CSM. I would really, instead of just saying CSM. And this is something I want you guys to start thinking about, is there is no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. And so I’ve … I still say CSM because I know a lot of people are expecting that. But I’ve tried and with my customer, my clients. A lot of people still talk about CSMs. I like to talk about Customer Success Practitioners.

So what that means, is really anybody in the Customer Success world. Customer Success Manager, certainly Customer Success analysts, Ops people, Coms, communication, this Customer Success Marketing. There are a lot of different people that can be involved in the Customer Success Management process.

And so I want you to think about it that way. So when it comes to defining roles, there is no and there cannot be a universal way of defining roles. So I just really, that wasn’t part of the question. I’m not saying that that’s was what they were asking. But I just want to be really clear.

Actually, I’ll even say it like this.

I got an email. I get an email at least once a day. At least once a day. From somebody asking, “Hey, Lincoln, we’re hiring a CSM. Do you know anybody good?” Yes, I know a good CSM and no I’m not gonna send them your way because you are thinking about the fact that we just need to hire a CSM. Because all CSMs are exactly the same in every company. Right?

No. That’s not how it works. There’s no such thing as a one size fits all CSM. You need to understand your customer segments. You need to understand what the Appropriate Experiences for each of those segments. And then you can start figuring out what the coverage levels look like.

So, if we have some customers that need a higher touch interaction with a human, we would have a Customer Success practitioner that maybe looks more like a consultant. Right? Maybe they have domain expertise. Maybe they have, you know, they have experience in that particular industry. And they’re gonna spend a lot of time with the customer. Because that’s what the customer wants and needs as part of their Appropriate Experience.

Let’s say we have a customer segment that is very, not very complex, doesn’t need a lot of human interaction. Maybe our coverage levels there are gonna be pooled resources of Customer Success practitioners that look more like analysts. They’re gonna be able to figure out what’s going on with the customer and intervene, you know, through low touch means. Through tech touch means if you want to use that term. That’s gonna be, you know, what’s appropriate for that customer segment.

We have to understand what the segments require. So that we can know the kind of human beings that we’re gonna need to bring in. We also need to know what is required so we know what kind of technology to use. And then we need to know for each customer segment what is the ratio of human to technology? We need to think about this stuff like we would any other part of the business. Which is to say, we need to figure out what is actually required.

The simple answer you see a lot is you need X number of CSMs per X amount of revenue. But that’s a bullshit answer (and here’s about why if you’re interested).

That’s never been appropriate. And it certainly isn’t appropriate today when we understand more about this stuff. And I hate the fact that that CSM per amount of revenue gets propagated over and over and over. Because some VC said it once. It’s garbage. It doesn’t matter. Doesn’t apply today. It never did. We have to think about our customers. There are appropriate segments, and what those appropriate coverage levels need to look like.

So, from there, we can start to know exactly what’s gonna be required. Now, we have to work through the different phases of our customer life cycle. What I call success milestones. If we have an onboarding process for a particular customer segment that’s gonna require you know, somebody really working with them doing some training, doing some implementation, doing some integrations or whatever.

Then those are the people that we’re gonna have to, we’re gonna bring people in like that. Right? Maybe there’s a dedicated onboarding team, maybe it’s just other sort of subject matter experts. But they’re gonna be brought in to work with that customer at various points in the life cycle. Probably heavily weighted towards the onboarding process, but of course across the life cycle, those people may have to come back in as our customers evolve and grow.

So, we need to think about our customers, the different segments, what’s appropriate, their life cycle, the different success milestones. And operationalize accordingly. So yeah, this is not, you know, I’ve said it before. People over complicate the concept of Customer Success. And completely under appreciate what is required to make it actually happen.

So, Customer Success is actually pretty simple to understand as a concept. It’s a lot harder to actually make work. But so worth it.

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How to keep customers engaged post-training?

He goes on to say: We’re running into the issue of customers diving straight into our tool, post training. But then we have severe decline two to four weeks after that training. I have several ideas brewing to tackle the problem. But been reading a lot of your blogs and wanted get your take on staff in the health care industries.

The customers sort of go through training, they dive into the tool, and then just a few weeks later they’re not using it. You know. So how do we fix that? I would say your training needs to be fixed probably. A lot of what happens is we overwhelm our customers. So there’s a really good chance that you’re giving your customers way too much. And that, by the time that they get back, they get in, a lot of that stuff either doesn’t apply immediately or they forget it.

So, that’s again without knowing exactly what your situation is. That’s something I see quite a bit of. We need to sort of scale back. It’s sort of counter intuitive. But we actually need to scale back in what we give our customers right at first. There’s a tendency to want to over deliver. Especially in the technology world. I find this to be incredibly true. We really want to over deliver with our customers. Almost wow them. That wow moment idea gets blown out of proportion. We want to like wow them up front with all this stuff. We want to give them everything. And the reality is, we tend to overwhelm.

There’s this concept in back in the sort of what we would call internet marketing, that was even pre-internet marketing of this selling content, selling information. So info-marketing. What people would actually sell books and training manuals and stuff. There’s this concept called, “Thud Factor”. That as soon as you bought something, you know. Six to eight weeks later, the UPS person would show up and you would hear this “thud” when they dropped all of this material that you bought. Right, so you would feel really good that you just made three payments of 299 or something for this gigantic stack of material that you will never go through. Thud factor.

We don’t need to do that these days. We don’t need to impress people with the amount of content, information we can give them. But what we need to do is give them an Appropriate Experience and get them to start getting value out of their relationship with us. And then keep them getting value in that relationship with us over time. So, don’t overwhelm. I think just with training we have a tendency to do that.

The other thing is, we tend to let especially if we’ve trained them, we tend to then let customers just do whatever they want. And that sounds great. Let your customers do whatever they want. The reality is, our customers are gonna do whatever they want anyway. So, our job is to provide them some guidance. You know, when they come out of training, have a 30/60/90 day plan, that says this is what you’re gonna do. And if it’s a daily use kind of product, then this is what you’re gonna do on a daily routine.

So have a very specific plan in mind. Be prescriptive. Tell them what they need to do. Joshua also provided a couple of examples of things that they were already trying.

  • Gameification
  • More tailored and specific end user communication pre and post training
  • Deeper project manager engagement
  • Expanding training with ongoing and refresher points

Gamification is something people want to jump into but I think is generally not necessary.

Some of the other suggestions there are things that Joshua was already thinking about, were, you know, kind of in line what I said. Giving more guidance. I would take it a step further and just say be very very specific. Give your customers, especially when they come out of training. Again, maybe go back and look at the training. Are we giving them too much? Could we pare it down into something that, maybe they do two or three times a year. But it’s smaller chunks. And it’s going to give them just what they need to start getting value over the next 30/60/90 days. And then we can do more training down the road.

I think we have to think about this from our customer’s perspective. And that means getting out of our own way. Moving our ego aside. Stop thinking about all of the investment that we have in our amazing product. That can do so many amazing things. But if our customers are starting here and our product is here we’re trying to give them everything here. We’re missing out on taking them from where they are to where they need to be.

And that’s the thing. We need to meet our customers where they are, and move them along the path. I think that’s the best way to look at this. Is don’t overwhelm. Be prescriptive. Be very clear with our customers. And when they come out of training, and that training should probably be pared back a little bit. They’re gonna have an exact plan on how to be successful.

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Should we tell customers what to do?

Zoe had a similar problem as Joshua in the previous question, and she said that they called the customer and asked why their use declined. They found that the biggest issue was they didn’t know what to do next. She said they talked to customers, learned that, didn’t tell them what to do next, and went to product to get them to implement changes. This created a massive uptick in continued engagements.

I think that’s awesome. Talk to your customers. Don’t hide from your customers.

But I would say the things that we would hear from our customers, if we called and asked questions, are probably things that we actually already know. So I’m not saying don’t talk to your customers. Absolutely talk to your customers. But if you really just took a second and thought about it, you could probably figure this stuff out on your own.

It’s probably pretty obvious that we’re overwhelming them. That we’re not being specific. That we’re giving them all of the different things that they could possibly do, and they’re not doing those things. If you need to hear that from your customer in order to start doing that, cool. But chances are like I said, you don’t even have to talk to your customers. You know what you need to be doing.

Now I would definitely talk to the customers. What kind of caught me off guard in what Zoe said was that she didn’t tell the customer what to do even though they said they weren’t sure what to do next. And they just went back and fixed the product. That’s cool. Fix the product, but to me also tell your customer what to do.

Our customers look to us for guidance. And if I’m talking to a customer and they tell me I don’t know what to do next, I’m not gonna say okay cool. I’m gonna go talk to my product person and we’ll get back to you as soon as that’s fixed. I’m gonna tell them what to do. Our customers want to know what to do. And maybe I have a low touch customer segment, but I’ve been talking to them. I’m still gonna tell those people what they should do next. So that’s my only, that kinda caught me off guard there. But I think that’s a great approach. Go talk to your customers and learn from them. And they might tell you I just have absolutely no idea what to do.

But again, if you look at things objectively, if you take a step back, your ego out of the way, I bet you could probably see what the problem is. Here’s something to think about. When was the last time you signed up for your own product? When was the last time you saw what a new customer sees when they first signed up for your product? If you haven’t done that in awhile, you want to do it. Because there’s a really good chance it’s changed. It’s not the same experience that you once thought you knew. Or maybe you’re just wiser and you would go look at it and you would say: “Ah, okay.” When somebody signs up the first thing they see is this blank screen and no guidance. Or on the flip side, the first thing they see is that they can do all these different things, and there’s no guidance.

So when was the last time you signed up for your own product? Go try that. See what happens. Take a screen shot. You don’t have to share it with anybody. But take a screen shot internally and get everybody to gather around and say this is the first thing our customer sees when they sign up. And this is a problem. So next question?

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How to implement High/Low/No-touch Segmentation?

We’ve already talked about this a little bit, but the question is do others send their customers between high touch/low touch customers, and if so, what is their criteria?

It’s funny when I talk to a company about their Customer Success, I can almost always tell where they learned about Customer Success. And it’s usually a software vendor that they’ve learned from. And you can tell based on the language they use which one it is.

And a lot of it’s high/low. If it’s tech touch, I can probably figure out what software vendor you were talking to. Not that that’s a problem, except that it doesn’t, this high/low no touch doesn’t paint the right picture. It doesn’t really give us the accurate way of looking at our customers. You should be segmenting your customers based on their Appropriate Experience. If you’re not basing, if you’re not doing that, you’re doing it wrong.

Three or four years ago, maybe we would have said segment based on Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) and ARR potential. But we were just kids back then. We didn’t know what we were doing. Things have evolved. Things have changed. Things have matured. We now know what we’re doing. And you need to be segmenting your customers based on their Appropriate Experience. That’s the only way that you accurately give them the Appropriate Experience. You can have the right coverage levels. And you can have the, you can know what the appropriate ratio between technology and human intervention is. Anything else is just it’s not going to work in the long term. It’s not gonna scale well.

And it tends to normalize and experience across all of your customers which means, best case, you’re simply running at a lower margin than you could be. Worse case, it means you’re going to have an inappropriate experience for some customer segments which is going to be bad enough that they churn. So that’s why this is so important.

We can’t normalize an experience across all customers. That doesn’t work. And what we tend to do is normalize that experience and then add in some QBRs and call it high touch. And that just that’s ridiculous. We can’t think of customers success management as just this really simple thing that we just kind of throw together and make our customers happy. This is a very sophisticated business function.

And we need to treat it that way. Because if we do, we’re gonna see it’s gonna pay dividends in terms of our, the revenue going up. The value of a customer going up. And that ultimately, the value of our company going up significantly. That’s what we’re trying to go for here. This is not simple stuff. It’s effective. It’s valuable. And we need to be treating it that way. So, next question.

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Is it appropriate to ask a customer how often they would like to meet?

Some customer segments, possible the ones that may not pay us very much, if we ask them that question they might want to meet all the time. And here’s the thing. I see this actually, unfortunately, sort of frequently. How often do our … I run into situations where a customer is getting like an hour of consulting every week for free. Because we didn’t properly manage their expectations. We didn’t know what we were doing. And now the expectations of that customer are that they’re gonna get an hour of free consulting every week. So now we have to figure out how to throttle that back, because we kind of screwed up in the beginning.

So there are times where we need to ask those questions. And there are times where we don’t need to ask those questions. Because we actually do know more about our customers than we think. And we also know what would be an Appropriate Experience. We tend to want to over deliver those so we start doing more. That’s why I say, don’t over deliver. Just deliver. Just deliver an Appropriate Experience.

Now if we’ve been over delivering and we realize that that was too much and we don’t need to do that going forward, we could still draw a line in the sand and say those were an early cohort. They still get that higher touch experience even though they’re not paying us very much. Their margins are gonna be lower.

But going forward, this customer segment that they match, those new customers aren’t gonna have that higher touch experience. But yeah, it certainly in the earlier days when we have to talk to our customers more. Which is not a bad thing at all. But if we have a higher touch, or if we have a customer that’s paying us enough and we would think that they might want a higher touch experience, yes ask them.

We may find that they don’t … And it of course at some point, we may find you know we have what we thought was just one segment that pays us a lot. Maybe multiple segments. One is they need a high touch. The other is they don’t. But if we have a segment that we think would want a higher touch experience, ask them. You may find out that they don’t want us to talk to them very often.

Here’s the trick though. We can’t let customers go without any intervention. Okay. So we need to say at the very least, we’re going to reach out. I don’t want to check in with them. I always want to have a reason for this. But we’ll let them know. If we ever see something change we are gonna reach out. Maybe we will do quarterly business reviews or something with you. Or just other scheduled executive business reviews. Whatever that looks like.

But don’t let them think that you’re never gonna talk to them. Okay. And that they shouldn’t talk to you. Kind of make sure that those channels of communication are open. Manage expectations properly. And also just be open with them I guess is the main thing. And have that open line of communication. We never want a customer to just completely go away. We want to make sure that we have some intervention. But we shouldn’t be shoving this really high touch experience on them if that’s inappropriate for them. So. Okay cool.

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How do you reset customer expectations if they haven’t been managed correctly?

Carefully, is the answer. That’s an awesome question because it’s applicable to most companies who have been in business for any amount of time. But we’re gonna have done things in the early days, that’s we realize we didn’t need to do. And again, a great example is we give free consulting to customers that really don’t pay us that much.

What I say is, that early cohort of customers we can’t punish them for being there early with us and for us learning from them. And so what I would like to do is draw a line in the sand and say any customers that come in from now on, they’re gonna get this Appropriate Experience. Right? Whatever that looks like. Those customers that were here before, we can be honest with them. What a concept.

Hey, you know we’ve learned some things. And what I would say is there’s a really good chance that if you’re having a one-hour meeting with them every week, that they even may not need that. They might even think that’s inappropriate. But you’re offering it. You’re giving it to them. So talk to them. And say what would be a more appropriate interaction schedule. And you could even provide some self-service deflection options for them. Things that they could do on their own. You could provide, you can be more prescriptive and say what we’ve done with you is sort of have these weekly meetings.

What we’ve learned since then is that these sort of self-guided courses and then a quarterly business review is actually working a lot better. That would give you back three or four hours of your time every month. If you kinda put it into their terms, and think about it from their point of view, actually it could really work wonders. But, you can’t punish them. You can’t punish them because you screwed up. And that’s what we have to understand.

I talk about this passionately because I’ve been there. I’ve done that. That’s why I can share this stuff. Because I’ve seen it, I’ve been there, done that. And I’ve even done it wrong. I’ve actually gone back and punished customers when I shouldn’t have. And I’ve seen the backlash. I’ve seen the negative fallout from that. So we can’t do that. So we have our customers that brought us to the dance. We can’t, I don’t know what you do when someone brings you to the dance and you leave with somebody else, I guess. Whatever. We can’t punish them for being there for us. We can go back and try to reset expectations as long as it’s in their favor. And that’s the reality.

But going forward, like from now on, for anyone new that comes in, we have to give them that Appropriate Experience which means if you haven’t thought of what the Appropriate Experience is, you need to do that right now. Because ultimately, and hopefully you can see through that idea of giving just too much to our customers.

It’s gonna start to affect scalability. It’s gonna start to affect your margins, your operating margins. All this stuff is going to be really negatively impacted by this. And it’s going to cause at the very core of what you do. It might start to cause a customer negative environment. A cycle of apathy. This cycle of distrust. We hate our customers. We hate our customers because they take too much from us. That’s our fault. We gave it to them. So we need to get out of that cycle as quickly as possible. Stop doing what you’re doing right now with those customers.

Figure out what the Appropriate Experience is going forward. And give new customers that, and then go back to, the other, the customers that have been there. The legacy customers. And try to figure out how to how to manage expectations with them. But again, making it about them and making it about their Appropriate Experience.

Good luck with that. It is going to be a challenge. But it’s something you need to do sooner rather than later. Because it’s just gonna get worse. Next question.

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What users to focus on during Onboarding and Engagement?

So the question is “When looking at data and focusing on super users and zero users, who leverage with adoption tactics. Do you find it’s best to pursue feedback from super users, zero users, or both?”

I’m assuming when we say super users and zero users, that we’re talking about within one company. I would think … So, in that case we have one customer company that has sort of that, gradient or spectrum of use within their user base, just from that one account. In that case, yeah we would probably want to figure out what’s going on there. We probably need to recognize that instead of just looking at them as super users and zero users, I would look at them

We probably need to recognize that instead of just looking at them as super users and zero users, I would look at them as, are there … Who are they? What are their titles? What are their roles? What’s actually going on in that company?

And you may start to see some patterns that, it’s not just super users, it’s developers … They do this, but those closer to zero users, those are more the project managers, those are more of the designers and you start to see different personas.

And now we have a better view of what’s going on, and we can’t freak out when those personas of different roles, those different roles or different personas, you now have a different use pattern, right? So we need to figure out what that is.

That’s one thing that I would look at. But yeah, talk to your customers. If you see something really, this really crazy discrepancy there, we need to figure what’s going on. We also need to understand that the secondary onboarding, or the onboarding process that occurs when somebody that went through training, that was sort of an early user of your product, brings in others … You really need to think about that second wave of onboarding. That whole process needs to be just as streamlined as that initial cohort of users.

Very often, they’re not. Very often, we have our initial cohort of users that goes through training, that goes through this very specific process, and then we let everybody else in.

So I don’t know what’s going with your customer, you need to figure that out. But those are a couple of ways that I would look at it, you know, is there an onboarding issue, and/or are there just different personas that are going to have different use patterns, and we shouldn’t freak out when certain personas aren’t using it on the daily, because that’s just fine. Right? So we need to figure out more about what’s going on there.

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How are your Portuguese lessons are going?

Oi, Daniella! My Portuguese lessons are amazing. Actually, I’ll tell you, I actually had a really great experience with Street Smart Brazil, is the company that I go through. And I’m learning Portuguese, it’s actually funny, I’m learning it, I can’t remember anything right now, but also it messes with my English. So I find myself when I’m speaking English now, I’m thinking about things in Portuguese and it’s messing me up.

So I’m like, how do you say … Car, you know? I’m like oh. But Street Smart Brazil is really a very cool company. I signed up for the wrong course, when I first signed up, and Daniella, my instructor, when do Skype lessons … She lives in Florianopolis, in Brazil. Our first Skype session, she was talking to me in Portuguese and I thought: “Oh no! This is going to be one of those immersion things and I have to catch up.”

And it turns out, I had signed up for a course, meant for people who were already fluent. It was a course for business-Portuguese. And, I said you know, I messed up, apparently I can’t even speak English, or I can’t even read English, which is right there on the sign up form. But I thought, I wanted to learn business-Portuguese.

So we figured that out, and we had a few lessons. And then I got an email from the CEO of the company, saying: “Daniella says you are doing great, that’s awesome. You signed up for the wrong plan. You signed up for a more expensive plan. We’re gonna put you on the right plan, which is a few hundred dollars less.”, or whatever.

And I thought: “Man, that’s awesome!”, and I told her: “You don’t know this, but I work in this world of Customer Success, and what you just did was a very customer-positive thing.” You took a short-term revenue hit, you know, they went from something that would cost a certain amount, to a little bit less. Like I said, a hundred dollars a month, or something like that. They took that short-term revenue hit. But what are the chances … Number one that I’m gonna tell everybody to go to Street Smart Brazil if you want to learn Portuguese.

And number two, that … I’m gonna stay longer. That I’m gonna buy more. If new training comes along that I want to take on, other courses, other books or whatever, that I’m gonna do that. That I’m gonna tell people. So I’m gonna stay longer, I’m gonna buy more, and I’m gonna advocate for you. That’s what we all want. So she took a short-term revenue hit, to get probably a lot more value out of me as a customer. That’s a lesson in Customer Success. I didn’t even initiate that. I thought: “Well I screwed up.” And then I get this email because Daniella told her, that I had signed up for the wrong course, and then she did the right thing. Which is amazing.

So Street Smart Brazil. That’s where I’m learning Portuguese. And really messing with all of my language skills. But it’s amazing, and hopefully when I get to Brazil next week, some things will start popping and I’ll be able to order pão de queijo properly.

Update… Brazil was awesome and my Portuguese is getting better! I ate a lot of pão de queijo!

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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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