Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their Interactions with your company.
The actual process of moving customers toward their ever-evolving Desired Outcome is called Customer Success Management.
It’s important to understand the difference between Customer Success and Customer Success Management; the former can be thought of as an Operating Philosophy, while the latter is your Operating Model that can increase the value of your company.
Okay, let’s dig in…
Customer Success vs. Customer Success Management
When it comes to Customer Success Management, you first need to know where the customer is right now (point A).
When they’re just getting started, this is easy.
However, when they’ve been using the product for 18 months, have increased the breadth and depth of use, brought our product into other areas of their company, purchased some add-ons, added capacity, and just purchased a license for an adjacent product, and there’s a second wave of users getting ready to start the onboarding process, it gets a bit more challenging.
It’s situations like these where technology like bots – and the underlying Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning – hold so much as-yet unrealized promise, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Regardless of the complexity of the customer’s relationship with you, you should be able to know where the customer and users are right now. Should.
Second, you need to know what the next Success Milestone is for the customer (point B). When the customer is just starting out, or their relationship with us isn’t complex, knowing the next Success Milestone for that customer is necessary. Again, should.
When the customer is just starting out, or their relationship with you isn’t complex, knowing the next Success Milestone for that customer is necessary.
Then you need to figure out the steps required to move them from point A to point B.
This includes things they will do using our product, things they need to do on their own outside the product, etc.
Some things they do, you’ll have direct visibility into; others will need to be self-reported. Some things, our customers will know how to do, but some things will require training, guidance, or professional services. For the things you can’t do for them, you will need to provide or point them to the resources to bridge those “Success Gaps.“
You can do those things in an ad-hoc fashion, or you can move on to…
Systematized Customer Success Management
To operationalize Customer Success Management, you will need to proactively intervene in the appropriate way for that customer segment (a mix of technology and human touches; the “appropriate” part will dictate the ratios therein) to get them to do the things they need to do to move from point A to point B.
If they do those things, great; they’re on their way to being successful.
If they don’t do those things, however, you need to change up and/or escalate intervention modalities to get them to take action.
If an email is sent to get the customer to take the next required action, and that action is not taken (regardless of whether the email is opened or the link is clicked), send a different email from a different person.
If the action isn’t taken, escalate the modality to Facebook Messenger or SMS. If the required action is still not taken, escalate to a phone call that, upon connection, brings a Customer Success Practitioner into the mix.
What starts as a proactive intervention to move them toward their Desired Outcome escalates to a Reactive Intervention to prevent the customer from going off course and get them back on track.
Of course, there are other context clues to keep in mind – are they on vacation? are they a seasonal customer? – but, in general, this is what needs to happen.
Done correctly, systematizing Customer Success Management will take you from just Customer Success to Customer Success-driven Growth.