Ask 10 CSMs what success in their job means to them, and they will have 10 answers, ranging from:
- keeping my customers from churning
- onboarding my customers successfully
- helping my customers adopt our solution
- identifying opportunities within accounts for growth
- facilitating my customers’ attainment of outcomes
- managing the renewal process
None of these are wrong. They are all part of many CSM job descriptions. However, to limit customer success to these roles alone is not giving it the true value it has in growing a loyal customer base who end up becoming your advocates.
Customer success – as it’s been defined – is simply not enough
It may minimize some risks or uncover some opportunities, but, if it’s just these functions within a team, it doesn’t go far enough to building customer loyalty, and growing customers – and that’s the ace in the hole.
If Customer Loyalty – the gateway to Customer Advocacy – is the goal, then relegating customer success to a departmental function is limiting. Rather than chartering customer success as a department, it should not only incorporate all aspects of customer growth management, but be rolled out as an enterprise-wide discipline.
Growing customers involves the entire enterprise
When we talk about an enterprise-wide discipline, we start by looking at the many functions (outside of a typical customer success department) that are customer-oriented and impact customer loyalty. Here are a few:
- Delivering targeted thought leadership to existing customers (a marketing function)
- Adapting and updating technology based upon customer input (an R&D function)
- Eliminating the friction in contracting (a sales and finance function)
These roles and functions do not generally lie within a customer success department – nor should they. However, they are all opportunities for customers to experience your brand. They can be either positive or negative experiences. While they may not directly contribute to a customer’s success, they assuredly will contribute to a customer’s loyalty.
Examples of experiences that impact customer loyalty
There are lots of experiences – outside of typical customer success interactions that can have a significant impact on a customer’s loyalty.
- Consider the annoying promotional emails an existing customer still gets even after they’ve onboarded vs. the targeted content that they should be getting to help them adopt your solution, and advance in their own career.
- How impactful can it be for a customer to see product enhancements made to your solution based upon their input? This goes a long way in solidifying the relationship by making them trusted advisors. It may not directly correlate to their success, but it certainly builds loyalty.
While our customer’s success should align with our success, it is NOT enough. Every customer experience affects their level of commitment, and their overall loyalty. Instead of thinking of customer success management as something a team is tasked with, consider it a company-wide mandate that every customer experience leads to an increase in their loyalty.
If Customer Success (as we’ve known it) isn’t enough, then what is?
What does this mandate or enterprise-wide discipline look like?
It does start with Customer Success as it’s been defined up until now – churn mitigation, facilitation of adoption, renewal management, health monitoring, etc. .. This is still important. Without it, we really can’t be assured that our customer is deriving value from our solution. And this is definitely the first step toward garnering loyalty, but it stops short of the goal.
IN ADDITION, we have to look at all customer interactions and align them with a single end goal of cultivating loyalty and advocacy. While this begins with the consistent delivery of an excellent branded experience for your customer, resulting in their success, it takes more.
It requires a culture of advocacy
What if your organization were built upon a culture of advocacy, where every team member saw advocacy as a core value, and they practiced advocacy for one another, as well as the customers? Think about it. When advocacy becomes an intrinsic attitude, a way of treating others – it affects outward behaviors and infuses all relationships with customers. Quite simply, if you advocate for your customers, they, in turn, will naturally become advocates for you.