The discipline of Customer Success is constantly changing, and it’s important to maintain the right focus on Why, How, and What as we instill these values in our company’s culture. The ‘Why’ comes naturally: Customer Success goes hand in hand with the Subscription Economy, helping you deliver the value of your solution on a continuous basis. At this point it’s tempting to jump right into ‘How,’ which would lead us down a path of strategies, tactics, and best practices. But actually, ‘How’ is not the next factor we need to consider. Our next step takes us to ‘Who’ and an examination of our customers.
But your best customers are not who you think they are! Your best customers are not the ones driving $1 Million MRR, they’re not the ones sending you 10 qualified leads every quarter, and they’re not the ones who recommend your solution when they switch teams.
Your best customers are your employees, and serving them well has three major parallels with Customer Success:
They Have Embraced The Value Of Your Solution Like No One Else
Which of your customers are on fire for your product? You know the ones I’m talking about: they call in to support multiple times per week with suggestions, reflections, and unexpected problems. They’re the ones pushing your product to its limits, and if anyone is going to find a novel way to use it or an unexpected use case that just doesn’t quite fit with your design, it is them.
But before you ever sign one one of these customers, your best employees are already challenging you to do better.
Whether it’s Customer Success, Sales, or Marketing, aligning the right people with the right role is not a question of labels. The farmer / hunter dichotomy that’s often applied to Sales misses the point: everyone on your team is actually a Gardener, creating the conditions in which everyone else can thrive.
And the reason you have such a great team in the first place is because they believe in your mission and your vision. They’re excited about what the product does, of course, but more importantly, they’re committed to answering the question of how to put it in the hands of the right people at the right time, and above all why this solution will improve the lives of everyone on the planet. Members of your team who are aligned with your mission and vision will create innovative ways to deliver on their promises. They will have an intuitive understanding of their Ideal Customer’s needs, which will also help them avoid the Wrong Customer. Finally, they will have the confidence and support they need to express their view of the company’s strategy and long-term goals. Are you listening?
Helping Them Succeeds Means Understanding Their Goals
Ideally, you’re creating a fertile environment for growth in your organization. Everyone on your team has the opportunity to take on new responsibilities, advance upwards in the company, and accrue financial rewards based on their performance. But this is only half the story. You may think you know what your team members want, but starting with assumptions will stop you in your tracks.
Ask them. Ask them early, and ask them often. What excites you about this position? What would you like to achieve on our team? What would make it easier for everyone here to succeed, that we’re not doing now? You’ll come up with your own questions, I’m sure, but the key here is that not everyone is willing to open up, because doing so might reveal a hidden weakness. That takes courage, and it needs to be encouraged! None of us has all the answers: there are new hires in your company right now who know things that 20-year industry veterans have yet to grasp. But the only way we can uncover this wisdom is by asking them.
And don’t think for a moment that this is a one-time thing. Your employees’ needs are always changing, and if you want to make sure they’re always on fire for your mission and vision you’ll need to keep a close watch on their goals. You had this conversation with them and they achieved their stated goal 6 months later? Fantastic, what’s their next goal? The moment someone stops caring about improving themselves for the benefit of your entire organization is the moment they start looking for fulfillment elsewhere.
Because anytime we have this conversation with members of our team, their fulfillment is what’s at stake. Not money, not titles, not recognition… fulfillment. We can’t solve this in just one conversation, we can’t fix it in a performance review… and we certainly can’t solve it in an interview! Get to know your team members better than they know themselves. Executive Leaders who can inspire this kind of trust and commitment are planting the seeds of success.
They Are Your Best Advocates
Word gets around. When one of your team members embodies your mission and vision, and they feel fulfilled, they will tell everyone they know. It will change their whole outlook on life, and when they feel this good, there’s no reason to bottle it up. When they talk about the work your company is doing and why it matters, they won’t be using your words. Instead, they’ll feel empowered because their work is so much more than just a J-O-B.
Empowered employees will do, a way better job of talking to potential employees than any online job description possibly could. Not only that, they’ll actually disqualify the wrong type of employee before the latter diverts the attention of your HR team. Talk about a powerful marketing initiative! Your best employees are walking billboards for the values you’ve worked so hard to embrace. They get it: they want to see the company succeed because it fits in with their goals and it helps them feel fulfilled.
So what you end up with is one of the best “problems” ever: a sustainable pipeline of insanely qualified prospective employees, for whom Domain Expertise is where their vocation begins, not where it ends. When the ones beating down your door are all the Ideal, you might have to update your definition of Ideal. In this case your company is most likely growing rapidly, living up to your current team members’ goals, forcing them to set new goals, which inspires them to tell everyone they know. When you and your team achieve success every day – in every sense of the word – there’s nowhere to go but up.
“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” – Stephen R. Covey
This is how you incorporate Customer Success into the DNA of your organization: start within. If this is the first place you’ve encountered this treatment of Customer Success, I sincerely hope it won’t be the last. If you are committed to growing your recurring revenue, then you have to be just as committed to hiring the Ideal Candidates… and onboarding your Ideal Customers. The Subscription Economy has given us greater opportunities to learn more about your customers’ needs and help them achieve their goals, and this shift has also given them tremendous power. We can focus and temper this power by being very selective about who we work with. What goes for your employees applies just as well to your customers. If companies as diverse as Netflix, Clevertech and Buffer can accomplish this, then I look forward to seeing what your team can do. Surprise me!
Andrew Rhodes, Director of Customer Success Education at CSM Practice, draws upon years of strategic business consulting experience and is extremely passionate about Customer Success. Andrew teaches Customer Success Managers and Executives the Why, How, and What could help businesses achieve all their goals.