Customer Success Association
Executive Director: Mikael BlaisdellContact CSA
By Mikael Blaisdell

Mobius cirle with dollar bill

The Challenge

Worldwide, the biggest barrier to establishing and maintaining effective Customer Success teams is an inappropriate perception of the group and its role in the overall company process. Over and over again, frustrated Customer Success executives continue to quote a common complaint: “Senior Management doesn’t seem to understand what we’re about.” On the other side, C-level expectations are often unmet when it comes to directly attributable results from the Customer Success group. The problem is compounded by the fact that everybody is using the same terms to describe what are frequently very different things.

The results of this scenario are unfortunate. Some Customer Success teams have been abolished entire when Senior Management decided to take a different approach to solving their perceived priority. Metrics for both individuals and teams are haphazard. Budgets are constrained; vital tools cannot be put in place. Dedicated and highly motivated CS groups are being arbitrarily limited in what they can accomplish, shackled by orders to focus on tasks and interventions where the likelihood of being effective is smallest. Serious levels of turnover in Customer Success executive ranks are very common.

What is needed is a firm basis for the new profession, a clear, achievable and agreed-upon mission. From such a foundation, an appropriate structure of process, organization, staffing, performance metrics, budget and supporting technology can logically be built for the customer success team. Without it, industry-wide, all aspects of Customer Success will remain “all over the map” and the loss from waste and missed opportunities will continue to be huge and largely invisible.

A Statement of Purpose: The Mission of Customer Success

The Mission of Customer Success is to increase sustainable proven value for both the Customers and the Company. The essence is found in three core words: sustainable, proven, and value. The goal is increase, and the beneficiaries are the customers and the company.

Synonyms for sustainable: Dependable, Reliable, Consistent, Assurable, Steady, ContinuingLet’s take a closer look at the mission statement, beginning with the first of the core terms: sustainable. A necessary attribute of sustainability is balance. Lopsided deals don’t tend to stay together over the long term. In order for the company to deliver value to its customers, there must be value to the company as well. Customers won’t remain loyal if they perceive that they are paying too much for what they receive. Customer Success teams that focus exclusively on the customers and ignore the fact that their own Company is also a customer to be served are needlessly endangering their future.

Synonyms for Proven: manifest, confiremd, demonstrable, substantiated, ratified, realThe second core word is Proven. It’s not enough to merely assure a customer or the company that they are receiving benefit from the relationship. The key is to get the customer to acknowledge and confirm that their desired value was in fact received to their satisfaction — and then to set the next measurable, achievable objective to be accomplished.

Synonyms for Value: Gain. profit, worth, advantage, good

Value is the third core term, and it, too, has a necessary attribute. To whom? In whose eyes? How measured? Many may say that the word “outcome” is interchangeable with “value,” but wise customer success professionals will look deeper. Why did the customer purchase the product? What is the motivation for continuing the relationship? There may be several layers to the buying decisions over time, and while not all of them may be immediately declared or acknowledged — all are very important, and must be discovered, analyzed and documented. That’s the ongoing work of the Customer Success team.

Value in the other customer’s eyes, the Senior Management team and the Board of Directors, is going to be expressed in monetary terms. What is the ROI for the amounts spent in establishing and maintaining the Customer Success group? That value likewise needs to be communicated on a regular basis, and also acknowledged by the customer as proven — together with the expectations for the next period.

Customer Success: From Mission to Profession

A necessary aspect of being a “Profession” is having something to profess, a core of shared values, ethics and skills aligned towards a common goal and objectives. With “To Increase Sustainable Proven Value” as a goal and firm foundation for individual and team performance metrics, organizational and operational strategies and tactics can be designed, implemented and tested. In the process, required skills and knowledge will be identified and acquired.

The Mission is the starting point. From that foundation, there are a number of key questions in the areas of Strategy, Process, People, and Technology that must be carefully considered and answered in order for authentic Customer Success groups to be built and managed. Those questions are listed in The Questions of Customer Success pages here on the Customer Success Association site. Underlying all of them is the reality of the modern business paradigm: Customer acquisition is only the very first step in what must be a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy.

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