Debunking faulty customer success beliefs with Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success evangelist at Gainsight
When I hear ‘customer success’, I can’t help but think ‘customer retention’, ‘managing churn’, and ‘making your users happy’.
Well, not only is it reductive, it can be quite the opposite.
Lincoln Murphy, Customer Success evangelist at Gainsight, decodes some of these misconceived beliefs on customer success. Before defining your customer success strategy, make sure you follow these guidelines. And remember, it all comes down to knowing your customers and their expectations.
Customer success starts with creating a top-notch customer support
Business hours or 24×7? By phone, chat, email, or social media? Or all of them?
Before setting up a best-in-class customer support and hiring dozens of well-intentioned customer heroes, question your customers’ needs.
A non-critical product doesn’t call for 24×7 support. Likewise, you don’t have to offer the same level of service to all of your customers.
“You don’t have to treat your customers the same way. First, you can’t financially. Second, they have different expectations. And third, they don’t all need to be treated the same way.”
Outline your customers’ needs, and then work backwards to define the type and level of customer support you can offer. But don’t forget that bankrupting your company by over-zealousness doesn’t match customer success.
Customer success is just about managing churn
The corollary to this axiom being: make your customers happy, make them fall in love with your company.
Once again, not really, or at least not in the B2B market.
“What we say is: ‘Don’t solve for happiness, solve for success.’ That might mean we have to push our customers to do what they need to do to achieve success, and that can be uncomfortable. Our job is to help our customers be successful, not make them happy. But, if in the process of pushing our customers toward success they say something about working through lunch, don’t be surprised if Gainsight throws a pizza party for the whole office. As a business, we solve for Success… happiness just comes along for the ride.”
For a true B2B SaaS product, churn is a great KPI to monitor your user base and the overall impact of your customer success strategy but is not enough. And I’m not even talking about unavoidable churn, such as customers who only needed your product for a limited time.
As a real Customer Success (super-)hero, you cannot bend to your customers’ every whim.
You may have to challenge your clients, to disagree with them, and even let them go (figuratively speaking) if you realize they came to you for the wrong reasons.
“The customer is not always right. If they’re doing something that is not working towards their desired outcome, we need to call them out on it. Sometimes, it means telling them we’re not the right fit for them. Sometimes it means telling them they need to get their act together. In any case, if they don’t achieve their desired outcome, they will blame us.”
Customer success requires you to talk to your customers
A CS hero’s dream is to read his users’ mind: understand their wishes and dreams, grasp their concerns, understand their issues… Reaching out to your users is a great way to get valuable feedback, but don’t fall in the trap!
First, not all feedbacks are relevant. Your customers may ask for features way outside of your strategy and roadmap.
But more importantly, don’t just reach out to get information from your users, they will feel like you’re wasting their time. Make sure you bring some value to your customers at the same time.
“Gainsight Chief Customer Officer Dan Steinman decided a few years ago to ban the check-up call – when you call your customers to ask ‘how is it going’. Nobody wants to get that call. Instead, we call and say ‘this is how you’re doing, let’s talk about it.’”
That’s where monitoring customers’ activity plays a key role. It allows us to identify issues or negative trends and then call proactively and discuss it with the customer.
Customer success is about bringing value to the customer faster
According to the Customer Success Association (which, by the way, is a great source of information on the topic), the mission of a Customer Success team can be defined like this:
“We build more value faster for your company and ours.”
CS-minded startups will focus a great deal on improving their onboarding process and bringing some value back to the user in the short term – or do they?
One again, it all come down to managing customer expectations. If your product brings value over time, don’t worry, you’re not doomed – yet. But don’t throw glitters to your users’ eyes, you have to warn them and drive them to getting this value.
“We talk a lot about Time to First Value (TtFV) and how to bring value faster to our users. But it doesn’t mean it has to be immediate”.
Gainsight is an enterprise product with complex set-ups – no self-service, Facebook or Twitter connect here.
“We work with our users to help them reach their desired outcome – and that’s how we manage churn.”
Customer success is about making your customers discover and use all your (super cool) features
I’m sure your product and all of its features are awesome, but customer-wise, they’re only awesome if they meet their needs.
Let’s say you are developing an ed-tech platform to help teachers manage homework and grades. An exercices-upload feature sounds great right? Not always, not if you’re talking to a sculpture teacher.
“Your users’ desired outcome is probably not using your product itself. If you don’t understand what your customers’ desired outcome is, why do you even exist.”
It may be harsh, but so true. Don’t send your last feature release shoutout to all of your users you’ll just dilute the message and seem less relevant to those who aren’t concerned. Instead, segment your user base as thinly as possible and select the right message for each group of users.
A big shout-out to Lincoln Murphy (follow him on Twitter) for sharing his insightful thoughts on the topic, and if you liked it, feel free to give us some social love!
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