Jeb Dasteel, August 2021
Customer Success is about three things: people, leadership, and change. In that order. There is a lot of writing available on the principles and mechanics of Customer Success. There is also quite an inventory at a conceptional level on customer-centered businesses and customer focus. This is great, but what’s often missing is how to develop our people, how to reframe leadership, and how to systematically apply change management strategies, all in the service of Customer Success.
What’s so compelling about this report is its focus on people, people development, training, and certification. There is clear recognition here that you can’t effectively develop Customer Success professionals by recruiting for a devotion to customers and on-the-job training.
It’s all too easy to lose sight of what Customer Success really is: people helping people successfully deploy our products, helping them attain the business outcomes they seek, enabling them to quantify business value, and creating great brand advocates as a result. When done well, Customer Success can consistently exceed expectations, in large part by the power of the subscription business model and Customer Success. These two things are inexorably related. Even organizations that don’t actually sell and distribute their products as-a-service are influenced by the subscription economy. There is a reason why Customer Success has blossomed at the same time as so many businesses are moving sales and distribution to the subscription model and delivering anything-as-a-service.
In 2011 Marc Andreessen famously said that “software is eating the world.” There is no question that was true then—and still is. But it’s not just software. It’s AI, data science, the ever-increasing speed and affordability of processing, and network efficiencies. It’s also the subscription model. By extension, Customer Success is eating the world. Nearly everything can be purchased and delivered by subscription in both B2C and B2B environments. These subscriptions afford the buyer the ability to tie their business objectives and value realized to exactly what they buy, the capabilities they use, and how those capabilities affect their business operations. This applies just as readily to buying a subscription for brushing and flossing your teeth as it does for large organizations running their supply chains and financials.
When you line up your spending to a specific business outcome, you also compel the seller to constantly innovate ways to help you realize even more outcomes. This is the hallmark of Customer Success.
All of this is entirely about people. It’s our people that we engage with our customers’ people, so they can be successful in their jobs and in making their companies successful. People create the value that Customer Success is ultimately about. So, the emphasis in this report on professional development, training, and certification is spot-on. Our people need to be constantly exposed to new ideas, approaches, and new technologies. Our customers readily see the value in this every day that we engage with them to deploy, adopt, and realize value from their investments.
If ever there were a perfect moment for a call to action, it’s now: Train your people. Create ongoing professional development for your people. Encourage and sponsor certification programs. There is no such thing as Customer Success without People Success.
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Thank you to Rick Adams and Peter Armaly for engaging me so I could help with this just a bit.