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Starting out as a customer success manager – first 10 things to do

I was asked by a new colleague who is just two months into his role, what advice I could provide. Here it is in a short, sharp list of 10 things to focus on. I’ve tried to make it generic since there are some things specific to the company I work for that I could not mention here (disclosure).

Follow the numbers

Because everything is measurable and measured these days, especially in the customer success field, this is a natural starting point.

1. Find out what metrics the company use to measure customer success effectiveness and how your performance will be managed in this regard.

2. Find out what tools are used to track your impact and outcomes against these metrics and master them. These will most often be transactional and analytics or reporting based solutions focused on either revenue and/or usage or telemetry-based metrics. You will find out more about this after doing your homework from point 1.

3. In addition to the tools, find out what will help you achieve the numbers in terms of processes and supporting resources. Things like content, funding activities or programs that drive customer activity, etc.

4. Find out who will help you achieve them internally. Identify top performers and what makes them tick and why they perform well, i.e. why the company has rewarded them for being top performers based on quota attainment. This also refers to supporting or complimentary functions like sales, product engineering, etc.

5. Find out which customers will help you achieve those numbers, an internal quantitative assessment. Hopefully the company will have done an analysis of which customers have the highest propensity to renew, upsell, cross sell and have the money (budget) and intention to invest in your product and company.

Forget the numbers

Because we are too often obsessed with measurement. It can dumb you down and make you myopic (great observations in an interview with renowned management thinker and professor Henry Mintzberg).

6. Understand your customers, their business, wants and desires – do your own customer qualification work not just what was done internally under point 5. This is an external qualitative assessment.

7. Prioritise customers based on intent to use your product – nothing to do with numbers. Its a feel for how engaged they are and how well bought in they are to your product and company. For this you should also look internally, at your culture and how well it aligns with the customer’s.

8. Identify the key stakeholders. These are the decision makers, the champions or advocates (for your product and company). If you don’t find any, you will either have to decide to develop them because the numbers justify it or deprioritise this customer. Also look at how open your organisation and the customers are to open collaboration and transparency – if connection and knowledge is hoarded, this is not a good sign.

9. Identify the business outcomes they are trying to achieve; okay numbers may come into this but think about what problems they are trying to solve and needs they are trying to meet and how your organisation and product/service can support these. Think innovatively and use something like the Jobs to be Done lens.

10. Focus on value that you, your product and your company can bring in trying to meet those unmet needs or problems they are trying to solve. Again, numbers could come into it. But think more creatively and innovatively and bring time into it. What is the customer’s plan for creating value and where do you and your organisation and its product/services fit in – think in horizons – 1-3 years.

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The employee customer experience connection – 6 reasons to focus

With a world that is so binary I’m not surprised there isn’t more attention on this topic. People are either in the one camp, or the other, mostly. There are some, and I consider myself one, that straddle both sides. Here is why I think this is going to become increasingly important and a key differentiator for businesses if focused on properly.

First a little elaboration on my interest and role. I am watching a trend that eventually will become a report on the subject – more on that and other writing here: Employee Customer Experience Connection.

As for my role, I work as a customer success professional in the employee experience industry. Okay, the industry has only just recently identified itself thus and only in part, but effectively that is what its about.

At Microsoft where I work (disclosure), a massive part of its business, the Microsoft 365 part, is about employee or personal productivity. Formally, it’s a “productivity cloud that delivers innovative and intelligent experiences, rich organizational insights, and a trusted platform to help people and organizations get more done”.

The employee experience part that I am now heavily involved in has just recently been emphasised through a product called Microsoft Viva.

But my point is, the majority of my work has been (in the last decade or more) with people in companies concerned with helping their employees get more done for the success of the organisation. This ultimately comes through being successful with customers.

Why the employee customer experience connection matters

  1. Co-dependency. You can spend all the time in the world creating the best employee experience but if you don’t know if or how it impacts on the customer experience and outcomes, you are missing the bottom line. Customers are where the rubber hits the road and revenue and profits are earned – without this being optimised, you wont have employees for long. The rub is, it’s through employees you achieve this 🤔
  2. Data insights gold. There are tons of insights to be had on either side of the equation but if you don’t map it at the intersection, and there should be no reason why you cant, it’s wasted. At this intersection, you find the holy grail. If employee experience is the input side, the customer experience is the output side and how to optimise this, the ideal.
  3. Culture matters. What you do inside is reflected outside and the way you treat people is a linear relationship with the way employees treat customers. Company culture creation is at the forefront of that. Culture efforts are normally focused internally because it is within your control to a greater degree. Company culture impacts on and influences the culture that customer feel and lives too, so best you get it right.
  4. Proximity matters. A great example of this is the retail industry which I recently wrote about: 3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience. Retail stores that give an employee a good experience have low turnover, and, in addition, they have a much better experience. And the firms that focus on this show higher profitability and growth. It doesn’t mean this proximity cannot be achieved in the digital realm, it’s just that in this context and for this industry, the physical experience has greater impact.
  5. Employees as customers and vice versa. You have to keep in mind that outside of your company, your employees and customers operate in both realms and get to experience good or bad encounters as a result of them. If an employee has a great experience as a customer with another company and comes back to yours to realise it’s terrible in comparison, they may not stay around for too long.
  6. Common purpose. Customers and employees alike have aspirations they strive to achieve, aligned with a sense of purpose. This cannot really be separated or compartmentalised. So you need to think about the vision of your company and what you are setting out to achieve and how you are bringing value to the world in the context of both groups alike.
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Less sales people more info – B2B buyers have spoken

The featured image in this post is based on an ironic state of affairs. Salesforce, arguably the best known CRM platform on the market, first started out life positioning itself as the “no software” company (if you’re in the SaaS business you’ll know what it means). The irony is that a recent piece of Gartner research is now indicating sellers are no longer required, the very people Salesforce’s platform is used to support.

Well not so much that sellers are not required but that buyers are relying on them less and less. Also marketing’s traditional role in building pipeline to tee up sellers for direct engagement in a “serial” or linear manner is being disrupted.

This came to me yesterday via an article published in the Harvard Business Review: Traditional B2B Sales and Marketing Are Becoming Obsolete. That article is based on original Gartner research.

The article was heavy on statistics but not visually so. I decided to pull some out and focus on the things I found interesting.

One of the mind boggling statistics which is actually a status of pre pandemic views is encircled. You can imagine that now, post pandemic, it is even lower as personal interactions comes under pressure and more activities are conducted online.

The other mind boggling stat is the one at the bottom and how that is even higher for younger buyers who are going to increasingly bring this view to the fore.

All this points to sellers having an increasingly hard time getting in front of buyers and companies having to focus on amplifying the ways buyers now increasingly inform their decisions as the article points out.

Something else to focus on – customer success

In place of the question mark in the featured image and in addition to the excellent recommendations in the HBR article focused on getting buyers the right info, this is what I suggest B2B vendors also focus on:

  1. Customer Successes that can be captured and shared with other prospective customers. So in other words, customer advocacy. Whatever form that takes (online stories, case studies or webinars with customers) it needs to be super authentic and succinct. Having the mechanism behind this requires a customer success and marketing operation driving these things – something similar to what I describe in this trend I am watching: Customer Success Marketing and Scale.
  2. Customer Success itself as an organisation, profession and operation is very much geared to ensuring renewals and drive upsells and cross sells from existing customers. So my suggestion would be to focus on getting this right and a huge customer base that already exists would be properly leveraged and protected against churn. The art of doing that is for another post, or read some of my other posts in this category.
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3 reasons retailers are leading at the intersection of employee and customer experience

As the featured image suggests, this is a thought rocket, some sensemaking on the fly – essentially some quick thoughts on a recent development, announcement, etc.

This post is related to a trend I am watching: Employee Customer Experience Connection. My thinking is captured in the title, in essence. It came to me on discovering the video from Samsung after which I have also added some additional thoughts:

This is really inspiring and makes total sense. It’s well within the realm of the possible so I don’t think this is just marketing fluff.

I dug a little deeper and found this article: Here’s how retailers can improve employee and customer experiences.

So clearly the hero’s of this video are Scandit technology and the Galaxy XCover Pro. But Microsoft Teams on which I work a lot (disclosure) also cracks a nod in the article.

That makes total sense and Microsoft is doing a lot of work with retailers on this – check this video out showing how the venerable institution that is Marks & Spencer in the UK, is using Teams to support their frontline workers.

Here’s why retailers are leading

  1. Frontline workers often kept things afloat and profitable during the pandemic and are the face of employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX). It’s where the rubber hits the road. Frontline workers in retail (unlike in manufacturing) are interacting with customers all the time – there really does have to be a meeting of these two experience connections as I have posited in the trend that I am watching – see infographic below which I created for this. The Samsung video really illustrates this superbly for this industry specifically.
  2. In 2022, labour shortages in general but acutely for this industry will force organisations to take a closer look at the intersection of their experience data. They will need to optimise these experiences to wring out every possible efficiency in an highly pressured and competitive environment – those that do so will win. The way to do it is through insight as to how the company is delivering through and for these two critical stakeholder groups – employee and customer.
  3. Employees want what customers already have – consumer grade experiences. And nowhere is it more evident than in retail and especially when online shopping has also exploded. So consumers have become expert at using digital to enhance their shopping experience. Employees had better be up to the same level and need/want to be – often customers in store will confront employees with the fruits of their expertise and knowledge. Internal employee tools are often not up to scratch but that is changing – see the M&S experience and how vendors like Microsoft are beefing up their support to the retail industry.

I’ve also written about the retail industry in a special section of my latest trend report – you can find out more about that and get the report by hitting the button:

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Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start

Imagine not having to employ any sales or customer success people or adopt any of the tactics they use – because the product sells itself or gets utilised by users without any help. I’m being facetious, but in a nutshell that is the promise of product led growth.

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Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity

I work in the business of dealing with customers questions on Microsoft 365 all the time (disclosure), either directly or indirectly. This is part of a series of posts where I share them if they can be of help to others. Where I can of course and naturally, not just the questions but the answers too. All questions and answers strive to respect both sides sensitivities (parts will have been redacted and/or anonymised) and the main topic is covered in each post title.

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Beyond onboarding – growth hacking adoption of your product with customers

NOTE: Enterprise technology and Microsoft 365 (M365) customers are predominantly the context for this post but hopefully it is still useful more broadly. In this context, I define onboarding as the set of activities related to the initial provisioning and orientation of a technology for users. It should ensure that users have seamless access and knowledge of what to do when first logging in and orienting themselves with the product. Just some of the basic things to consider:

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Marketing sales and customer success for 360 degree effectiveness

Click to enlarge

In line with the trend I’m watching and some recent work I’ve been doing working with colleagues in sales and marketing, I had some brief additional thoughts around this topic. More on the trend here: Customer Success Marketing and Scale.

These thoughts in the form of a DanelDoodle are a little heavier on the sales side. I do work very closely with sales people because I end up landing with what they have sold so it’s in my interest. I also want them to do a better job because ultimately, especially in SaaS businesses, its all interconnected. After I have done my job and they come back to renew or upsell the customer, they will expect that I have done the right thing to make that easier for them. So its a two way street.

I think the doodle is fairly self explanatory and I am using it to share my thoughts with colleagues on how we can work better together. Maybe its of use to you.

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State of advertising and company customer interactions 2021

My background in advertising makes this an interesting topic and you will hopefully soon see where the company customer interactions come in. I started out in the ad industry in the 90’s but left it before the turn of the century. My reasoning: the writing on the wall which indicated a gradual decline and irrelevance for the practice, especially at the onset of the technological revolution that was the world wide web. Twenty years later it’s worth pondering where things stand and if I was right in any way.

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SenseMaking – The Customer Success Superpower

SenseMaking is not just for those in the Customer Success business. That post links to a report on skills of the future and SenseMaking is very much one of them, for all future workers. In an increasingly complex and noisy world you can see why. For Customer Success it makes even more sense.

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The employee customer experience connection – fundamentals

Here is an infographic with some supporting source material and an industry overview for context if you want it. Here too is where my interest and expertise in this space lie. This post is intended to dig a little deeper on the subject. Check out the diagram which captures a little more detail than I’ve gone into before and then the notes to elaborate – because its time to level up 💯

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Update on As a Service Trends

Sources for image gallery plus other related articles:

Culture: The Biggest Challenge in Getting the Subscription Model Right

MaaS transit: The business of mobility as a service

The first era of SaaS ends: ‘Best of breed’ was prelude to ‘systems of delivery’

Smart Growth: the Case for Measuring Brain Capital

Customer Experience Redefined: Insights From Chief Customer Officers on the Frontlines

Top 10 IT & Technology Buzzwords You Won’t Be Able To Avoid In 2021

Cisco launches Cisco Plus, a step toward network as a service

Artificial Intelligence as a Service Market Current Development, Growth Rate by Manufacturers – Microsoft, Google, Bigml, IBM, Amazon Web Services, SAP, FICO, SAS Institute, Baidu, Intel, Salesforce

How Subscription Platforms Have Become Revenue-Generating, Real-Time Fan Clubs

Sustainable Fashion: Where the Circular Economy meets the Subscription Economy

Subscription and Usage Management Technology Needs for the Modern Economy

Be more Zoom! COVID’s ‘wake-up call’ to business will fuel Subscription Economy growth, says Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo

Which Streaming Service Has the Most Subscriptions?

In the As-a-Service economy, ‘subscription’ without ‘service’ just won’t fly

Council Post: The New AAS Economy: Why The “As A Service” Sector Is Booming

Can the Subscription Economy Save Financial Services?

Employee customer experience connection – infographic

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State of a category – customer success 2021

I’ve been in this space formally for almost 10 years now. I say formally because I’ve been doing the work a lot longer, just under another name. I’ve been passionate about it all these years and still am but after that long, you’ve got to question things. I’ve written on the state of customer success twice before, in 2017 and 2018. This is not such a post since they were in depth pieces based on the annual Pulse events run by the category builder Gainsight. This is just a simple temperature check, for my own sanity if nothing else.

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