Customer Experience, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

Click to enlarge and view separately

I’ve not had a chance to post for a while and there has been a fair bit of activity in the space so I have quite a bit to share.

I have also run a few numbers through the data visualisation machine and come up with the infographic at left – feel free to use and share.

So herewith some of the best posts from recent weeks.

New SaaS Delivery Models Require New Customer Success Delivery Models. A solid piece on how Customer Success roles need to change in the maturing SaaS space. Sticking with the SaaS space, this article does a really good job of explaining how to manage your vendor if you use a SaaS product: How to manage SaaS Vendors in the Subscription Economy. And for some other really good posts on these themes:

New entrants to the space

These include:

This collection of announcements above 👆 shows the sheer breadth of industries effected by the As a Service trend – nothing is off limits.

Industry specific news

There were a batch of articles and new research:

Trend indicators

Here is a good summary of the trend which includes commentary on all the different industries being effected by the subscription economy: Subscription Services Draw Companies Closer To Customers. As with so many of the posts that I reference to the subscription economy, this one points to its darling Zuora, as you can see from the source of the chart. But their standing at the top of the subscription economy heap (as a company that powers the economy) may be under threat as new entrants join the fray: Stripe billing launches in Europe to power subscription companies across the continent.

There are other signs of a growing consolidation and integration in the Subscription Economy and Customer Success industries with the announcement by Medallia of their Strikedeck acquisition. Also Customer Success leader Gainsight’s announcement of the broadening of their portfolio into a “Customer Cloud”.

Customer Experience, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

Nuggets from the last few weeks. If you have any similar announcements, reports or good articles, please share in a comment as I’m collecting them for a new eBook / trend report 😁

Customer Experience, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

As I think more about this whole space and track the developments in it with posts like this, I’m trying to envisage dynamics of the perfect business in it.

That gave rise to the DanelDoodle at left. Just some fun and very quick so not sure they are absolutely right. I’ll get a better feel for this as I complete my new trend report / eBook on the subject and it may become clearer and a little more scientific.

Anyway onto latest developments which is always the purpose of these posts in the form of announcements, articles, etc.

If you have any As a Service examples please share in a comment as I’m collecting them :)

Customer Experience, Customer Success

Update on As a Service Trends

When Ikea considers changing its business model then you know something is afoot. The big news this last week was Ikea thinking about making certain items available on a subscription basis.

Good article on that here where the screenshot at left is from.

It’s looking at doing so on a trial basis so this will be a very interesting one to keep track of and see how things progress.

Circular economy

That article linked to above points to the concept of a circular economy which I was not even aware of but should be in the context of the As a Service trend that this post is about. The pasted paragraph below from the article says it all:

When Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport remodeled a terminal, it didn’t buy light bulbs; instead, the company signed a contract for “light as a service” from Signify, the company formerly known as Philips Lighting. Signify owns the physical lights, giving it the incentive to make products that last as long as possible and that can be easily repaired and recycled if anything breaks. The service is one example of a shift to a circular economy model. 

iPhone as a Service

I’m currently on Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Programme which in my view is its foray into the as a Service model. I captured how they are getting a little more tactical in my last Update on As a Service trends. Other than the obvious benefits they are targeting, that tactic shows how important it is to start treating your customers that sign up to a recurring financial commitment, with white gloves, so come time to renew, they do.

Volvo leading the race?

I cannot speak as intimately for Volvo’s execution on their subscription and as a Service promise but they are certainly talking a good talk. By all accounts they are struggling to keep up with demand. I’ve already written about my recent experience buying a car, which is all but a subscription service except in name. That experience is definitely not firing on all cylinders 😬

Customer Success, Sense Making

The role of innovation in customer success

Customer Success activities are maturing. I have been doing the job since at least 2012 and have seen the profession go through fundamental changes to the point where, to succeed now, you need to be innovating.

I started writing about the role of customer success in relation to customer experience and the subscription economy almost 18 months ago in this post: Customer experience, the subscription economy and 10 ways success teams will make you win.

Just in the time since that post things have changed. There is a constant need to update thinking and refocus. Innovation is be the tip of the iceberg in many ways.

Icebergs

Click to enlarge

The iceberg is not just a turn of phrase. It plays a prominent role in my thinking. I’ve captured other elements using the analogy of an iceberg in the past: The customer success and experience iceberg. These focus on the relationship between customer success and customer experience. They also focus more on the input and output of the two activities.

The iceberg is a useful metaphor and you will see me using it constantly. Customer success as a practice and overarching philosophy should be built and grown to a point where you are mature enough that constant innovation becomes the standard. In the featured image of this post you should see how innovation forms part of the tip of these three elements: build, grow, innovate.

Innovation

Innovation has always been a part of the equation for me and you should see that from the post I wrote 18 months ago and linked above – here is the section covering it. The three subsections below also still also hold true.

  • Automation and AI
  • As a Service
  • SaaS 2.0

Innovation is also at the apex of the maturity model I developed so its fitting to be doubling down on it: The Customer Success Team Maturity Model. The growing and building aspects remain important as they also form the basis for my mentoring.

Outside of the maturity model which relates to activities within the organisation, the profession has reached a point of maturity that means doing customer success well is not enough to differentiate you.

And as all industries face the growing power of the customer and all companies focus on meeting customer demands better, so innovation that drives better customer experiences becomes key.

As a Service Trend Report

The As a Service part which is listed as a subsection of innovation in customer success above will actually be the focus of a new trend report. It will incorporate customer success practices and innovation in this as well as many other practices.

It will also cover innovation as a whole, insofar as practices that are successful in one industry can be adopted by other industries to innovate. Find out more about the report by hitting the button below.

Other considerations

Innovation is a key focus area but as part of this, other considerations need to be borne in mind, within customer success as well as the broader As a Service trend. I’ll cover them in the trend report as well.

  1. Employee Experience. Addressing this leads to good customer experience – there is a powerful connection, see my daneldoodle below. I see the impact of the connection in the work I do and mentor on every day.
  2. Role of Leadership. This is critical in setting the tone in terms of mindset and culture which is so necessary for success with customers and creating great experiences. I will also cover trends in the creation of the Chief Customer Officer or other senior roles like it that indicate the growing importance of and focus on the customer.
Customer Success

Update on As a Service trends

In my new eBook / trend report I will cover the As a Service trend (see point 9 here for more on that) and the role customer success plays in it. This post and others that follow will document examples of where I see companies exhibiting behaviours of this trend.

I first wrote about them in these two separate blog posts below:

I’ll also capture screenshots and include commentary in a daneldoodle as I have done below – click on each to enlarge.

Customer Success

State of Customer Success 2018

I attended Pulse Europe (the 4th) on the 8-9th November, an event run by Gainsight, a Customer Success (CS) technology vendor. They run the larger, main event in the US and I had the pleasure of attending last year where I captured the State of Customer Success 2017. So this is a timely update with a local, regional flavour.

Below are some general observations, main takeaways and then I captured notes from the sessions I attended (including my spin on things).

Chatting to the GM of the European office of Gainsight, Dan Steinman, I concluded that not only were Gainsight in the CS technology business but also in education. He agreed.

By that we didn’t mean the services part of Gainsight where they do offer education in support of their technology (see Gainsight University). I mean the education of an industry, a nascent one that needs it. It’s in their interest of course, to grow the category and also the industry within which it operates, mostly Enterprise Software [as a Service]. 

We also discussed how other industries could benefit from learning about the CS business, like car manufactures which I have written about before: The connected car vision is missing a few connections

I digress, the point is Gainsight take a leading role in informal education and for helping grow and share learning between individuals, companies, for the category and beyond. In this respect they are very successful and the event achieved that aim too.

Main take aways:

1. Tighter integration between product and CS, the move to self service and broader alignment

This was a theme driven not just by Gainsight on the back of their acquisition of Aptrinsic (more here). I’ve been seeing this more and more and driving it in my work and it is definitely a growing trend.

It encompasses two elements:
(1) greater collaboration between product and CS teams on high touch interactions with and insights from customers and,
(2) the built in onboarding, help and product adoption features in products that drive end user self service.

This trend is possibly the most evident but there is also the need, oft talked about, of greater alignment within customer service oriented teams and with sales and marketing teams.

2. Lack of innovation

I found at this event and on the whole that there are no real innovations being driven or presented other than in company products themselves (point above). I am writing an eBook / trend report about this and in the work I do mentoring startups and it is a main pillar I stress.

I think in an industry or category often struggling to find its way (see next point) we will have to do more to innovate and increase the impact of customer success activities. There is so much scope since the customer is at the forefront of everything and technology is changing so much and so fast. But innovation needs to come to business models, processes and people too.

3. Hype Cycle

The chart below was presented by Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight in one of his keynotes. Billed as a maturity chart, you could also easily see this as a hype cycle. I’ve been through the early curve twice in companies and seen it happen in others. I’ve also seen it happen with many technologies which the cycle most often refers to. I got an impression that as an industry we are in a trough of disillusionment.

Perhaps I’ve been in CS too long and lack the starry eyed optimism of a newbie but I’m saying this from the perspective of what I hear. I hear too much justification, disagreement on the function and its impact, arguments on who owns the customer, fights with other disciplines like customer experience, etc.

It just feels like the conversations are typically of the kind you find in the trough of disillusionment. It’s also a period characterised by lack of innovation as mentioned. That’s not  a bad thing. If I’m right, I’m looking forward to the slope of enlightenment for the industry as a whole because on this, I’m a true believer 🦄 🚀

Day 1 – 8 November ’18

Keynote – CS trends

This is a list that Nick Mehta, CEO of Gainsight ran through:

  1. CS drives sales. Prospects talk to customers and advocacy is key. So if you ensure customers are successful, they will act as willing reference points and that will help close deals. I totally agree with this and think it’s an undervalued KPI (from the vendor point of view).
  2. Company-wide priority. Top down involvement, endorsement and integration into operations is critical for CS success. Having been  a part of two reorganisations because this was not done right from the start, I absolutely concur. Where CS fits is still being debated though and the dust has yet to settle on that. More on this later.
  3. Career success. CS is one of the twenty most promising jobs of 2018. Growth in Chief Customer Officer’s was talked about and the fact they are primed to be the next CEO’s with some early examples quoted.
  4. Prescriptive. There’s a greater drive to commonality, standardisation and bench-marking. The periodic table by Gainsight below is an attempt to define this. With this lacking in many of the organisations I’ve worked in and with, it’s going to be a challenge to define for an industry but I agree it’s critically needed.
  5. CS movement. The growing attendance at Pulse conferences and book sales was pointed to as evidence of a growing CS movement. A little self serving perhaps but I can definitely feel an uptick in tempo over the years. The jobs market is also an obvious indicator and aside from CS being a most promising job, the number of openings I’m seeing is rising almost exponentially.
Periodic Table of Customer Success Elements – by Gainsight

CS in EU

  • Pockets of activity mentioned like London, Berlin, etc. For me they echo the startup centres in EU where often the bigger, better SaaS companies reside and thus CS naturally follows.
  • EU is learning and following fast and a couple of stand out companies were quoted as evidence of that – see next point (in brackets is what they are excelling in):
  • Slido (Voice of Customer); Intelliflo (ROI); ReviewPro (tech touch + human, e.g. 3 mails following sign up – if no open, human contacts); Signavio (customer health); Attraqt (exec alignment/sponsorship – internal); Response Tap (success planning); Workfront (risk management); Gainsight (stakeholder alignment – external).

CS and Product

This was presented by Travis Kaufman, VP Product Growth, Aptrinsic on the back of Gainsight’s acquisition of Aptrinsic. Ultimately its a reflection of the strategic direction Gainsight believes they need to take to grow the market and no doubt themselves. There are some compelling arguements.

  • Sales and Marketing have done it (quotes about Salesforce’s acquisition and integration of several marketing platforms into their offering), now CS and product need to. Hardly compelling evidence but some other drivers were mentioned which do make sense.
  • Driven by
    — Data. Drive new opportunities based on usage data.
    — Scale onboarding by extending the journey into the app.
    — Influence product roadmap based on data not opinions
  • Product is way to scale CS engagement for high volume, low touch accounts. I’ve written about this multiple times here and here.
  • Feature / user feedback built into the product and covering onboarding as well as ongoing use will expand.
  • Sales and marketing consolidation will be followed in the CS / product world is the firm prediction – I’m rooting for this outcome.

Accenture analysis

A talk on why CS is the new growth mantra which is based on the main C-Suite challenge around delivering profitable growth. 500 executives were surveyed for the insights amongst 10 brands: Microsoft Azure/O365, Tableau, Symantec, Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, Cisco, Workday, Dell-EMC, Marketo.

  • A customer’s level of trust in a brand is the single most important 
    factor in a renewal decision (55% said so). Trust is the #1 influencer and counts no matter how long a customer has been buying a product or service. 
  • First impressions count – deployment (installation, activation and setup) is the most important CS activity. It is 2 times more significant in determining whether a customer will renew. A bit of confusion on their part here. As pointed out in various other presentations over the two days, I would separate out CS management from deployment activities and for me its much more about how you launch to end users: Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform.
  • Longer term customers value access to self service tools and the ease of renewal – 73% think its important and it can have a 20% influence on renewal decisions. I love this since it validates a lot of my thinking: Role of Self Service in Customer Success.

Must win moments for a CS team

By the author of The Three Value Conversations: How to Create, Elevate, and Capture Customer Value at Every Stage of the Long-Lead Sale. This presentation was about a messaging approach for customer renewals, price increases and upsells. It was part based on a quote referenced by Nick Mehta (see screenshot) that renewals are really resells. It also emphasised the need to tell a better story. Great example of Malcom Gladwell’s Tipping Point book success – he wasn’t the originator of the theory, Morton Grodzins was. But Gladwell popularised the theory through better story telling. Other points:

  • Selling (acquisition) stories need to be different to staying (retention) stories because the latter reinforces preference stability as opposed to disrupting change / status quo bias.
  • At point of renewal, there is no sense selling on new features/functions which many sales people do, but rather on reinforcement.
  • Some really good scientific and evidence based reasoning (neuro science, behavioural economics, social psychology and decision science) on why good storytelling works. Totally get this having done several sessions on storytelling before – key CS skill I would say.
  • Focused around the customer retention path post sales (why stay), but also answering questions around why the customer should pay more and evolve (expand)
Customer Deciding Journey

Success Planning

ResponseTap and Micro Focus went through some of their common approaches.

  • No common view of desired customer outcomes between sales, deployment, onboarding, etc.
  • Single source of truth needed – one document
  • 3 time lines created for a plan (short, medium, long)
  • Everyone agrees on common outcomes before plan is approved – sales, CS, support, etc,
  • Benefits/Learning:
    — Having a common customer journey between departments
    — Tracking NPS at different stages is useful and should cover various journey phases: sales, onboarding, then service/support and CSM
    — CS should review internally feeding progress back to the organisation
    — Improved cross team collaboration and decision making
    — Better renewal rates after implementing

Self Service

This applies mostly to the support function and was presented by someone from Insided.

  • Most customers don’t want to contact companies for support (72%, Forrester) so important to address well from a self service point of view.
  • Free trials and freemium customers also need support
  • Automation is not the answer for everything. 7 out of 10 interactions with chat bots fail.
  • Including community responses in help centre search responses is good practice – Google quoted as example.
  • Peer to peer answers are viewed as more trustworthy. Best is for the company to focus on company and FAQ material and the community, the long tail of other queries. Coincidentally I just came across another research based post that bears this out: Why Online Communities Are The New B2B Superpower
    — From the post: online communities are the third most common digital engagement channel for post-purchase customer feedback or support (after email and website).
  • Support or help in product is best and voice queries are rising (digital assistants).

Scaling user onboarding but keeping a personal touch

Again this was presented by Travis Kaufman, VP Product Growth, Aptrinsic. I agree with this approach from a scale, tech touch point of view. The only problem I see with it is the potential over emphasis on features. This can be a distraction from the all important emphasis on business outcomes which should never be forgotten.

  • Most of the user experience happens within the product and so it’s a good reason to focus on this which I totally agree with.
  • Onboard users to aha moments – key features you want to emphasise.
  • Onboard to new features as they release
  • Re-engage users to complete critical tasks
  • Product teams need to know what feature adoption rates are and also what the qualitative feedback behind that use is. Work with CSM’s to leverage this and drive or accentuate further use. 
  • Derive personas for specific use cases. Ask in qualitative surveys or deduce from the use of a feature and who you intended it for.

The quest to be LAER efficient

From the President and CEO of TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) J.B. Wood, a great overview of the industry as a whole. Also touching on the broader opportunity with XaaS (Everything as a Service). The TSIA is an association that works with the top 400 tech companies to understand what they are doing and what impact that has.

  • LAER: Land Adopt Expand Renew. Where XaaS meets profitability – see operating framework in slide below.
  • 5 key markers on the path to LAIR effectiveness which is comprised of 4 stages – see this also in slides below
  • Monetisation of CS falls in the effective phase. Allows for investment in better CS activities
  • Point made that Cost of Sales and Marketing (COSM) is too high in cloud companies because customer acquisition costs (CAC), customer expansion costs (CEC) and customer retention costs (CRC) are based on activities being driven by traditional sales and marketing teams.
  • If the CS org were to manage activities covering the latter two it would drive down COSM. Fair point and this lead to a lot of discussion around the CS org owning renewals, upsells and expansions – the standard discussion that always comes up and was covered in other talks/discussions. On this topic I feel like the verdict is still out even after years of discussion. See also Nick Mehta’s point on this from his keynote on Day 2.

CEO’s view of CS

A panel discussion between CEO’s of Futrli, Precursive and TaskRay facilitated by the CCO of Box, Jon Herstein. All had robust CS functions so naturally the input was mostly positive.

  • What can you do to make CS successful? Spend time with the team. Understand the problems customers and CS org experiences. Get quantitative/qualitative feedback on ideal CS function then build it. Get people to think like customers – spend time there.
  • How to avoid silo’d CS function and ensure cross company accountability? Success hacks across functions. Have hypothesis that will achieve CS outcome then try prove. Non traditional customer facing roles spending time with customers, e.g. engineers. Love the hacking idea – I’ve written about this before: Success Hacking
  • Where will you invest? Automation of tasks so CS can focus on value work. Love it – say no more.
  • Any questions from VC’s around CS? A resounding YES around what is being done and how. They want insights into CS like scope of effort, ration of CS individual to customers, on what, etc.

Day 2 – 9 November ’18

Keynote, Nick Mehta, CEO Gainsight

Rumination on the raison d’etre of the CS org and where and how in the organisation it works best based on Gainsight experience. All makes total sense and as it should be for now.

  • Started on the debate over CS being a role or strategy. If not solved there’s a danger we lose the initiative. It should and can be both.
  • The CS charter: CS (Customer Success) = CX (Customer Experience) + CO (Customer Outcomes). CS > CSM (Customer Success Manager), in other words, Customer Success encompasses CSM’s and many other areas besides.
  • Lessons from Gainsight:
    CS and Renewals separated at Gainsight. Different skills and tasks and difficult to do both well.
    CS and Account Management also separated. Expansion happens off the back of adoption, outcomes and different audience relationships that CS build.
    CS and Services. Handover opportunities and knowledge for skilled teams from CS to Services to implement deep work and methodology (project management).
    CS and Marketing. Building the right outcomes and thus advocates happens in CS, formal references and stories developed further by marketing.
    CS and Support. Strategic, exec stakeholder and impact work is for CS. Technical skills, process and speedy results should be covered by Support.
    CS and Product. They have so much common ground: adoption breadth and depth; customer feedback, etc. Too often they have different ways to measure and silo’d thinking. Again example of sales and marketing and need to combine CS and Product which Gainsight are doing.
    Exec team and CS. CS provides insights to customers, execs can amplify, drive resources, decisions and problem solving, etc.

Sirius Decisions: B2B alignment and impact on business performance

Sirius Decision are a research and advisory company focused on demand generation and performance measurement. They presented findings from various bits of research.

  • B2B Revenue Engine expectations have been increasing, challenging organisations to drive stronger alignment across customer success, sales, marketing and product teams.
  • The historical view of alignment predominantly around the buyer is no longer sufficient to drive growth and profitability rates ahead of the market and the competition.
  • Customer engagement is one of the six critical areas of alignment that B2B revenue leaders must focus on.
  • Achieving and maintaining alignment within customer engagement initiatives requires a roadmap to realise the business impact it can deliver to the organisation.
  • Engagement scoring (for all the various customer interactions) highly sought after by CMO’s

Customer Success at Cisco

Alistair Wildman, Head of customer experience EMEA was interviewed on stage. This is what he shared after being there and in his position for 6 months.

  • They call it customer experience which includes CS. Covers other functions: support, service, etc. So it’s the whole post sales experience.
  • Hardware has been wrapped up into services subscriptions model
  • 80% of post sales efforts happen through partners – they are key in strategy. Not like Microsoft apparently although not true. Good analogy of a pit stop, one tyre is changed by Cisco, the other three by partners.
  • They have account based CS which is a direct engagement model and technical CS which will work with partners on customer challenges.
  • Data is key. They are still in the process of building dashboards to understand usage which they think will take 2-3 years.
  • Lessons from Salesforce (where Alistair worked previously): Hire for skill not for count. Senior people that know how to do the job. Develop skills through customer engagement simulations with product for training.

Data science at Gainsight

I attended this session thinking I was going to get insights into the cutting edge practices adopted by Gainsight but it was more like a basic intro to data science. Here are my brief notes before I left the session.

  • We are heading into the age of predictability which is where we want to be – anticipating trends, heading off negative ones, leveraging positive ones. 
  • Tasks to consider are: identify the nature of your data sources; quantify and get a score for your data outputs, understand and plot maturity stages, move up the scale.
  • Prescriptive analytics understands causes for outcomes and prescribes solutions upfront. Needs AB testing of playbooks. This is the kind of deep level insight I was hoping for but we merely skimmed the surface.

How do VCs see CS

Joyce Liu (Dawn Capital), Paul Morrisey (Battery Ventures) and Stephen Millard (Notion Capital) were interviewed by Igor Beckerman (CFO Gainsight).

  • Usage and adoption is a clear priority early on. Value comes later. Customer advocates seen as important and so too Customer Advisory Board’s (CAB).
  • Metrics in the boardroom. Predictability and causality key. What are targets likely to be and why are they what they are.
  • How much to spend on CS. Depends on whether the company has big end customer’s vs small end customer’s. Onboarding should be a big investment. Where early value is seen with correlation on outcomes, investment goes up. CS can be a cost centre in the early days but profitability is important later.
  • CS leaders. Some of the best were waiters in the past – they all have a love for service. For larger companies, those that can have quality conversations across a broad range (multi functional). Systems thinkers and those that can take multiple perspectives (customer, industry, vendor)
  • CCO to CEO. If former responsible for 90% of long term profit that stands to reason it will happen.
  • Decision factors for investment. Talking to customers to get their views on the company. Tools and processes in place are also a key decision factor.

Bonus

Brain Cox came and spoke on astronomy and the result was 🤯 Some excellent perspective after two days of intense CS overloading.

Customer Success

Role of Self Service in Customer Success

Customer success teams were put in place in technology SaaS and subscription companies to ensure that customers are successful in their use of the technology they invested in. They have become a core part of ensuring the customer derives long-term value and ultimately stays with the vendor (in other words renews the subscription).

But has the vendor and customer become too reliant on them?

I am a customer success manager. Far be it for me to be talking myself out of a job. But actually that is the point. If I could get to it (that point) I would have done my job I think.

Especially with technology products you would think that the technology itself would play a major role in helping users use it and get value out of it. And with the advent of AI, machine learning and automation, even more so.

Enterprise technology is quite a different beast though. The complexity of organisations means that technology use and adoption is not straightforward. It’s dependent on many environmental factors. Like culture, organisational complexity and maturity, etc.

Factors that technology is not good at dealing with but humans are. These have to be factored in, so to speak, in terms of how you ensure use and value creation of a technology in an organisational context. So I don’t see human effort going away anytime soon.

Still, lets look at how technology can and should help to alleviate burdensome tasks best left to machines.

In my mind, a lot of the help technology provides is ultimately geared towards the user being able to self help or serve. And its not just about the end user but also those responsible for end user adoption – the people customer success managers typically work with. I’ll call them adoption managers for sake of clarity. They are typically the ones served by Customer Success Managers most directly but as you will see in the next section, I certainly am driven to make them as self sufficient as possible too.

Technology’s role

By this I mean two things:

  1. What role the technology itself provides with things like built in help and support from onboarding guides to a help manual that can be contextualised with key features as well as be generally available to users.
  2. What role any other technology provides to support the end users and adoption managers. For example, as part of recent hackathon efforts at Microsoft where I currently work, the team and I all won first at a local UK level and then at a global level, for a solution intended to support customer success managers and adoption managers. We called the solution Journey because that is what adoption typically is. Here are a couple of slides from our pitch deck which hopefully explain:

The origins of the idea and also current manual efforts are documented in this post I shared on LinkedIn: Co-owning success with Office 365 customers

Validation has come from winning the hackathon awards (at the global level we won in a field of over 24 000 competitors and 5 000 entries). We also received solid validation from customers we are working with on the current manual efforts mentioned and all new customers we introduce it to.

So it seems there is appetite for this gap in the market. You can watch a very short demo of what we pitched and won with and answer 3 short questions in a follow up survey here if you like – it would help with further validation.

AI and Automation

According to a study on Customer Service trends:

The future of customer service is about giving customers more control and better access to operations, so they can build their own experiences in real time. To do this, in addition to investing and moving customer service to cloud-based operations, they focus in on how to work better with automation.

I am totally in agreement with this as I wrote in this post: The Future of Customer Success is Not Human. Even though the context of the study above covers customer service trends which is very different to customer success, it is still broadly applicable. The domain is the same.

I think these activities are going to continue to expand in use and value, especially to alleviate customer success manager efforts where they are overloaded and too much is expected of them and where bureaucracy has crept in.

Technology can help reduce bureaucracy

In the post where I wrote that the future of customer success is not human, I quoted a study on bureaucracy. It has customer service, in which again I would suggest customer success falls, at the top of the rankings of roles and fields where bureaucracy has crept in (list of rankings pasted again here). Being a practitioner I would concur with that and the point I made then and again now is that technology can help avoid this.

Of course a large portion of the problem stems from overzealous management ptractices which is not something technology can help with. But by and learge I see it as a valuable counterbalance.

What needs for human intervention will never go away?

Assuming that technology can take up a lot of slack and reduce bureaucracy, what does this leave the customer success manager and those responsible for adoption to do?

Well it will be to focus on those intractable problems that I mentioned earlier technology will not be able to help us with and will become increasingly needed. Thorny problems and challenges that can be overcome to improve the customer experience. Those that require and will take imagination, creativity and innovation and will focus on the challenging art of managing people.

I have two separate posts on these topics that elaborate on that if interested.

Customer Experience, Customer Success

Why customer experience and success share the same roof

There is a fundamental premise I make in the new eBook / trend report I am working on captured in the title.

Yet I’ve taken part in debates on LinkedIn that show there are divisions in opinion. Separatist thinking even.

Some think that customer success (CS) is the new kid on the block and muscling into territory owned by the customer experience (CX) brigade.

I guess it all depends on your background. Do you come from a marketing background where CX generally hails. Or from a customer service or account management background where CS hails.

I think it’s all rather pointless. I see the two as being inextricably linked.

The mother and father of modern views of the customer. Perhaps CX is the mother because in my view, CS is born of it, so to speak.

Some distinctions might be useful at this stage. These are mine:

  • CX is the sum total of interactions a customer has with a company and the net effect this has on the customer in terms of satisfaction and loyalty.
  • CS are the outcomes a company enables a customer to achieve through the use of its products/services.

CX is made up of many touch points that often transcend those of a CS team.

For example, pre-sales activities make CS hard if a product or service has not been sold right and perceptions between vendor and customer are misaligned on what comes after the deal is done.

CS teams are not always involved pre sales, at least in the early stages.

So its important those in sales are aligned to the right customer experience view and approach. They start the customer off on the journey after all.

In my mind, the best analogy I can draw between the two is that CX is the shell of the home with all of the feelings and emotion it engenders. CS is the different conveniences you find in it, the bathroom to clean yourself, the bedroom to get rest, the kitchen to feed yourself.

I’ve captured it in a DanelDoodle just in case it’s not clear with some other examples.

cx and cs house

Customer Experience, Customer Success

The connected car vision is missing a few connections

The connected car is the future for automotive companies.

There is a lot going on in this space. I know because in my business, I have several customers in the industry.

But you don’t need to be in the business to know.

I recently purchased a car. It’s connected and awesome, I’m impressed.

But my experience taught me that something is missing.

I did not need too many people to help make the decision on the company and car I chose.

I made my decision and purchased without seeing the car physically. I investigated many options with various companies and did it mostly online. Talking to sales people was necessary at certain points.

I also made a decision to lease a car which will be up for renewal in 2.5 years.

That part took some time. To understand all the nuances I had to speak to people.

Dealing with the people and in many cases the online experience around many of the decision factors was mostly an awful grind.

That was all leading up to my decision.

In 2.5 years I will decide to continue with the same car and company, or not, based on a different experience. Some of that experience will be based on the car, including its connected features, some on further experience with the company.

I’ve not had much to do with the company since. The experience with the company after I decided was mostly good but it could have been a lot better.

I’ve opened up all communication channels with the company. I’ve made myself as receptive to the experience as possible. Time will tell.

Some questions for the industry

I get that the connected car concept is all about technology but is the industry thinking enough about other necessary connections?

Does it get the connection between experience and satisfaction and that this derives from many (often joined up) factors like people, technology and processes?

When the experience derives from people do they make the connection between the employee experience and how this influences the customer experience? To be specific I’m thinking that employees that have a great experience and are satisfied at work reflect that on to the customer.

Do they get that the rules of ownership are changing. Many do, getting in on the subscription model business, e.g. BMW and Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, etc. But do they realise subscription models bring new responsibilities?

Do they get how influential experience is in driving decisions, especially ongoing decisions about staying with a company or product, or not?

Do they get that technology is easily copied but experience isn’t?

Conversely, does it get that technology could play such a large role in connecting not just the internet of things for instance, but the internet of human experience?

They would probably say yes to all of the above. From my rhetorical questions you might guess where I lie on the matter. I guess it’s a question of maturity.

My recent experience and these questions are useful for the eBook / trend report I’m writing so excellent grist for the mill. I will try and answer them and provide recommendations. In the meantime…

Three ways I suggest the industry can start improving:

  1. Be more SaaS. The Software as a Service industry has learned a trick or two about how to build superb customer experience and the importance of customer retention and lifetime value. Specifically adopt many customer success approaches. Use the product itself (the car, starting with onboarding) as a core part of the experience with add on technology to enhance it through ongoing interactions that are data driven and point interactions with humans to amplify and delight.
  2. Extend the experience map. Map experience from employee through to customer and deliver on it from end to end. See it as an holistic journey that is harmoniously interdependent and made up of many parts: people, process, technology. Many are doing experience mapping but not adequately and not end to end in the way described.
  3. Bolster your employee experience. Its not just about the customer. This so often lags with employees playing second fiddle especially with the technology that supports work not matching what the customer gets. Robots and automation, especially in the auto industry, may play an increasing role but for the foreseeable future, humans will still play a disproportionate role in creating and nurturing human experience. Customer experience starts with employee experience.