What is Customer Success?

By Kristen Hayer

Every week at least one person asks me “What is Customer Success?” I understand their question: Customer success is a relatively new field, and there is a lot of confusion about which functions within an organization are covered by the customer success umbrella. In reality, this is still developing. Every company we engage with has a slightly different, or even radically different, definition of the term. Ultimately “Customer Success” means a lot of different things. Here’s my take:

Customer Success is a Way of Engaging Customers

Instead of selling to customers, companies are starting to embrace the concept of enabling the buying process. Consumer-focused companies have been doing this successfully for a long time. Up until recently, most B2B organizations have been following the old pattern of consultative selling and account management: relationship selling, long sales cycles, awkward renewal negotiations. The people who now buy business solutions are the same people who buy apps and consumer products in a frictionless environment. They are expecting the same experience from their B2B vendors. Customer success is critical to this shift because it is perfectly positioned to enable customers to expand their use of solutions seamlessly.

Customer Success is a Company Culture

Customer Success comes from the top. Right now, investors and executive teams are hearing a lot about customer success. There are endless articles about why having a customer-centric business increases revenue, improves reputation, and creates employee engagement. Unfortunately, few companies are actually executing on this promise, because it involves significant culture change. In order to change the focus of their organizations, senior leaders need to understand how customer expectations are shifting. That change needs to be supported by shifts in metrics, goals, compensation and leadership. A culture that is focused on helping customers achieve their desired outcomes is one that is truly customer-centric. 

Customer Success is a Department

The Customer Success team is at the heart of a customer-focused organization. This department should proactively work with all of the other teams within a company: product, sales, engineering, marketing, finance. At The Success League our clients variously see the customer success team as a group that provides onboarding, enablement, professional services, relationship management or account management. Each of our customers defines the department in a different way. Progressive organizations are starting to look at the customer success team as encompassing all customer-facing roles a client will encounter during their lifecycle.

Customer Success is a Role

If you are a Customer Success Manager right now, lucky you! You have a job in one of the fastest growing areas of the tech sector. Companies are still trying to figure out how to leverage you, which means that if you play your cards right your career is on an upward track. You need to educate yourself in order to take advantage of this opportunity. If you’re working in a customer-focused organization, take every chance you get to attend training, talk to clients, and learn from your leader. If not, look for opportunities to network with your peers and learn from the customer success leaders of other companies. Everything you do to develop your skill set will help you down the road.

So what is Customer Success? It is a way of engaging customers and a company culture and a department and a role. As you consider how best to develop the customer experience within your organization, be sure to consider all of these facets of customer success.

Need help figuring out what Customer Success should mean for your company? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that works with executives who are ready to build and develop a top performing team. For more information about our services please visit www.TheSuccessLeague.io