Customer success — what the what?

What is customer success?
Is that… account management dressed up as something else? Is it customer service with a fake moustache? Tech support in dark glasses? Sales in a wig?… Or is ‘customer success’ something else? And if it is, what does it mean for you?

Is that…? Is that… account management dressed up as something else? Is that customer service with a fake moustache? Tech support in dark glasses? Sales in a wig?… Or… wait, is that something else altogether?

Well, put down the binoculars, friends. We’re here to do the detective work on what ‘customer success’ actually is, where it’s come from, and how it works. Read on for the M.O. on C.S.

The background on customer success

Customer success is the bouncing baby born from the burgeoning belly of ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS).

It used to be like this:

  1. Your sales team hunt down potential customers for your product or service
  2. Those potential customers become actual customers by purchasing or hiring from you
  3. Those customers are handed on to your tech support to help them if whatever they purchased from you breaks.

The classic sales-to-support story.

The problem with the classic model is that over the last decade our product-oriented business world has become a service-oriented one — with software at the helm. Part of what a customer now purchases (or subscribes to, as the case may be) is the service associated with getting the most out of their exchange. And getting it in an ongoing fashion. Hence, customer success managers “neatly occupy the void between sales and support teams, by following up with existing customers and ensuring that they are using the product in the most productive fashion”.

In this way, the success of a customer’s interaction with your product or service, and the success of your business, are more tightly and closely wound together than ever. In other words, both sets of goals gotta match!

In the Essential Guide to Customer Success, customer success platform provider Gainsight explains it like this:

“Customer Success is the business methodology of ensuring customers achieve their desired outcomes while using your product or service. Customer Success is relationship-focused client management, that aligns client and vendor goals for mutually beneficial outcomes.”

Customer success (by design) in practice

Need a case study? Same here.

To get the gist of CS in action, we spoke to Total Synergy’s new group customer success manager, David Marko, to detail his implementation and tell us what it all means for you:

“This means if we help you get what you need from Synergy, your business succeeds and you’re a happy customer. And, in turn, our business succeeds.”

To achieve success, David says we’ve got to do three things:

  1. Deliver a product that solves your problems
  2. Help you become the best Synergy user you can possibly be
  3. Look after you so well that you can’t help but recommend Synergy to your peers, partners and colleagues

“I joined Total Synergy at the end of April [2019] to establish customer success as a new way of delivering support and service to our customers,” he says.

“We’re investing in significantly expanding the team. From six worldwide at the beginning of the year, we now have a team of 11 and plan to hire a few more in the short term.

“The customer success team is made up of three customer success managers (CSMs) including one in the UK, three help desk representatives, and three full-time consultants.

“Our CSMs’ primary role is to act as your account manager — a single point of contact to ensure your success with Synergy. Your customer success manager works with you to define what success looks like and how we can achieve it together. We do this in a variety of ways, starting with how we help new customers get started with Synergy, through to answering your ‘how-to’ questions, doing online sessions to show you how to accomplish your goals, and organizing consulting services so you can invest in dedicated training for you and your team. Our CSMs work to understand your business and your objectives with Synergy.

“Over the last 12 months, we also added a dedicated person to write knowledge base articles, creating more depth in our online help resources. This includes a series of how-to and overview videos, plus revising what’s already written as the product changes so quickly.

“We’re also planning a series of new regular webinars to provide online training in the many elements of Synergy and to introduce you to new features as we release them.”

Nailed it — success in customer success

It comes down to this — the deal between subscription cloud software and its customers is that the latter’s subscription renewal needs to be earned every 30 days. The SaaS company needs you to be successful, to be successful itself. Month in, month out. The need for a CS team and a CSM have grown out of this professional symbiosis. Like a personal trainer and their client — disguise or no disguise, you’ve got to achieve your goals to prove we achieve ours in working with you.

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