Did you notice that so many companies do not have sales people anymore, but they have Customer Success Managers! Is there something more than a hype? Is it really a new approach? What are the benefits? Is it applicable to all businesses? Is it worth considering for my business?
Customer Success Management (CSM) is a holistic business approach wherein the value proposition is to contribute to the success of my clients. This looks quite utopic, even a bit hypocrite, but the essential element is a change of mindset and approach. Quality of service is not an objective anymore, but only an instrument to realize a higher goal: visible contribution in customer’s success. You could express the same idea differently: the goal is to “sell” profitable utilization of your service to the client, making the product itself losing importance compared to the application of it. That change in mindset has fundamental consequences on how processes and accountabilities are to be structured..
Consequently, the basic sales concept is the following cycle:
A service sells better when the client is thoroughly supported in being more successful by using the service. The selling point is not service quality, but the quality delivered by using the service. As an enabler, you will have to develop customer intimacy and sound insight on business value creation for your client. This investment (presales analysis, free trial periods, partially free service) is based on the assumption that when the pie is large enough (perceived customer benefit), there will be less discussion on who will eat it (your sales price).
Secondly, your contribution to your client’s business success needs to be factual and foremost demonstrable and perceived as such! From sales over delivery till daily support, you will need an integrated and agile approach, which is seamless and visibly present. Your whole team shall need to cooperate in that mindset.
Thirdly, when successful in delivering value and providing excellent support, you are creating delighted customers. The behaviour, that you will have to stimulate by your social marketing initiatives, of delighted customers is more faithful, less focus on price, better cooperation and the ambassador role.
The capacity to monitor, analyze and identify actions from the usage data is key for expanding commercial impact; that is the challenge for data mining or business intelligence which is a critical success factor in the approach.
The concept does have some important benefits:
Attention is drifted away from traditional value/price discussions to focus on the client’s value generation (or desirability for consumer goods & services)
Successfully managed, the sales figure can grow exponentially, because with every new customer the “prospection” base grows (oil stain effect)
In order to manage the pace of growth of sales, and consequently delivery, it enables to set up a partner-focused sales and delivery which is community-driven.
We have dozens of examples of successful applications of Customer Success Management, but what about your organization? Here are some applicability criteria:
The product / service needs to be sufficiently visible and impacting for the customer, who needs to be (made) aware of the impact it has on its own success. There are no reasons to exclude upfront products/services, as long as you can demonstrate and promote the link between success and your services.
There needs to be a purpose of shifting to Customer Success Management. It needs to fit into your business model. Potential aims are to increase customer loyalty, shift to social marketing, increase exponentially your customer base or lift up your market position.
The innovation drift of the supplier should be high enough to maintain curiosity and attraction to the constantly renewing product / service. The scope of innovation should not be limited to the intrinsic qualities of the product. Also training, usage tricks, promotion, presentation, adaptations, extensions to new domains and user end expert communities are innovation topics. Remember that the core characteristics of a bank account have been unchanged since centuries.
Finally, it is interesting to identify the organizational changes which are inherent to a Customer Success Management approach. It is evident that the approach is not limited to the sales and marketing department of an organization, In fact, the whole organisation becomes the sales and marketing organisation and vice versa. The organisation shall need to make a shift to a Customer Success Management organisation, knowing that it will take time. In addition, you need to guarantee daily business during the shift. Considering that you are changing processes and functions, collaboration, horizontal alignment, mindset and culture, it is better to go step by step. Tha main changes are:
Sales and marketing shifts both on target as on content.
The sales target needs to be extended to the user, instead of being limited to decision makers and expert functions.
The unique selling point needs a shift from focus on the product towards a focus on the improvements of client’s business processes and outcomes.
Implementation and support teams, traditionally seen as ‘delivery’ or ‘production’ shall integrate with sales teams and develop an integrated support-sales or sales-support approach and attitude. The ancient Chinese wall between sales and delivery is a huge roadblock for customer success management.
Tracking and monitoring capabilities, producing basic data for business intelligence feeding marketing, sales and innovation are critical success factors. In addition, do not underestimate the cultural impact of changing from a sales-gourous driven organization (I know my clients) to a data & intelligence driven organization.
Here are some things to remember:
Customer Success Management is a global concept of doing business, impacting the focus and organization of your complete biotope.
Customer Success Management can be applied on all products / services as long as your rationale for the applicability criteria are strong enough
The turnaround from traditional sales/innovation/delivery/after-care/finance organization to Customer Success Management needs a well-thought strategic organizational approach
Customer Success Management is not a dogma nor a religion: analyze which parts are useful and applicable for you, make sure you have a coherent approach and realize your own success.