What is Customer Success? (with 3 Great Tips)

What is Customer Success? Find out more in this clear guide

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What is Customer Success? We all know “customer success” is a buzzword of the corporate world. In fact, recent years saw the transformation or traditional sales representative or even contact center agents into “customer success managers”. All in all, the concept is simple, it is about making your customer succeed, but in practice it is not that simple, and the definition is often overused. In this guide, we try to answer “what is customer success?” in the most complete and definitive way.

What is Customer Success?

What Customer Success is NOT

Answering directly “what is customer success?” is hard because customer success is such a broad term. Instead, it is much easier to explain what customer success is not, because customer success is everything else.

All in all, the opposite of customer success, which I can dub customer failure, is when the customer buys our products or services, but he doesn’t achieve what he wanted to.

Customer Failure is the situation when the customer buys our products or services, but he does not achieve what he wanted to.

For example, imagine our customer buys a disk to expand the memory of her computer. However, when she is at home, she later finds out that the disk is not compatible with her computers. From a mere sales point of view, this sales counts 100% as a sale and the salesperson met his objective. Yet, the customer is clearly not satisfied.

We have customer failure when we focus on selling, without considering what is the ultimate goal of the customer. Customer failure is when we do not take into account what the customer really wants, or what is best for the customer.

In short, customer success is the opposite of customer failure.

What is Customer Success?

Now that we have a clear definition of customer failure, we can go on with customer success.

Customer Success is the situation when the customer achieves his own objectives through the use of our products and services, in a way that is truly best for the customer.

I say “in a way that is truly best for the customer” because you could cross the ocean on a kayak, but for most people that’s not the best way to do it. Hence, if you sell a kayak to the average Joe who wants to have a trip abroad you probably didn’t serve him well: he got to his objective, but he could have done the same more effectively in another way.

What is Customer Success? Customer success is about making your customer achieve what they want, with or without your services and products
Customer success is about making your customers happy, for real.

That’s it. Customer success is about caring for your customer, it is about putting customer interests before your drive for profits.

As you can see, the answer to “What is Customer Success?” is simple. The implementation of a customer success initiative is something different. In fact, when it comes to customer success the real challenge is not about having a vision, it is about getting it done.

We can now move on with the tips.

Tips on Customer Success

How to Achieve Customer Success as a Company

If you run a company or a department, you may want to achieve customer success. Remember, customer success depends heavily on the behavior of your customer-facing staff: salespeople, contact center agents, field staff, and the like. However, it also depends on the rest of the team, the one who operates behind close doors in your company.

Customer success depends on the initiative of every single individual in the organization. To drive the correct behavior, you need to use the correct incentives. It is hard to achieve customer success if you incentivize the wrong type of behaviors.

Of course, just like when asking “what is customer success?” there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Instead, you need to adapt your customer success initiative to your company, but most notably look for some common pitfalls.

  • Do not put commissions only on sales (inducing more sales but perhaps less customer satisfaction), but consider other metrics
  • Measure and put commissions on repeated-sales, customer coming back to you
  • Measure the length of service contracts and renewal rates
  • When growing an organization, beware that it can be dangerous to put heavy commissions (thus incentives) on new contracts, bringing at least some undesired growth

Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but it can give you a clear idea on where you should look.

How to Achieve Customer Success as an Individual

It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the last one in the organizational chart. Everyone makes a difference when it comes to customer success, and you are not exception. In fact, customer success is all about the contribution of each individual.

Ultimately, all you need to do is care about the customer. You can’t fake it, so if you don’t care you will not achieve customer success, not in the long run at least. If you do care, things will come naturally, but here are a few points you should consider.

  • Aim to understand first before making any proposal
  • Be always patient and polite
  • Be willing to go outside charted paths and try to work out custom solutions
  • Maintain regular contacts with the customer

These four pillars are the main areas where you can focus to improve your customer success, regardless of where you are in the organizational chart.

Be Cautious When Things Get Big

In order to fully answer “what is customer success?” we need to touch organizational structure as well. It is paramount that all the areas and functions and departments of the organization work in an integrated fashion, all with the same goal.

To put it simply, you don’t want fiefdoms. You don’t want parts of the organization competing against one another. You want the freedom of an open organization where a person from a division is able to recommend a product of another division instead of her own if that’s what best for the customer.

The world of business literature is full of bad stories about divisional organizations and their spectacular failures or lost opportunities. Don’t be one of them, and put a good effort to make your organization work like an orchestra: everyone playing the same tune in perfect synchrony.

A Recap: What is Customer Success?

We can close with a simple recap: customer success is caring for your customer. Customer success is placing the customer first, and the sales metrics second. In the end, customer success is all about integrity.

It goes without saying, but customer success is a key capability of modern organization, and a highly desired skill in employees. You should strive to have it. One way to go about customer success is to identify what are the most common types of customers you have, what are their needs and what they need to succeed. A great way to do that is with Customer Personas, and you can start do that right now with this guide about them.

Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.
Picture of Alessandro Maggio

Alessandro Maggio

Project manager, critical-thinker, passionate about networking & coding. I believe that time is the most precious resource we have, and that technology can help us not to waste it. I founded ICTShore.com with the same principle: I share what I learn so that you get value from it faster than I did.

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Alessandro Maggio

2021-11-25T16:30:00+00:00

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