Environmental Outlook

Over the past few years we’ve seen a trend in how technology startups structure their businesses. Instead of being primarily sales or product focused, these companies are being driven by Customer Success — so much so that a Customer Success Representative is often among the first 5–10 people hired.

The reason for this trend is simple: Customer Success drives growth.

We work with businesses in a wide range of industries and this focus on Customer Success is rare outside of software start ups. This presents a huge opportunity for the non-software companies that get onto it.

What is Customer Success and why is it so important?

Lincoln Murphy of Sixteenventures.com defines Customer Success like this:

Customer Success is when your customers achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your company.

Lincoln Murphy 

Bastardizing the term, the Desired Outcome is the benefit they were seeking when they bought your product or service (e.g. speed up certain workflows by 40%). This is distinct from the service being provided itself.

The process of Customer Success is about getting really focused on your customer’s outcomes and making sure that they happen. By getting them real results, a few important things start to happen:

  • They stay with you longer
  • They invest more in the product or service they purchased
  • They invest in other products and services you offer
  • They tell people about you
  • When staff change company, they’ll champion you at their new business

If you focus intently on the actual success of each and every customer, you quickly build a powerful customer base that continues to grow quickly.

What does this mean in practice?

We like to think about this by comparing it to what we call Baseline Success. We run a software agency, so our job is to build custom software for our clients. This often starts by customers coming to us with a piece of software that they want to build. We used to think that success meant building the product that they asked for (with improvements based on our experience). We now consider this to be the bare minimum required to uphold our end of the deal. True success — Customer Success — means delivering a result that moves the needle materially on the metric that matters to them.

At the start of any new project, forget your product or service entirely and work out what they want to achieve by working with you. This may start with something hard to use (we want software that lets us do X), so keep asking ‘why’ to dig down until you reach something tangible (our industry is becoming more competitive so we want to increase our efficiency of X by Y%).

Lastly, don’t be afraid to say no

Developing a process for Customer Success is challenging as it forces you question whether your product or service will truly get your client the result that they need. If you’re honest with this assessment, then the answer to this question will sometimes be ‘no’. Don’t be afraid to let them know this — often it will allow you to make changes that will lead to Customer Success, but sometimes it will mean parting ways. While this means less sales in the short term, it will lead to a stronger customer base over time that will ultimately fuel your growth.

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