Mikael Blaisdell posed a series of compelling questions in The Customer Success Forum that address key obstacles to delivering profitable customer experiences. In my view the main barriers to mutually beneficial customer experiences are: (1) organizational mis-alignment, (2) unreasonable expectations, and (3) hidden motivations.
In this post, I’ll describe my thoughts on each of these obstacles and provide some thoughts on ways to address – note that not all have “solutions.”
When corporate culture or policy create an environment where some people have incentives to act in ways that benefit themselves over the organization, expect problems. Joellyn Sargent wrote a particularly poignant article titled “The CEO’s Number One Rule for Customer Experience” that hits the nail on the head. Companies that chase “bad fit” customers are destined to create friction with them. Organizations that don’t have the discipline to follow Nancy Reagan’s mantra to “just say no” are rife with landmines for an aspiring customer success executive. The only possible (not guaranteed) way to handle this successfully is to get support from the very top. Not near the top, the top.
Unreasonably short time frames
By the time most companies realize that successful customer experiences can differentiate their business they are already far behind the execution curve. The entire reason that a favorable customer experience can be such a positive force is because it is difficult to duplicate. To succeed, customer success professionals must set expectations correctly at the beginning of their tenure. After all, your work won’t be as simple as defining a successful experience. Actually, your work is to change corporate culture to incorporate the customer experience. This will not be easy. To succeed, negotiate expectations early and reinforce them often.
Focusing on customers has become a somewhat recent phenomenon. (Odd… right? Shouldn’t companies have been focused here all along?) As you might guess, executives and management consultants have been quick to jump onto the bandwagon because improving the customer experience is a popular palliative plan to address sagging share prices and damaged public images, among other corporate maladies. For those looking to buy some time, customer success initiatives have the added benefit of taking time to gain momentum (see above). Of all the obstacles above, this is the worst. Teams working in these environments are set up to fail from the very beginning and offered as sacrificial lambs to delusional boards and naively hopeful customers. Got a problem? Create a customer success team and they can worry about it. If you detect this environment, politely decline as quickly as you can.
The pivot point is that successful customer experience programs require true top-level support over the long haul. If sponsorship changes or support lags, start freshening up your resumé.
What has your experience shown to be the largest hurdles?