Companies don’t understand the customer success role. I don’t understand why this is such a perplexing subject. In this post, I’ll try to describe the most common confusion points related to customer success roles.
- Customer success is [not] a cost center – at one company I worked for someone described the corporate philosophy as “you’re either developing software or selling it. Nothing else matters.” The problem with such a limited view is that it assumes the end goal is a product sale. In fact, in the B2B context, companies desire follow-on and expansion sales. To earn those sales, products must work, must provide customer value, and must adapt to changing business requirements (i.e. the environment). In this way, customer success is a value center (which is nonetheless difficult to quantify).
- Our sales organization already does that – many companies believe that the customer success function is already satisfied in another part of their company. But consider this common example. Confronted with the decision to spend time on selling a new deal OR on helping a customer adopt a product, successful salespeople will always choose the former. (Part of that behavior is based on the compensation plan and part is based on personality – “we love the thrill of the hunt!”) We want sales to pursue new opportunities – and we recognize that working on value delivery only hinders that progress. The best companies share common goals, not common roles.
- Customer success is not technical support – The technical support organization’s objective is to provide timely responses to technical and non-technical customer inquiries. That group focuses on removing obstacles (to value and adoption). But making the path smooth is not the same as the customer success charter to guide a customer along the path of full product adoption and speed to value.
The pivot point is that customer success is a role that functions only when companies fundamentally understand that their long-term success rests on providing customer value. Making a sale is just the start and can’t be confused with value realization.
What other confusion about the customer success role have you witnessed?