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The Starting Point for Improvement

Posted on April 27, 2017 , by Steve Bernstein
CATEGORIES: Lessons Learned
The Starting Point for Improvement

(I’m proud to publish this week’s Customer Engagement insights from Mike Roberts, President of Xaasegy and leader in helping B2B companies drive growth from customer success strategies.)
Ever had one of those ‘Interstellar’ moments when you seem to be looking in from a parallel universe?
At a recent Customer Success event, I realized presentations and discussions were 100% ‘provider’ focused, with topics ranging from how to retain (and save) customers, upsell, cross-sell, on-boarding, connecting internal organizations; (sales, marketing, services, products etc.), how to hire, train, deploy, pay and structure CS, perform EBR’s, construct NPS and create metrics that will be meaningful in predicting revenues.
Don’t get me wrong, this is all good and important stuff.
Yet, I found myself feeling ‘outside looking in’; feeling disconnected from the customer point of view.
No-one was talking about what customers want of providers in our rapidly changing world.
Because of the label, are we drawn into thinking all Customer Success initiatives inherently contribute to the success of customers?
Next was a ‘Live, Die, Repeat’ moment: When you recall you got harmed a few times doing seemingly sensible things others seemed to be doing, before you finally work out what is genuinely effective for your particular business. I’m not saying Customer Success tactics don’t work, I’m saying they must be applied and implemented appropriately – prioritized for your customers to see a difference.
My parallel dimension goes back to iterations of sales process through the years – from product selling, needs based selling, solutions selling and now the Contender Sale – ever more sophisticated and designed to scale rising thresholds of justification for your offerings as enablers of business results, connecting you higher up the food chain.
Looking at Customer Success investments, it seems there’s validation often missed. It goes back to first principles: ‘specifically, what changes positively influence our customers to invest more in our business? What new behaviors, relationships and activities will they see? What will they believe as a result? What will they do, that they couldn’t do before? And, in the change, did they lose anything which could hurt them?
Fact is, many changes we make internally go unnoticed by customers, occasionally they impact negatively. As my father, a 40-year veteran of manufacturing industry management, would have said, ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions!’.
Have you ever invested time launching EBR’s, only to find that a proportion of customers appear mystified by the process, or don’t understand the extra time they take? Just because YOU are trying to add value, doesn’t mean THEY can buy value…! Ever launched a new CS team you have sweated blood to hire and customers simply can’t get over the change in their daily contacts, even though their new CSM is more experienced, capable and enabled?
Ever launched a ‘state of the art’ NPS program which took the team months to concoct, then have key customers tell you they ‘don’t do surveys’?
The biggest killer of customer confidence and commitment is ‘misaligned approaches’. That is, misaligned with what customers value, want, need or the way they do things. It gets down to a very practical, daily and sentimental level. A level which we often fail to think through in detail – from the customer’s point of view.
As we prioritize company investments let’s bear down on what it means to our customer’s daily lives and their ability to return results. Do our changes bring significantly positive differences, to the point where customers will pay you more or invest in new stuff? In reality, there are few things which push the needle that far.
You must predict clearly what changes will look like, how will they happen, what customers will see, hear or feel, how quickly, and why this will positively influence behaviors and sentiment.
Then you must never forget to remind customers, for whom those changes have been made, how they benefited.
Returning to Earth from my ‘Interstellar moment’ I recall wisdom passed to me over years, from numerous customers, paraphrased by one particular pragmatist, who said “your company may not be the best at everything, but you are always making progress. There are companies out there who may be better today but they are stuck. We will do business with the ones who continually make progress”.
The sharing of experience and development of knowledge between practitioners is all good. But in implementing the new world of SaaS and Customer Success, let’s not get wrapped up in the mission of bettering our own world, yet miss implementation nuances which could bring unintended consequences for customers, don’t bring any discernable value to them, or simply have no effect at all!
If your company really is customer-centric the starting point for anything IS the customer.
Mike Roberts
Xaasegy Inc.