Customer Success: An Experiential Business Application

Customer success and experiential social mediaCustomer success and experiential social media identifies three pitfalls that too often prevent customer success initiatives from attaining their potential for improving customer experience. In case you’re not familiar with the customer success movement, I outline its origins and scope, so you can appreciate the pitfalls and avoid them.

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Customer Success the Movement

Customer success burst on the scene a few years ago, and it’s a great leap forward for most firms although the irony is obvious to experiential practitioners whose whole focus is on empowering the outcomes customers want when they use our product or service.

Customer success the movement sprang out of the Valley as a way for SaaS vendors to increase customer retention and lifetime value. Customer success vendors sell platforms and solutions that enable customer success teams to monitor customers’ use of the product (when possible) and anticipate their future usage so teams can interact proactively. Its focus is still on cloud-based solutions, but it’s applicable to any business.

I love this development because customer success brings together awareness, processes and tools that can help large firms organize various elements of their operations to empower customer outcomes.

Three Customer Success Pitfalls

I research customer success and engage key vendors because we’re pulling for the same goal. At the same time, I’ve recognized some gotchas that I’ll call out here.

Customer success pitfall #1The #1 pitfall is grounding customer success in a business outcome

Most initiatives target goals like using more of your product, for longer. From a customer’s perspective, using your product is the result of how easily it helps him/her attain an outcome. Too many CS programs want the business outcome and think of the customer’s outcome second. This may seem like a nit, but it’s profound because committing first to the customer, and to the business outcome second, makes the difference between CS success and failure. Most CS programs fail to reach their potential due to this pitfall.

#Customer success pitfall #22 is having brand-focused models

Get better results by approaching your personas and journey map with a clean slate. Most presentations and models I’ve seen are brand-focused. Throw them away and start with customers. You can use ethnographic research to study customers’ behavior and motivations when they use your product because they’re passionately collaborating on reaching their outcomes in the back rooms of the Internet. This helps your teams develop empathy with customers. And they can see where products/services/firms help and hurt. Then build customer-first personas and maps. Most teams use surveys, an outdated and biased approach.

Customer success pitfall #3#3 is neglecting culture change

This is easier to neutralize than meets the eye. Once you have your experiential teams up and running for a while, create small focused roles for your colleagues in sales, marketing, operations, warranty, etc., so they can experience customers’ experiences first-hand and develop empathy and insights. Cycle them through your experiential teams. This is an easy way to transform your culture relatively painlessly.

Customer Success Impact

I hope you can see that customer success can be breakthrough when it’s founded on a true customer-first commitment. Firms that do this will outperform competitors that invest in the CS platform and teams and see mediocre results.

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