by Todd Williams (February 5, 2018)
I’ve been working exclusively in Customer Success leadership for the past 10 years, and I have some advice, get rid of your Customer Success teams, unless you are totally committed to Organizational Customer Success.
Over the past decade, I’ve worked with some amazing organizations. I have also worked with organizations that just didn’t understand Customer Success. Oh, they thought they understood it and they thought they supported CS. They funded the salaries, they held CS Teams accountable for retention, customer complaints, took away bonuses when customers didn’t renew, or reduced commissions when up-sell/cross-sell targets were missed. However, almost without exception, none of the organizations truly embraced Customer Success. They never made the organizational transformations that are required to improve Customer Retention, Contract Renewal, Customer Experience, and move the organization to a place where employees work together and profits are improved.
So, go ahead, save the money and eliminate your Customer Success Teams. Go ahead and pay your sales teams more money to bring in the new sales that will eventually be lost or try bringing in a new CEO to fix the business. Also, go ahead and keep the employees that drag the culture or play politics to keep their own job. However, if you are serious about changing the organization and improving the retention, renewal, and growth of current customers, you must change your focus on Customer Success.
As I am currently building a new organization I have taken the opportunity to document a few strategies that could help the struggling CEO build a culture of Organizational Customer Success vs Department Customer Success. I am currently dedicated to focusing on these four strategies within my own organization:
Start at the top
During your next Executive Leadership Meeting, make Customer Success your first item of business. Tell your leaders that you (as the CEO) value Customer Success and that as an organization everyone will be working together to retain customers. Make it a priority and address concerns head-on. Commit everyone around the table to support Customer Success. Commit the CEO, CFO, CMO, COO and VP of Sales to support the customers, the leadership, the organization in making Customer Success a priority and that together as a leadership team you will make the difficult decisions to improve the Customer Experience(CX) and together make goals to improve retention. Customer Success will never be successful without the help (and support) from the entire organization. Make the decision at the top and stick together when times get difficult.
Make a plan
Once the entire leadership team has made a commitment to stay together, solve company problems, and improve the retention together; you are ready to make a plan to improve the customer experience. Your plan needs to include Goals, Objectives, and Strategies for improvement. You must work as a team and then rely on the Customer Success Leadership to deliver. Hold the CSM teams accountable for engagement, renewals, and building plans to ensure retention and to work with all departments to ensure company goals are met.
Hold supporting teams accountable
There is an old African proverb that states “It takes a village to raise a child.” It can also be stated that it takes a village to increase renewal, retention, and growth. Development must produce a Product that has a complete product roadmap that is supported through regular updates and improvements. Marketing must come to the table with collateral, corporate events, webinars, and supporting events that drive retention efforts. Sales must stay focused on new sales and building plans for bringing in new opportunities. Finally, Operations has to make it easier for clients to engage in support and operational assistance. It will take the entire company village to support Customer Success and it’s up to the Executive team to enforce it.
SaaS is a difficult business that requires constant improvement. When difficult times begin it’s easy to start the blame game. Marketing blames Sales, Sales blames Customer Success, Finance blames the organizational teams, and individuals are quickly labeled as “the weakest link”. It takes a strong CEO/President to push through the corporate noise and hold the rudder steady through the storm. I’ve found that most organizations have weak leaders that quickly crumble. They think they are making quick decisions that will help the organization but in reality, they are only making short-term decisions that help themselves. Undoubtedly the issues will still occur and larger problems are just around the bend. When diagnosing the illness be careful to prescribe the right medicine.
In the end, if you are not committed to healing the entire organization, building an Organizational Customer Success team and committing every employee to growth, retention, and renewals, you may as well eliminate the entire Customer Success team and rebuild that department every year.
Oh yeah… most of you are.
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.