Some of you know I care deeply about the subject of customer success. When I first wrote this blog, I my context was building and successful and engaging customer and developer communities for B2B software vendors. This same principle can be applied to broader business ecosystems - this is not about your success, it’s about your customer’s success.
In this post I'll talk about that evolution but for now let's just focus on something that I coined "morphing" because it reminds me of that music video of Michael Jackson's Black or White where, to my knowledge, this technique was used for the first time in a video.
Hanging up a painting
Most of us already know the paradigm shift: "Are we in the business of selling drills or making holes?" It is the shift from 'selling tools' to 'selling solutions'. Pick any tech site at the moment, including ours, and you will find "Our solutions". My take on this story is that - in order to lead in your customer success - you should move from "making holes" to "hanging up a painting", because the hole was made to drive the success of the result: A painting on the wall.
Anything you invest in your customer success should lead to measurable and confirmed success. Their success, not yours! Your success will follow their success. This is a bit more than hiring a CSM or senior CSD that usually come in at the tail end of the process, do a few QBRs and Discovery sessions to do up/cross-sell and not bother about the main journey.
You probably recognize this. You are at a "Gluhwein Stube" somewhere in a ski resort, you bought your drinks and then there are not enough seats. So you ask people to move over and squeeze yourself into the free space. This is what real customer intimacy is about. It is scary!
This is where operating a community makes sense and more importantly this is where you can prove if you have delivered success because there is no escape. So, as I ask my vendors to come close to me, I'm planning to come close to my customers in order to allow my customers to do the same. This morphing, traditionally done already by SMB, needs to be reinvented by the larger enterprises, who - by their sheer size - have lost the ability to be intimate.
And Turn Around...
The consequences for your company are of course far reaching. The most pivotal consequence is the turnaround or "restore to the natural state" of the customer-vendor relation. The customer has always paid our salary. We just forgot about it and thought we were really important as a vendor. If we are really honest, and much more vulnerable in the process, it is a bit of a crying shame that so many vendors thought they could dominate their customers.
As we are truly serious about our customer success, step one is a mega 'mea culpa' and the opening of all channels to understand what our customers need to be successful. Even if that means that we need to get rid of "a boatload of lipsticked rubbish". Ask the vendors I currently talk to about this topic (with me as a customer). It is a really refreshing conversation for which we do not yet have all the answers. I hope I can do this soon with our customers.