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PHOTO: Edu Lauton

Customer success needs to be part of a company's DNA — no one will dispute that. Without properly serving customers, your value proposition makes no sense, and of course, revenue and customer acquisition is the lifeblood of a company. 

There is a difference, however, between serving customers and truly integrating the customer experience throughout the business. Those companies that are able to more fully understand their customers and walk in their shoes are the ones with the greatest potential for success.

Going Beyond Customer Experience Table Stakes

So, how does a company develop this kind of operating relationship? The first step is understanding and acknowledging the need. A market is where buyers and sellers come together in the selling and acquiring of goods and services. Often even a superficial understanding of the customer is enough to drive some level of vendor success. But that success may not be sustainable in the long run, and may only represent a portion of the achievable business. Going deeper, companies can journey with their customers and stay abreast of changing needs, new opportunities and potential threats or impediments to business. Companies can also evolve their goods and services in parallel with such insight.

Yet getting to that deeper level with customers often goes against the ways companies normally operate. 

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in one’s own offering with a product- or service-dominated view. Most companies think they know what to do and where to go to sustain and grow their business. Often, they may be mostly correct. Part of the sales and marketing process is in educating and even inspiring customers in what could be — bringing customers to product or service. 

But customer's intrinsic conditions also play a role in this market exchange, and understanding their perspective may range from extremely helpful to imperative. Accepting this as a priority takes discipline.

Related Article: Customer Experience Isn't About Fixing Discomfort, It's About Preventing It

Bake Customer Success Into the Culture

This discipline needs to become part of corporate culture. Companies need to instill customer success and insight as a value and competency that cuts across all areas. Customer success, even if led by customer success managers, isn't just one person’s or department’s job. It belongs to everyone, and everyone needs to incorporate elements of helping customers achieve the greatest levels of success and deeply listening to them as a part of their day-to-day work.

Having a system to facilitate success factors, monitor and manage experiences and record and distribute insights is important. The system, however, cannot be a substitute for a customer success-oriented discipline and culture. Companies are littered with partial solutions that cover one aspect or another of managing customer success. Sometimes the system is merely email, notes and possibly a conversational message system. This approach is better than nothing, but it is well established that email and short messaging are poor systems for management and work. Document systems can retain information, but they cannot scale. They also make it difficult to build collective or sustained insight.

Conventional approaches to systematizing customer success and insight are prone to three primary areas of deficiency: 

  1. The ability to capture and centralize communication from customers, including insights, issues, concerns and potential for expanded opportunities. 
  2. Making sure the information gets to the responsible parties within the company. 
  3. Ensuring information drives appropriate actions.
For instance, expressions of dissatisfaction plus evidence that a product is not being used correctly should trigger a proactive effort to better train the customer for optimal and successful product usage. Similarly, a sharp decrease in product usage by a customer and negative comments may indicate that the account is in trouble, and efforts should be made to understand the customer's issue and source of dissatisfaction before they may be lost forever as a customer.

Each department should consider their own role in helping customers achieve the greatest success and what kind of insight they can garner from customers. They must be able to leverage the system in place to help manage and share interactions. While much of the activity and interaction may be with a special customer success team, other group's involvement needs to be integrated. Communication is key to both short-term and long-term value. In the short term, companies may be able to rescue customers from failure and boost success factors that may lead to even greater revenue. In the long term, companies can discover new opportunities for products and services and stay ahead of customer need.

Related Article: Are Your Customer Experience Metrics Setting You Up for Success?

Success Begets Success

As the company sees what is possible from customer success and starts to reap the benefits, it will more wholly and enthusiastically make customer success a greater part of its DNA.